The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated customer expectations to be able to easily purchase products online from anywhere and at any time. While this began as a consumer expectation, it has morphed over into the B2B space as well — even affecting heavy-duty truck parts.
That’s why HDA Truck Pride began an e-commerce partnership with PhaseZero’s CxCommerce, a software-as-service platform.
“The expectation of our members’ customers has changed, and this is just one of the evolutions we believe is necessary in our market to meet those changing expectations,” says John Lurz, vice president of technology at HDA Truck Pride.
The platform will allow customers to buy products through an online channel in addition to traditional counter and call-in service. In a news release, the organization said the platform is “designed to connect distributors with their customers, suppliers and manufacturers, bring employees and customers together, deliver real-time visibility to inventory across all locations, [and] provide customer-specific pricing integrated with business systems.”
He added, “At HDA Truck Pride corporate, we try to do things for our members that they can’t do easily for themselves. This project falls into that category.”
Before launching the e-commerce effort, HDA Truck Pride developed a product information management platform that is used to collect, store and maintain product information and images.
“Rather than having each of our members contact our 250 suppliers to get the information, we got the information from the suppliers for them and then made it available to our members,” Lurz explains. Those members then made it available to their fleet customers. The information in the product information management platform was necessary if HDA Truck Pride members were going to offer an e-commerce option.
The new e-commerce initiative allows fleets to order parts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from their preferred HDA Truck Pride member.
“Fleets can search for a part by manufacturer, type of part, category, or simply enter the part number,” he says. The PhaseZero platform provides an Amazon- or Google-like search, where as the customer types into the search box, the search engine starts predicting what they are looking for so they can quickly get the information they need.
The system also shows related parts that might be needed to complete a repair and provides parts interchanges as well.
Lurz says the e-commerce platform is not a replacement for existing methods of purchasing parts, but rather is an extension of their existing offerings.
“This is not going to replace anything,” he says. “It is going to help our members grow and evolve their businesses because they will be better able to serve their customers.”
Lurz also hopes HDA Truck Pride members will give their inside sales staff access to the platform so they can use it “to help customers place orders in real time and show fleet operators how easy it is to use.”
Once orders are placed, the fleet is billed through its existing account with the distributor. The platform also allows fleets to manage their parts orders and order history online.
Lurz says member reaction to the new platform has been strong and PhaseZero is currently meeting with individual members about signing up.
This is just one example of how the aftermarket industry is developing a digital presence that helps make the parts-buying process easier for fleets.
This commentary originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.