Adapt or Die
Trinidad and Tobago is on the edge of the digital revolution, the ecosystem has developed and there is a huge amount of pent up demand waiting to be tapped.
For the businesses who move first and enter this space, they have an opportunity to corner the online market before their competitors can react, in some cases their competitors may be too late to react and go out of business.
There is a huge amount of upside with little downside, any investment will be easily recovered in immediate optimisation and efficiency.
Leaders who see the opportunity and act now using the right tools and strategy will multiply the size of their organisations.
We have written a few articles on the general digital transformation industry in Trinidad and Tobago. In this article we will take a deep dive into the automotive parts segment in Trinidad and Tobago and we will tie it in with our platform to show how we are resolving some of the issues.
Car Parts Complexity
The auto parts industry is one of the most complex and unique for the consumer market, in fact for a very long time it was not for the consumer market and was run by a large number of small specialist car part dealers and car mechanics.
One of the biggest issues is that each car has thousands of car parts, not only each make has its own parts, but each model can be different, as can be different trims and years, and in some cases you get different parts for cars of the same make, model, trim and year.
For a novice consumer to find the part they need is a nightmare, let alone which of the 10-20 part numbers will be compatible with their specific parts. For this reason consumers have been unable to make choices for themselves, they have relied on going to car parts shops who would have large parts catalogues to look up the exact part number.
Fast forward and the world has moved on, the large books have now become electronic with the introduction of EPC (Electronic Parts Catalogues) and further developed into interactive schematic catalogues, where you can drill down to the part you need and click on it to get the part number and sub-parts. This is great, however these EPCs are expensive and also it is difficult to get one for Trinidad and Toabgo.
Each manufacturer will have their own EPC for different markets, and hence Trinidad and Tobago is not a distinct market like the EU, US, UK, etc… we import vehicles from all of these markets, and hence we need subsets of EPC from the different EPC, the cost of getting access to all of these EPC’s makes it uneconomical.
The second issue we have is that you cannot use a standard ecommerce portal for car parts. Due to the above complexity, regular ecommerce portals do not come equipped with the necessary intelligence to search for car parts. You need to have a custom search feature that allows you to filter by Make, Model, Year
This widget can not just be added on easily, it requires a fundamental redesign of the backend database to make this work.
Compatibility and Aftermarket
Furthermore you need to have a compatibility or substitute feature. Sometimes parts are discontinued and replaced with a different part number and hence you need to cater for this, so if someone searches for an old PN you can convert it to the replacement PN and finally you have the aftermarket parts and you need to have compatibility structure so you can link the OEM to aftermarket PN.
This is a unique and complex logic that needs to be built into the core of the engine and not something you can add on. For this reason, most auto parts do NOT develop their own solutions. They will purchase these solutions from EPC aggregators, who then charge them a subscription fee. The problem is that there is no aggregator for the Trinidad and Tobago market and hence you will be hard pushed to find a solution that can handle even 50% of the searches.
Our solution has been to develop the logic ourselves, and then allow our customers/partners to populate the information based on their inventory and also to allow for the DB to be curated over time as users search and add data to it. Hence those that start first will have a huge advantage over their competition, and if they get to a critical stage where they get a sufficient lead, then it will be extremely difficult for the competition to catch up, they could end up with a monopoly in their chosen area of focus.
Items in stock
The second issue we see is that it is difficult to locate a part in stock. Even if you know what you need, finding someone who stocks it is difficult. You can often end up calling 5-10 different companies to find the part in stock, let alone trying to get the best price. Sometimes you have to drive around with the parts so the parts shop can visually match with parts in stock, again very time consuming and frustrating especially when your car is not driveable. This is a HUGE pain point.
In fact a solution to this single pain point can be a game changer for the industry, whoever effectively solves this has a huge opportunity to accumulate market share and strengthen their position in the marketplace. They can become the hub/nucleus for the place to go first to find a part for their space of focus.
We at Taurus invested a lot of time and effort to find a solution to these problems, and not only these consumer related issues, we looked at the whole supply chain and built a solution that will allow businesses to streamline their operations and logistics.
Often the parts shop will not have the item in stock and will call their supplier to see if they can get it, and if so they will then negotiate with the consumer on when they can get the part for them. This is extremely inefficient and time consuming and creates a logistical nightmare. You may promise that you will have the part tomorrow at midday but then you don’t get it till 3, and the consumer turns up at 1 to pick it up.
Some part shops may be open till 7 or 8, but their suppliers are closed, they now have to tell the customer to come back tomorrow so they can check if they can get the item, the list of inefficient processes and issues goes on.
The next pain point or opportunity is in the logistics workflow of parts distribution. As explained above, for part shops to place orders and keep inventory in stock is an extremely difficult process. Most autoparts shops do not have a POS that is tracking their inventory in which case they rely on human stock checking and too often they end up waiting on a customer to come in and ask for a part only to realise it is out of stock.
Once the order is decided the process of placing the order is also cumbersome. Some will send emails, others will email a PO, while others will call up a sales agent and place an order with them, some may send faxes. All channels have their own challenges :
- Calling Sales Agent/Account Manager : Sometimes trying to get hold of your account manager can be difficult, they may be in a meeting, may need to call you back. Sometimes they are not working and need to get someone else to assist you, or will get back to your tomorrow, if you need to urgently respond to a customer this can be frustrating
- Sending emails or POs: causes delays as it needs to be picked up by an inhouse sales team who needs to process it, they will then need to enter it into their system before it can get processed. This could cause a delay of 24 to 48 hours, depending on how busy the supplier is, and requires the supplier to be staffed up at all times
- Working hours: you have to manage all these logistics within the normal working hours. More and more your customers are working outside of your working hours and this trend will continue
The Solution – Digital Strategy
We allow you to put up your inventory online. All your products, descriptions, images, specifications can be put online inclusive of your current stock. If you have an ERP solution such as CDK, MSDynamics, Salesforce or any other ERP solution we can integrate with your inhouse systems to provide real time inventory online to your customers.
