It’s no secret that consumers are relying on technology to help them research products they are interested in and to place orders for those products. This shift in purchasing behavior is taking place not only in the consumer-to-business market, but also in the business-to-business market, as more younger people are in a position to make purchasing decisions.
Reacting to this shift in the way purchases are made, Vipar Heavy Duty launched Partsphere, “a proprietary digital ecosystem” and the brand for all of the marketing group’s technology infrastructure moving forward.
Partsphere OMS is an order management system designed to make it easier to electronically transmit orders between distributors, suppliers and national fleets.
The second part of the platform is Partsphere PIM, a product information management system. “What we know is there are shifts in the demographics of our customers,” says Jeff Paul, Vipar Heavy Duty’s vice president of marketing. “We are seeing a younger marketplace emerging, and we know younger people like to buy products differently than some of the traditional sales models that included a counterman or a salesperson going out with a parts catalog.”
With today’s buyers choosing to purchase more products online, there is a need for more rich product data, including product specifications and digital assets like images and product data sheets.
Distributor salespeople have a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge that they have developed over time. However, the shift in buying patterns means that more information needs to be made available online – and that requires an investment in technology.
“We see this as a growing trend,” Paul says. “So we need to make sure our mutual end user customers — the fleets — have the information they need to make informed buying decisions.”
The complexity of today’s products means there is a need for a greater amount of information presented in real time. Paul says the launch of Partsphere PIM is Vipar’s way of making sure it is addressing the way customers want to digest information.
While the industry currently does not have a standardized way of communicating product information, Partsphere PIM uses the work being done by HDDA, the heavy-duty aftermarket community of the Auto Care Association, on product data standards.
“The long-term goal is to make sure that we have information in a standardized format so that it is easy to present to the fleet and easy for them to know that they are selecting the right product,” Paul says. Currently there is a range of information being received about products.
He says Vipar Heavy Duty is working with its suppliers to get standardized information so fleets can accurately source products. “By working with suppliers to make sure information is provided in a standardized fashion, we can make sure we display needed information so products are sourced correctly, i.e. common terminology is used for similar attributes, specifications, etc.”
The launch of the Partsphere platform is part of a larger plan to ensure the viability of the independent aftermarket channel, according to Paul.
“It is important that fleets have a selection of where they can find products. A strong independent aftermarket is important, and Partsphere is one tool to make sure that our distributors are a good, viable, strong, competitive choice in the aftermarket.”