Mobile Sales: The Next eCommerce Frontier for Aftermarket Parts

mobile aftermarket app

Do you know what size or type of air filter or brake pads are on your car? Unless you just had them replaced, there’s a good chance you don’t know whether you have cylindrical or flat paper air filters or semi-metallic or ceramic brake pads or what size you need.

If you were to start shopping for either right now, you’d probably walk out to your vehicle, take apart the air box or take a wheel off to find out, and type the information into your smartphone. A recent study by Google shows a massive increase in tire-related searches using mobile devices. Like air filter and brake pad searches, it’s just one facet of a growing trend toward mobile aftermarket parts sales.

Unlike other forms of advertising like TV and mass mailing, online advertising effectiveness can be measured with extreme accuracy, down to each individual click. Google’s latest report on Adwords advertising shows a major shift toward mobile access when it comes to finding aftermarket parts. As the single largest starting place for car part searches on the Internet, these results are nothing to sneeze at.

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microGreen Filters Launches New Searchable Catalog Powered by ShowMeTheParts

microgreen catalog

When SOMS Technologies wanted to create an online catalog for its line of microGreen Extended Performance Filters, its team turned to Vertical Development for help. Using the API from our ShowMeTheParts (SMTP) database, together we created a searchable catalog that integrates seamlessly into microGreenFilter.com.

microGreen filters are designed to help fleet managers and consumers reduce maintenance costs by providing higher filtration performance in a package that’s a drop-in replacement for conventional filters. This extends oil life, decreasing oil change intervals for material and labor costs over an engine’s life. microGreen filters are designed for a wide range of equipment from small engines to larger gas and diesel engines.

To help make the transition from conventional to microGreen filters as simple as possible, SOMS Technologies worked with us to develop a catalog based around the ShowMeTheParts database. This catalog allows customers to find compatible microGreen filters using either vehicle information or parts numbers. Using our APIs, SOMS Technologies was able to seamlessly integrate the catalog into their own website, giving customers access to parts information from computers and mobile devices.

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ShowMeTheParts Gets Server Upgrades

speed and stability

ShowMeTheParts.com started out as a stock 2006 Ford Mustang. Over the past ten years, we’ve made many improvements. One year, we swapped out that V6 for the V8 and added a hood scoop. Another year we threw on 19” rims and gave her a nice paint job. These improvements attracted more and more customers over the years; growing our client list and our database. However, expansion and innovation hasn’t come without a few growing pains.

Through the years, we’ve dealt with browser incompatibilities, database downtime, changing Apple and Android requirements — you name it, we’ve seen it. No matter the problem, we always worked hard to tackle them head on and remedy them as fast as possible. More importantly, we’ve learned from each problem we’ve faced.

It’s the knowledge of our past that drove us to our greatest upgrades to date.

The upgrades began with a new server infrastructure that is faster, more reliable, and easily scalable to keep up with demand. The new system has real-time monitoring; it tells us immediately if a server goes off-line so we can work on getting it back up and running as soon as possible. In an effort to be more transparent and accountable for our service reliability, we plan on releasing monthly uptime reports in the near future.

On the software side, we’ve upgraded our applications to use the latest web technology and allow for centralized roll outs. With new versions of browsers coming out almost daily, our team is constantly testing our software to make sure it works perfectly on all major platforms and browsers. By switching to a centralized release system, we can push changes to our customers immediately, so everyone using our products will always have the latest features. That means reliable results across the more than one million application lookups per month — no matter how end users are accessing the database.

To put it in car language, most novices are only concerned about making the engine fast. But if they don’t put the same time and money into the brakes, steering and suspension, they will have a car that is fast but unstable. Just like with the Internet, fast but unstable is likely to cause a crash. Our recent upgrades give you both speed and stability.

The added performance gives us room to grow, and we’re still able to roll out new product information in a matter of days ensuring that the information you and your customers use is always up-to-date. Simply put, ShowMeTheParts works even better now and will continue to work as we further expand our software’s capabilities.

Get the fastest, most reliable database in the aftermarket industry, contact Vertical Development today. Call us at (847) 609-9540 or email sales@verticaldev.com.

