The Internet is opening avenues for parts purchases that never existed before. But does it make sense for you to consider adding online parts purchasing to your parts buying strategy?
I recently decided to see what online parts-buying options were available to fleets and was rather surprised by some of what I found. For example, both Amazon and eBay show up as sites that have truck parts. Ryder offers truck parts online at www.ryderfleetproducts.com.
What surprised me more was the fact that not many dealership or parts distributors populated my search results. Of course there are exceptions, but many companies not only don’t offer online sales, they do not even list their inventories online.
I did find several parts marketplaces (sites that aggregate parts).
David Seewack, CEO of Find It Parts, says fleets have been turning to the Internet when they can’t source parts locally.
Steven de Laet, chief sales and marketing officer of Parts River, says, “We are not replacing the way fleets traditionally buy from their local suppliers, but we are a niche for hard-to-find parts.”
With many fleets hanging on to their trucks longer, the Internet can be a good avenue for quickly locating parts for older trucks, which is what most people seem to be using it for. Very few fleets are turning to the Internet for parts that are readily available locally.
Parts marketplaces work in two different ways. In one scenario they are simply places where buyers connect to sellers. The site host lists parts available from suppliers and when a fleet sees a part it wants, it contacts the supplier directly to make the purchase. In the other scenario, the parts actually can be purchased directly from the company hosting the site. In either case, the site hosts say this eliminates the issue of parts availability.
One of the challenges with buying online is getting accurate on-hand information. In the case of Surplus-Solutions.com, which allows truck dealers to list their surplus or obsolete inventory, dealers are reviewed to make sure they actually have the inventory on hand, ready to ship. Other companies say they also police their suppliers to make sure they actually have the parts they are listing in stock and ready to ship.
But it still is best to confirm with the supplier that they actually have the parts in stock before you place an order.
While there are many reputable parts sellers on the Internet, it also is possible for unscrupulous people to misrepresent themselves and the parts they carry. It is imperative whenever you do business with a new vendor to perform your due diligence. This is especially true when purchasing parts online. You want to make sure you get what you pay for. The parts marketplaces I discovered insist that suppliers label parts as new, used or remanufactured.
Seewack and de Laet say they vet every supplier before allowing it to list parts for sale on their sites. Find It Parts does not allow offshore suppliers that do not have a domestic presence and proper insurance to list parts on its site, and Parts River says it made a decision to not allow any offshore sellers on its site.Parts on these marketplace sites are searchable by manufacturer and part number. In some cases, cross-references are included.
While fleets initially come to the Internet to locate hard-to-find parts or those they can’t find locally, Seewack sees that changing.
“It is a matter of continuing to change their buying behavior. Automotive online is one of the fastest growing categories on the Internet, and I think the market is beginning to change and adapt and really embrace the online experience.”
If you have not added the Internet to your parts-buying strategy, now is the time to consider it. If nothing else, it can save you from having to call five or six sources when you can’t find the part you need locally, and with next-day shipping you should be able to get the part quickly.
From the December issue of HDT.
Editor’s Note: Every other month, Denise will use this column to offer information and insight designed to help fleets make choices. As the former executive editor of Successful Dealer and Truck Parts & Service magazines, Denise has covered both the OES and independent aftermarket channels since 1982.