Every industry is transitioning to online sales as the world is becoming more digitized and people are getting more accustomed to online purchases in their personal lives. According to Dave Seewack, CEO and founder of FinditParts, the trucking industry is no different. In fact, he says his company, founded in 2010 as an online supplier of heavy-duty truck and trailer parts, has seen double-digit growth in 2016.
At the same time, Seewack says when it comes to truck and trailer parts, “We are in the infancy stage. Historically heavy-duty has always been known as being 10 to 15 years behind automotive, and automotive is just starting to become very powerful online.”
He adds, “I think the online buying space as it relates to heavy-duty is at the very beginning and we have not yet begun to see what the opportunity is. I think explosive growth is ahead for us.”
Seewack says when FinditParts was first launched it was the third or fourth vendor of choice for some fleets. “People turned to the online option when they went to their local distributor and that distributor did not have the part they were looking for. They then went to a second or third place, and when they still couldn’t find it, they started Googling it and found it online.”
As fleet personnel have become more comfortable purchasing items in their personal lives, they are starting to become more comfortable with online purchases for their businesses.
And Seewack says buying from an online vendor is not all that different from buying from a brick and mortar store. Trust has to be developed whenever a fleet enters a relationship with a new vendor. He believes online may have an advantage in this area because “with local distributors, the relationship is often built with the outside salesperson or the counterperson.” If that person leaves, a new relationship has to be built, he says. With an online vendor the relationship tends to be with the business entity, “since [the customer] does not know the guy who is picking the part in the warehouse this year vs. last year.”
FinditParts and other online parts providers have improved the shopping experience for their customers. “If you are looking for a light, you are asked a series of questions to help you identify the light you need,” Seewack says. Keyword searches are another way for fleets to find the part they need. Some online parts vendors, including FinditParts, use a suggestive engine that “tells” a fleet “if you bought this part you might also want to buy this part,” much like a counterperson would do at a distributorship.
When selecting an online vendor, Seewack advises fleets to look for a company that has been selling parts online for a period of time and has good customer ratings. “You also are looking for good content on the site, good information and a vendor that has good credentials, good shipping terms and policies and good return policies.
“I also would make sure they had people on the phone to back it up. It is important that you have someone on the other end of the phone in case there is a problem. You need to know there is someone there to take care of your questions.”
Will online parts sales replace local distribution? That’s not likely to happen in the near term. Online is not the solution when parts are needed immediately to get a truck back on the road, “but we are becoming more of a solution for replenishing normal stocking items where they get the order in two days,” Seewack explains.
“There is nothing but upward trajectory ahead for [online parts sales] in the next 10 to 15 years.”