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How Aftermarket Consumers Use Social and Mobile

social and mobile usage

What can we learn about mobile devices and social media when customers are interacting with and ordering from parts suppliers?

What are online customers looking for? UPS did a study trying to find out so they could work with retailers on providing better shipping options. In a previous blog, we talked about how the study shows a shift in online orders growth from niche performance products via online-only suppliers toward major growth in replacement parts sales, particularly for traditional brick and mortar stores. This time around, we’ll look at what we can learn about mobile devices and social media, two recent additions to the options customers have for interacting with and ordering from parts suppliers.

Social networking gives normal people a voice, both for sharing news between themselves and for interacting with companies. Two thirds of online parts shoppers use social networking sites, but it’s not evenly split between the sexes: of those surveyed, 76% of women used these sites compared to just 54% of men. While platforms like Twitter and Instagram have made strides in recent years, Facebook is still the most popular social networking site among customers.

26% of buyers say social media influences purchase decisions, but the most influence isn’t where you’d expect it. 24% of buyers getting upgrade parts said social media influenced their purchases, compared to 31% of those buying replacement parts. It’s the people looking for a part that works rather than a part that they can show off who are turning to social media for information.

Social media isn’t just about external sites: giving your customers a voice can have a major impact on how they view the usefulness of your online presence. 71% say that reviews are an influential part of the online retail experience, and 58% find ratings and reviews helpful, making it the most important feature of a retailer’s website.

Where does mobile fit in for these buyers? There are still kinks to work out on mobile platforms since they are relatively new, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that only 79% of users are satisfied with their mobile experience compared with 84% of users on larger devices including computers and tablets. Despite this gap, these shoppers are far more satisfied with these options over in-store shopping, which had a satisfaction rate of just 65%. No matter where they’re buying, 41% of shoppers use their phone to read product details so they can make better purchasing decisions.

Mobile use is wildly different between the sexes: men are almost twice as likely as women to look for stores, research products and track deliveries on their smartphone. However, when it comes to installing a part, women are almost as likely as men to do it themselves.

Customers of both sexes are looking for more convenience using online tools. 63% would like an email or text with an approximate time of delivery, 62% would like to authorize delivery beforehand instead of needing to be home to sign for a package, and 45% want electronic receipts via email or text.

What about the future? It should be no surprise that Millennials, those between the ages of 18 and 34, like to use mobile devices and social media more than older customers. If you have a mobile-ready website or app, you’re already catering to them since Millennials 34% of their parts shopping on their phones, compared to just 2% of older customers. The number one thing Millennials look for when visiting a parts store online is fitment data. 47% of them are likely to promote brands they like using social media, and 36% say social media has an influence on their purchases.

What lessons can we learn from all these numbers? Customers use online and mobile access because they want more information about what they’re buying. Men use mobile tools to track packages and find stores, women and millennials are the biggest users of social media, and everyone wants online services to make delivery more convenient. Lastly, the overwhelming popularity of mobile and social media usage among Millennials hints at a trend of increased usage in the future.

Vertical Development can help you be there for your online and mobile customers. Our ShowMeTheParts database is built to be used on mobile platforms with small screen friendly interfaces, HTML5-based tools that work in mobile browsers, and apps for iOS and Android. As the largest public parts database on the market with full access to photos, technical documents and 360 degree views on smartphones, we can help you deliver the information your customers want.

Call us at (847) 609-9540 or email sales@verticaldev.com to get started today!

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How Mapping Solutions Can Help Properly Format Your Raw Data

Mapping Solutions

Whether your company manufactures parts, distributes them, or sells them to retail and fleet customers, at some point you’ll have to deal with mapping. Today, 70% of the parts sold in the aftermarket are mapped to e-Catalog systems. Despite the “e-” in the name, these catalog systems are the backbone of print, online and CD-based catalogs used throughout the industry.

What does mapping do?

It turns raw data into a standard, portable form. For retailers, it means they can request a specific format from their suppliers and transfer that information directly into their own catalog. For suppliers, it means they can update their mapped catalog and send it out to their buyers without having to make alterations for each use. With fewer steps between the manufacturer and the customer, that means fewer errors and faster turnaround.