We do this in a secure manner, you can control who sees your inventory and prices. You can make your inventory available to the public in a D2C model as more and more companies go direct and build direct relationships with their consumers. They will see the public prices, but if you have a B2B customer you can allow them to login and then activate a specific pricing scheme for that one customer.
Multiple Pricing Engine
You have complete flexibility on what price you give them, we have a number of pricing models. Each B2B customer can have their own unique pricing scheme.
So you can give different B2B customers different prices, we have a specific ordering engine for B2B that makes the ordering process much more efficient, it is based on reordering (replenish stock) or a favourites.
Some of your products may be expensive and require financing. Our finance module allows you to give the customer the information on what it will cost on finance. The deposit required, the duration and the monthly payment.
You can offer the finance yourself or you can partner with a 3rd party finance company and we can provide quotes based on the price. If the customer is interested we can either collect the necessary information for the application or we can integrate to a erd party site where they can go through the application process.
Once the order is place we can inject that order directly into your OMS (Order Management System) both updating the inventory in real time and also eliminating the need to do data entry, hence reducing the workload on your inhouse team giving you two options, first reducing the head count or redeploying staff to focus on generating new business and less on order taking.
You are now open 24x7x265 to your customers, they can check the status of their order and aso their order history. They can place orders on Saturday afternoon, a Sunday or 2am during the week.
Items that are out of stock can be placed on backorder or timelines can be given. Your B2B customers can serve their consumers much quicker, if they don’t have the item in stock, they can go online and check if you have it, take a deposit and instantly place an order. No need to play telephone tag with your sales team or account managers.
There is the obvious efficiency benefit for you as the supplier, your B2B customer and the end consumer. There is a secondary benefit and one which we believe is much more critical for the mid to long term. It is the ability to capture data about your customers, both B2B and D2C. This data captured can build up to give critical insights in the future that allows you to give a personalised experience to your customers. Targeted promotions and purchasing journeys specific to different customers.
Personalisation is likely to be the biggest strategic factor in the future for ecommerce and in order to execute it you need to capture data, the sooner you can start to capture the data the sooner you will be in a position to start monetizing it and gaining strategic competitive advantage over your competitors.
B2B Sales support capacity
We have spoken about supporting your B2B customers, once that becomes efficient not only will your costs to service these sales decrease, but you will increase your capacity to serve more customers with the same resources. You can bring on more B2B customers with your online 24x7x365 personalised experience.
Let’s take a look at D2C, you may or not currently have a direct to consumer channel, and if you don’t then there is a very high probability that you will need to have one in the future. All manufacturers globally have accepted the strategic value of having to go D2C. Technology allows you to do this and consumers want this, it allows you to take control of the consumer experience and give them a personalised experience. Manufacturers and distributors are taking more and more control of this experience, and building relationships directly with the consumers, especially the new generation of consumers who want to have relationships and engagements with their chosen brands.
At the same time, it is a invaluable way of collecting data from your actual end consumers, if you do any search on D2C, this will come as the primary reason that businesses are going D2C, they have higher margins but they want to ensure that they build and establish the engagement and relationship with the end consumers, if they don’t their competitors will.
We do this off the same platform, you can run your B2B and B2C channels from the same portal and manage all your customers. You can also run your call centre from the same platform. For the small resellers we are also looking into an integrated POS to help them so you have an end to end solution.
We are integrated with social media and have emailing features. Once your products are in our system we have some build in marketing features that you can access to assist you in your marketing efforts.
We can generate catalogues on the fly based on categories or other selection criteria and have them emailed to customers to download. This allows your customer to access your catalogue offline.
Social Media Integration
Our integration to social media allows us to post products directly on your facebook page, making it easier and more efficient to promote your products. We can also do this on a schedule and automate it.
Template based post/flyer generator
We can load up branded templates to create product flyers, we take a template and then render the product name, image, description, price and generate a flyer for you. This is very cost effective for creating branded marketing material. You can literally create flyers for promotions and every single product with no additional costs.
We do image clean up, where we can remove the background of an image and generate a transparent .png for a much cleaner professional looking image for online product advertising. You can take a picture of a product using a phone and we will clean it up, we use a Machine Learning algorithm to do this. Once again it saves you time and cost while improving your brand quality and increasing your decision velocity.
We integrate with Facebook Pixels, Google analytics, Active Campaigns, Hubsopts and many more embedded scripts.
We can integrate with ERP solutions, help desk solutions, CRM. If you do not have an existing system we can assist.
There are two parallels to digital transformation. The first is optimisation and efficiency, where you can reduce our cost of sales, reduce your cost per order and increase transaction velocity.
The second is to increase your market share. The online space is a new market, you need to be in it to win it and those that enter first will take the lion’s share of the online space.
Those that don’t could find themselves going out of business, there are numerous examples of established market leading companies that are no longer because they ignored ecommerce for too long.
Contact us too let us have a qualification discussion and after that we can do a demo to show you how we can assist you, and design a roadmap for your digital transformation strategy.
We can assure you that your competitors are already doing this.