What Do Self-Driving Fleets Mean for the Future of Aftermarket Parts?

driven by technology

Self-Driving cars are getting a lot of press, whether it’s Google cars roaming the streets, GM’s purchase of Cruise Automation, or Uber’s plan to put a fleet of self-driving Ford Fusions to work carrying passengers around Pittsburgh. How will this shift to self-driving vehicles affect parts management for fleets when their use becomes widespread?

What makes a self-driving car or truck different from a regular vehicle? To make a car self-driving, a system is added that uses a series of sensors to make judgments about driving conditions and react accordingly. A lot of the interface is already in the modern vehicle with systems like throttle-by-wire, adaptive cruise control and the steer-by-wire system recently introduced in some Infinitis. In other words, from a purely functional perspective, this just adds another small set of electronics to today’s electronically complicated systems.

In practice, there should be a major difference in how and when parts fail. Replacing human drivers with electronics means a consistent driving style across the fleet, and that should lead to fairly consistent wear patterns. Parts like brake pads and suspension components may wear with such consistency that they can be put on a maintenance schedule just like oil and filter changes.

read more

ShowMeTheParts and GCommerce to Partner on Business-to-Business E-Commerce Solution

showmetheparts and gcommerce product

Vertical Development, Inc. and GCommerce Inc. are launching a new product collaboration called “ShowMeTheParts B2B GCommerce Edition.” The new business-to-business e-commerce tool integrates GCommerce’s Virtual Inventory Cloud (VIC) system into websites powered by our ShowMeTheParts (SMTP), adding drop-shipping and special ordering capabilities.

showmetheparts and gcommerce sell sheet

Download the PDF and read more about the exciting new B2B e-commerce solution from Vertical Development, Inc. and GCommerce Inc.

ShowMeTheParts B2B GCommerce Edition is the capstone to a system that addresses every aspect of parts ordering between mid-market manufacturer/suppliers and their direct channel partners. With SMTP you can give your customers an account to see their own prices at log in. Since it leverages the SMTP database, buyers can see information including compatibility, attributes, data sheets and even photos of the part before placing an order.

“Partnering with Vertical Development to create ShowMeTheParts B2B GCommerce Edition leverages the best of both companies to contribute to increased sales,” shares Scott Luckett, Vice President, Industry Strategy of GCommerce, Inc. “In our more than 15 years in the e-commerce business we’ve built the largest network of trading partners serving the vehicle aftermarket. Combining the scale of our e-commerce system with the power behind the ShowMeTheParts database is game changing for mid-market wholesalers and distributors in the aftermarket industry.”

read more

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!

read more

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!

read more

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!

read more

Why the Product Attribute Database (PAdb) Matters for Your Business

Would you like to make it easier for your customers to compare products? The Product Attribute Database (PAdb) lets you add information about part attributes to your PIES catalogs using a standardized format. By having a single, unified system, customers can make direct comparisons between products to help them figure out what they need.

Mapping ScreensPAdb was introduced by the Auto Care Association in 2013 as an add-on to their Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES) cataloging system. The PAdb project brought together industry experts from across all product types to develop the best and most complete set of product attributes in the industry. The PAdb defines parts according to style as well as attributes related to the product. These attributes are then broken down into types and values for those types. This can include information such as color, dimensions, materials and performance characteristics.

Manufacturers can propose new attributes to be added to the database, with each attribute validated by at least two suppliers and one major reseller before being added to PAdb. These attributes cannot be subjective, they can’t expose proprietary information and they must be attributes that aren’t already part of the PIES specifications. Currently, there are over 109,000 attributes covering more than 12,000 part terminologies. These numbers are constantly increasing with the Auto Care Association releasing new versions almost every month. Today, PAdb covers 96% of the products by volume that make up the aftermarket parts industry, including everything from air fresheners to exhaust manifolds.

How does the PAdb benefit customers?
Let’s say a customer is shopping for some brake pads. Using a basic catalog, the customers can find a list of pads that will fit their application. However, at most major retailers, this list may include a dozen or more options, leaving the buyer to determine which pads have the lining material they want and the added hardware they need. At best, this information is available because it was put together by the retailer, but even then, some features may be left out. This means the buyer can’t be 100% certain of what they’re ordering until it’s in their hands.

If those same brake parts have PAdb attributes as part of their PIES entries, the customer can easily narrow down their selection based on their requirements. In this case, the manufacturer can add information such as the type of friction material, its thickness, and whether shims, wear sensors or other hardware is included. Since this data is added at the manufacturer level, these attributes remain the same across the retail chain through wholesalers and retailers, keeping the information consistent. Moreover, since every manufacturer is labeling their parts the same way, it’s easy for consumers to make comparisons between product lines.