How does it work?

Let’s use the Auto Care Association Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES) and the Automotive Catalog Exchange Standard (ACES) as an example. These two standards are commonly used in catalog mapping with PIES handling part attributes and ACES handling vehicle attributes. With PIES, a part can be labeled with standard identifiers including the manufacturer, product attributes, part interchanges, dimensions and digital information including photos. ACES contains vehicle information including makes, models and equipment, as well as identifiers in the VIN number to determine a vehicle’s equipment. Put them together, and you can search for a specific vehicle, match it to compatible parts, and then compare those parts by their design attributes. This lets customers do an apples-to-apples comparison of parts across lines and manufacturers to make sure they’re buying exactly what they need. On the business side, only the necessary attributes need to be added and transmitted: information like pricing isn’t required, and once a complete catalog has been created, smaller catalogs can then be generated to cover retailer’s specific needs depending on the parts lines and types of vehicles they deal with.

How do you turn your parts data into these standard formats?

That’s where Vertical Development comes in. We don’t just design mapping software; we’ve worked with industry partners to help develop mapping standards. Our tools can turn your paper catalog data into e-Catalog data following a number of standards including ACES, PIES, and NAPA PartsPro, for delivery to Epicor, NAPA, ShowMeTheParts,WHi and other trading partners. If you still need raw information, pages can be saved in PDF format so they can be read on any computer.

If you can use office software, you can use Vertical Development’s catalog software. Our vCat system uses a simple, intuitive interface with no need to know XML or Microsoft Access, and it can run on a single server or computer. Don’t have the resources to create your own catalog? We have Do It For Me (DIFM) services to help you prepare your catalogs. Later on, if you choose to bring cataloging in house, we can help you make the switch, using the same tools used in-house for an easy transition.

Let Vertical Development’s Tools Help You Build Your Catalog

Vertical Development’s tools are built in modules that work together, so once you create a catalog in one format, it can easily be ported to another. Want to move to online catalogs? Add your information to our extensive ShowMeTheParts database, or use SMTP as the base for your own website. Managing inventory? Our Vehicles in Operation (VIO) module shows you what vehicles are on the road down to the county level and cross-references them with compatible parts to make sure you’ll always stock the parts your customers will need. Best of all, you only need to buy the modules that you need, and additional modules can be added down the line. That means your catalog can always be expanded or ported to different formats later on as the needs of your business change.

Call us at (847) 609-9540 or email sales@verticaldev.com to get started today!

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Building a Digital Parts Catalog is as Easy as Do It for Me (DIFM) or Do It Yourself (DIY)

vcatalog

How Vertical Development Helped AVM Industries Build a Self-Sustaining Digital Catalog

If you are interested in creating a catalog that meets industry standards, but you don’t have the staff or expertise to do it in-house, then we should talk! Vertical Development offers a Do It For Me (DIFM) service to organize your parts data so that it can easily be published and sent to resellers or used directly by consumers. For AVM Industries, Vertical Development’s services helped the company reach new customers by creating, hosting and updating a PIES and ACES compliant catalog.

AVM Industries is the industry leader in gas springs, and its vacuum actuators, dampers and associated hardware are used in a wide range of automobiles and industrial equipment. Chances are, if you own a GM, Honda, or Toyota, the springs supporting the hood were manufactured by AVM. Despite having such a long reach in this niche segment of automotive manufacturing, initially, AVM didn’t have the staff to support a separate catalog department. When the company went looking for a partner to help manage its parts database, Vertical Development came highly recommended by customers and data management experts.

“We took AVM’s existing parts data and mapped it to a new catalog meeting PIES and ACES standards. Once the catalog was complete, we worked together with AVM to update the catalogs each month with new application information and each quarter with new part numbers,” explained Jay Wright, president of Vertical Development. “We did more than build the catalog, we managed and hosted AVM’s catalog data, sending PIES-compliant XML files and ACES-compliant catalogs to the users of AVM’s products ranging from first party manufacturers to aftermarket retailers.”

Together, Vertical Development and AVM were able to address issues brought up by clients while making sure information was up-to-date, ensuring an easy ordering process all around.

What if you want to create a catalog yourself?

vCatalog computersVertical Development helped AVM with a Do It Yourself (DIY) solution, too. After five years of DIFM service, AVM had grown its staff enough to bring the catalog system in-house. Vertical Development helped train the new staff on the same tools that were originally used to build the company’s catalog. That means, AVM can now provide the same service to its customers going DIY as it did with DIFM – and with no noticeable transition for the end users.

Today, AVM goes beyond catalog publishing by making its information available through the publicly-accessible ShowMeTheParts database. The modular nature of the software made this new feature easy to add on by using already existing catalog information. Now customers can look up parts directly either on AVM’s website or on the ShowMeTheParts website.

“Vertical Development has been a very supportive partner and I would recommend them to others that would want to use the services they offer,” shared Rodney Morrison, director of the Aftermarket Products Division for AVM Industries.

Let Vertical Development Help You Get Started

No matter how big or small your business may be, Vertical Development can help you create a digital catalog system that is easy to manage and adheres to the industry standard formats demanded by your customers. You can use our tools to create your catalog in-house, have us convert your current data for you, or we can manage cataloging entirely with our DIFM services. And just like AVM, if you’re looking to do your own cataloging down the road, then we can get you started with our DIFM services, and help you transition to DIY management when you’re ready.

Call us at (847) 609-9540 or email sales@verticaldev.com to get started today!

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Vehicles in Operation (VIO) Reports Now Come with Zip Code Level Reporting

Beck/Arnley Uses VIO Reports for Sales Forecasting

car on map

Does your business have the right parts in stock? No matter where you are in the industry, inventory control is always a primary concern, from nationwide sales to local parts stores. That’s where Vehicles in Operation (VIO) reports come in. A VIO report gives you a snapshot of the vehicles on the road in your area, helping you to calculate which parts will be in demand. Vertical Development’s database tools have VIO support built in, and a new level of accuracy means even better inventory management.

How does a VIO report work?

A VIO report is created from information collected about vehicle registrations in a specified region. That data can then be linked with parts to come up with a list of parts that will be in demand for that area. By knowing the probable parts demand, your business can keep parts on hand that will sell quickly while helping customers get the parts they need without having to wait for them to be shipped in.

What information is provided in a VIO report?

While it used to be very basic, ACES mapping standards for vehicles have expanded to include over 40 fields that can serve as identifiers. That means a lot more precision is possible when doing a vehicle inventory, but it also adds a lot more complexity when trying to determine parts’ demand.

At Vertical Development, we’ve developed a system that uses VIO information from Experian Automotive’s AutoCount Vehicles in Operation database and IHS Automotive by Polk. That means we have software that combines data from a constantly updated vehicle registry database with the industry’s largest VIO database to give you the most accurate information about an area’s vehicle population.

Our software takes this information and breaks it down into vehicle make, model, year, body style and engine type. Searches can be done on demand, so you can get vehicle information when you need it and with the latest data available. This report can be exported as a stand-alone spreadsheet.

How does zip code level reporting work?

In the past, the precision of VIO reports was limited to the state level. Now with our updated tools, you can break down VIO results to the zip codes that you’re operating in. That means reports can be limited to a location’s service area for far greater accuracy.

Obviously, an urban area will have a different mix of vehicles than a rural area, which gives these new, finer reports a major advantage over a state-based report that would cover a wide range of markets from farmlands to major cities. It’s even better for locations near state borders, as it lets you focus on your region instead of using reports from multiple states that could include data from areas that may be hundreds of miles away from your location.

Beck/Arnley uses VIO reports to forecast sales

Beck/Arnley receives quarterly VIO updates from Experian. Vertical Development has made it possible to upload the VIO updates and run reports against their ACES data.