Adding attributes is more important than ever as more businesses incorporate online shops. With no counter person to help out or product example to look at, this information greatly improves the chance that they can find and order exactly what they need. Whether shopping online or using a database like ShowMeTheParts, by adding a few search terms, the buyer can limit the results to a specific pad material, and they can find out if they’ll need to buy a hardware kit or if one is already included with the pads.

Ready to add PAdb to your catalog? Vertical Development already has PAdb support built into our PIES Module. In fact, if you’re already using our PIES module, you can start adding PAdb information once you activate your PAdb subscription at http://www.autocare.org/What-We-Do/Technology/Resource-Files/PAdb-Application-form/. Call us at (847) 609-9540 or email sales@verticaldev.com.

read more

Vehicles in Operation (VIO) from Vertical Development: Supercharge Decision-Making for Your Aftermarket Parts Portfolio

vehicles in operation data

Request a Free Demo of Our VIO Feature

Leveraging the most recent, actionable data on vehicle registrations allows you to make profitable decisions about your parts portfolio. Aftermarket economics dictate that without a solid estimate of demand, you’re left in the dark on which parts to stock and supply.

As the importance of this type of vehicles in operation (VIO) data has increased, so has the challenge of acquiring it and integrating it into your inventory management flow.

In the past, finding the number of vehicles on the road for a particular make and model was rather straightforward using the old Legacy 7-digit code. Now, with new ACES data standards and over 40 fields serving as unique identifiers, determining your missing coverage and acting on it can be complex.

But not for Vertical Development’s clients. Our database and programming teams anticipated these challenges well before they were the talk of the marketplace. They spent years putting together a unique and powerful solution which allows you to easily, and cost-effectively, pull and integrate specific Vehicles in Operation (VIO) reports.

An Introduction to Vertical Development’s New Vehicles in Operation (VIO) Feature Included in Do-It-Yourself Catalog Systems

Our VIO reports leverage the latest statistics from the most trusted industry sources. These reports are capable of providing vehicle registration data and on-the-road intelligence at granular levels, including National coverage down to ZIP Code level.

Click image above to view larger

  • State-level vehicles in operation statistics
  • VIO reports based on vehicle specifications: make, model, year, and even body and engine type
  • On-demand VIO database searches that can be exported seamlessly into your parts inventory management process
  • Timely and reliable vehicle registration statistics from industry powerhouses
    o Experian Automotive’s AutoCount Vehicles in OperationSM database
    o IHS Automotive, driven by Polk

Click image above to view larger

From a Headache to a Money-Maker: Let Vertical Development’s New Feature Do the VIO Heavy-Lifting

For decades, Vertical Development has simplified aftermarket parts data technology for clients to maximize their efficiency and profit. Our vehicles in operation feature is no exception.

From the first interaction with our team, you will be dealing with automotive aftermarket experts who provide white-glove service. No call centers. No gimmicks. And our VIO offerings come with the same backing as all of our products and services: always on-time and on-quoted-cost.

It’s Easy to Learn More or Set Up a Free Demo

If you would like to receive more information about our Vehicles in Operation (VIO) feature or would like to set up a free demonstration of its functionality, contact us today. We look forward to serving you.

Request a Free Demo     Request More Information

read more

A Look Back on an Amazing Year!

happy holidays

In the book A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens wrote “there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor,” and there’s certainly an ample supply of both this time of year.

Between relaxing with friends, reconnecting with relatives, cooking up dishes from old family recipes, and reliving family traditions, even Scrooge would have to admit that there’s a lot to enjoy. All of us at Vertical Development would like to take this time to thank you for your business and wish you a happy holiday season!

As the year comes to a close, it’s a good time to take a step back and reflect on the many accomplishments, while looking forward to our future goals.

It’s been a busy year at Vertical Development. We moved to new offices in Naperville and joined the industry dialogue on Facebook and Twitter – be sure to stop by and follow us. We also launched ShowMeThePartsMobile 2.0, added license plate lookup to ShowMeTheParts, began making 360-degree parts photos and partnered with Web2Market to bring a complete online commerce system to market. Our favorite highlights of the year include meeting with some of you at SEMA, AAPEX and the NCMA Knowledge Exchange.

We know you’ve been busy, too. We now have 320 brands working together with us on ShowMeTheParts, helping to maintain its place as the largest, most up-to-date public aftermarket parts database on the market.

Meanwhile, online aftermarket parts sales have skyrocketed with sales expected to break $6 billion this year, making it more important than ever for everyone in the industry from manufacturers to local stores to add better web and mobile access. Building the software needed for this shift toward more web and mobile-based integrations is truly a team effort, and we’d like to thank our customers for working together with us to make parts ordering easier and more accessible. We look forward to working with you for many years to come.