“Vertical Development set us up so we can upload the VIO Quarterly Reports for the United States and Canadian National levels, as well as U.S. State, Canadian Province, U.S. County, and U.S. Zip Code levels,” shared Ricky Robertson, Catalog Manager for Beck/Arnley. “Now when a sales associate calls and wants a VIO Report for a particular area, we can run the report against a full ACES file or a particular product group. The report gives us our part number along with the VIO counts for that part number.”

“This is a great tool and it lets our sales staff know what Beck/Arnley parts have the greatest potential in a particular area based on the VIO registrations,” he concluded.

Working with Vertical Development

Have a regional warehouse inventory to manage? Doing online or mail order sales? Reports can be scaled up to state and national levels, letting you tailor the report to your service area. No matter how big your business is or where it’s located, you can get a report that’s the right fit. You must have an active VIO subscription with Experian or Polk to get started.

If you’re ready to get a better handle on your inventory management, contact Vertical Development today to put VIO reports to work for your business. Call us at (847) 609-9540 or email sales@verticaldev.com.

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Aftermarket Supplier Husky Spring Creatively Moves into e-Commerce with ShowMeTheParts

husky spring website

Recently, we shared a story with Aftermarket Business World’s Technology section about how Husky Spring, an aftermarket supplier of springs and suspension parts, used ShowMeTheParts to develop an online catalog and strong e-commerce presence.

It’s a fascinating story because like many companies, Husky Spring’s shift toward online access started with customer requests and the drive to fulfill those requests effectively and inexpensively. As we’ve shared in previous articles, the growth of online catalogs and sales in the Aftermarket industry has been tremendous in the last few years. However, many niche suppliers find that the wide-market tech solutions are simply cost prohibitive, which is what makes ShowMeTheParts, along with our partners at Fuse5 and Weblink, a viable option for so many.

Read the full story about how we worked with Husky Spring to create a thriving e-commerce presence.

Ready to get started on your e-commerce site? Call us at (847) 609-9540 or email sales@verticaldev.com.

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Why the ACA’s Brand Table Matters for Your Catalog

brand ID

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The Brand Table is a recent addition to the Auto Care Association’s PIES and ACES catalog standards. This table is designed to make it easy to identify different parts brands by creating a standard coding system, working alongside their Product Classification Database (PCdb) and Product Attribute Database (PAdb) to correctly identify and categorize parts. This ACA Technology Minute video will give you a quick overview of the Brand Table.

How does the Brand Table work?

Entries in the Brand Table are labeled using a hierarchy that breaks down brands into parent companies, brand owners, brands and sub-brands, with each of these categories getting its own four digit alphabetic code. This helps avoid confusion with brands that use common names like “Professional” or “Performance.” The code for one company’s “Performance” sub-brand will be different from another company’s “Performance” sub-brand.

pies brand

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The code is used to specify and organize product brands on the back end, but the brand names will show up on the front end in the search and display. For example, if a product has the auto care market brand code “ABCD EFGH IJKL MNOP,” this will be translated to display its real brand name, which could be something like “BigPartsCo Durommax Bushing Master Performance” when the catalog is published. Of course, on the front end, users are typically more interested in the last two categories. For example, when using ShowMeTheParts’ online database, search users see the Brand Table’s brand and sub-brand labels show up under the supplier and brand categories. Using the previous example, the user would just see “Bushing Master” as the supplier and “Performance” as the brand category.

The Brand Table is already built into the standards for PIES and ACES. PIES uses auto care market brand codes to give products unique identifiers. By including the brand table code in catalog entries, problems can be avoided when two separate parts are issued using the same part number. ACES refers to these codes to identify the brands included in an electronic catalog data file. Enter the code in the part entry, and the part branding will show up automatically in the correct fields when the catalog is published.

The Auto Care Association has set up a separate website, brandtable.pricedex.com, to manage the Brand Table. From here, new brand identifiers can be requested, current identifiers can be found using a search engine, and the whole Brand Table can be downloaded.

How do you add the Brand Table to your catalog?

pies output

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Vertical Development has been working on ACES and PIES catalog software for decades, so it should be no surprise that our tools already support this coding standard. We can help you get your products coded to meet the latest standards, whether you’re just starting to build a standard catalog or need to add new classification standards like PAdb and the Brand Table to your existing catalog.

Need to get your products labeled for the Brand Table to meet reseller catalog requirements? We can help your company get up to speed with our tools for a Do It Yourself (DIY) solution, or help you with the process with our Do It For Me (DIFM) services. Of course, like all of our products, everything is integrated, so that any changes you make to your ACES or PIES catalog can be transferred to the ShowMeTheParts public database and ShowMeTheParts-based private databases as well.

Ready to get started on your catalog? Call us at (847) 609-9540 or email sales@verticaldev.com.

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ShowMeTheParts Helps to Simplify Your E-Commerce Strategy

Online sales of aftermarket parts for 2015 were estimated at $6 billion, 17% more than 2014.

Online sales of aftermarket parts for 2015 were estimated at $6 billion, 17% more than 2014.

At the turn of the century, everyone was excited about e-tailing. Put any sort of store on the Internet, no matter how questionable the profitability might be, and investors would throw money at the idea.

Eventually, cooler heads prevailed, and the dot com bubble burst, but the Internet didn’t go away. More people got online, software and hardware improved, and the promise of online sales have become a reality. While the first e-commerce boom was accessed via modems connected to land lines, today customers can connect to high speed Internet from computers, tablets or smartphones. Meanwhile, tools like HTML5 and JavaScript have transformed static web pages into something that can act like a stand-alone application. This combination of improved tools and accessibility has resulted in an explosion of online sales, and the aftermarket parts industry is no exception.

How important is e-commerce to aftermarket sales?

Online sales of aftermarket parts for 2015 were estimated at $6 billion, 17% more than 2014. This growth rate is expected to continue with an increase of $1 billion or more each year for the foreseeable future. This isn’t a sales channel dominated by newcomers, either: 19 of the top 50 online aftermarket parts sellers today began before the Internet, either as catalog sellers or brick and mortar parts chains. If your business isn’t online, you’ll be missing a lot of potential sales over the coming years.

How do you give your current parts business an online presence?

ShowMeTheParts ProductVertical Development was around before the Internet reached consumers, and we’ve been there every step of the way since, actively developing tools that join catalog technology with online accessibility. Our software includes a set of modules, making it easy to connect your standard paper catalog to our own ShowMeTheParts online database.

e-Tailing opens the door to providing more information than is practical with a paper catalog, but it also means customers won’t be able to see the part until it’s delivered. Our software is built to help bridge the gap, bringing customers the information they need to make purchase decisions. Our software supports the Auto Care Association’s Product Attribute Database (PAdb), providing customers with standardized information about part attributes including materials, colors and applications. Along with PAdb, the ShowMeTheParts database can also include technical documents, photos, and 360-degree views of parts, while VIN and license-based search tools help customers correctly identify their vehicle so search results will only show parts that will work with their car. That means, customers know exactly what they’re buying, and sellers don’t have to deal with as many returns.

Since there’s no publishing date on an online database, new information can be added as soon as it becomes available. With ShowMeTheParts, this data can be pushed to sellers and customers in days instead of weeks or months. If you’re a seller, chances are the parts you sell are already in our database: ShowMeTheParts already covers 4.5 million parts and 8.5 million interchanges from over 300 manufacturers, making it the largest public parts database on the market. We can help you create a ShowMeTheParts-based site that is limited to the parts that you carry while allowing you to add specific information like pricing and availability.

search-engine-friendly app

Designed to be easy to use on small touchscreens, while still offering all of our powerful search tools

The Internet is more accessible than ever thanks to smartphones, and we’ve built ShowMeTheParts to work with them, too. It offers a separate interface that’s designed to be easy to use on small touchscreens, while still offering all of our powerful search tools. We can also deliver this experience as an app for iOS and Android to cover the majority of devices, as well as a mobile-friendly web page that can be used by any device without requiring a download.

If you’ve been thinking about making the jump into e-commerce, now is the time. Sales have never been better, and Vertical Development can make the transition to online sales and cataloging easy with our pre-built tools and database.

Ready to partner with us to take your product sales online? Give us a call at 847.609.9540 or email sales@verticaldev.com.

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