While the parts business is important to all of us, this is also the time to take a well-deserved break and connect with what’s really important: friends and family. Whether you’re winding down production for the year or you are finally getting a break from the barrage of holiday orders, we here at Vertical Development would like to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Our office will be closed on December 24th and 25th, as well as January 1st. In case of an emergency, please call our office number and follow the prompts, 630-724-1159.

Happy Holidays!

read more

New Vertical Development Website Provides Access to a Suite of Software and Services

new vertical development website

Vertical Development, Inc. recently launched a new responsive corporate website to support its brands and services.

Vertical Development, Inc. has launched a new mobile-friendly website in support of its Vertical Development and ShowMeTheParts brands, which centralizes our product solutions and showcases the ways we help our customers save time, and money by providing solution-driven technology and user-friendly software solutions. The site offers details on both Services and Systems offered, with client testimonials, including feature-and-benefit information.

With more than 30 years of experience as a technology provider to the Aftermarket, Vertical Development has built a suite of powerful tools for managing parts information – satisfying eCatalog, eCommerce and Print requirements.

As a business owner or industry executive, it’s your job to help translate the vision for your company into an actionable plan for your team to follow. Many times, we see company leaders get bogged down in solving the issues of the day-to-day business operations. They forget to look up and lookout, until competitors – are nipping closely at their heels. Vertical Development and ShowMeTheParts will help bridge that gap.

In our decades of work with Aftermarket companies, we’ve seen these challenges firsthand and we’ve built a knowledge base with resources that are unmatched in the industry. We love working with our clients to help them keep their competitive edge through technology. In this way, we partner with our clients to serve as an innovation consultant and share what’s on the horizon in the world of software and applications.

If your goal is to deliver your products and services to customers quickly and easily, then our job is to power that delivery through the latest technology innovations and software updates.

We encourage you to visit our new website and take a quick tour. As you visit with us, keep the following points in mind:

We build technology that makes it simple to get up to speed — no matter how big or small your business is. You can begin to learn more about our products from the Products tab on our home page, hover there and you’ll gain easy access to information on our vCatalog Solutions, Mapping Solutions, and ShowMeTheParts.

Our vCatalog database lets you create catalogs in-house, publishing directly online and mapping to industry formats which include ACES, NAPA PartsPro, PAdb, PIES – letting you work with online partners seamlessly. In fact, we’ve been involved in ACES and PIES since the standards were created. In addition, our vCatalog system will generate missing coverage reports to show you exactly where you need to add information, cutting down on errors so you will get your catalog approved quicker.

Do-It-For-Me — Not big enough to have a department dedicated to generating catalogs? We offer Do-It-For-Me (DIFM) services to do the work for you, keeping your information updated for your partners.

Getting up and running is easy, too. Our products are designed and developed right here in the U.S., which means the same people who develop our software are also helping you with support. You can learn more about our team of experts from the About Us tab on our new website.

When setting up a new system, you’ll be working with a two person team, allowing easy communication and fast changes to get up and running on-time and on-budget with a solution tailored to your business’s needs.

ShowMeTheParts-Mobile. With the recently released ShowMeThePartsMobile 2.0, your parts people and customers can access the entire ShowMeTheParts database straight from a tablet or smart phone using a fast, simple interface.

We’ll keep you in the know. You can stay updated on the latest Aftermarket tech news and product updates with our free monthly newsletter. Sign up today and while you’re visiting the site, check out our blog for the latest news on our recent projects and collaborations, as well as product updates like our new license plate lookup. When you sign up for our monthly newsletter, you will get our latest aftermarket news right in your inbox and you will be the first to know. Now that’s a true competitive edge!

We’re excited about our new VerticalDev.com website. We hope you find it to be a rich resource of information and a comprehensive guide for your technology needs.

Ready to partner with us to deliver your products more quickly and seamlessly to customers? Give us a call at 847.609.9540 or email sales@verticaldev.com.

read more

Saluting Our Heroes on Veteran’s Day

saluting our heroes

Welcome to the month of Thanksgiving and pumpkin spice everything … November is such an amazing month! It’s the kick-off to the holiday season, a time for family and turkey, and all the guys are growing moustaches in support of Movember, a movement to raise awareness about men`s health.

November is also a month when we pause to salute our veterans, with Veterans Day on November 11. In 2012, November was also declared “Military Family Month” in an effort to raise awareness of the sacrifices that military families make every day.

Many businesses recognize this sacrifice and work to give back to veterans and their families. The automotive industry, in particular, shows its support in many ways, but more specifically by hiring service men and women.

read more