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Why integrate a car parts database into an automotive e-commerce site

June 22, 2021
Why integrate a car parts database into an automotive e-commerce site

I. Introduction
II. How auto parts are sold
a. B2B Selling
b. B2C selling
III. The challenges of the auto parts industry
a. Logistics
b.Inventory management
c. Part accuracy and fitment
IV. Why auto parts sellers need car parts databases
V. The future of car parts databases 
a. Vehicle Data
b. Parts Data
VI. Advantages of integrating car parts databases
a. Easier product management
b. Quicker data syncing
c. Reliable information
d. Easier orders processing 
VII. How to choose a car parts database
a. Accessibility
b. Accuracy
VIII. Conclusion

Introduction

The auto parts industry is facing a great shift. With the advent of e-commerce businesses and technologies, more and more consumers start their journey to purchase an auto part online. The share of online car part sales will continue to increase every year for the foreseeable future. 

As companies move progressively closer to e-commerce platforms, one core problem faces the automotive parts industry: accessing auto parts fitment compatibility data in the correct and appropriate format for online sales channels. Fortunately, there are existing car parts databases ready to help with these tasks. 

The solution is a centralised and standardised global database of car parts and vehicle compatibility. This allows any ecommerce business to access data for multiple brands in a standard way and not need to clean or decode different fitment formats from multiple suppliers. 


How auto parts are sold

Within the transition of offline parts sales to online ecommerce, businesses selling to other businesses require different methods and business user-flows compared to those selling direct to consumers. 

B2B Selling 

B2B businesses have traditionally not needed to rely on e-commerce or an online presence to grow their sales. This is changing as trade customers, suppliers and distributors are becoming more and more familiar with the standard technological advances which have happened for B2B models in other industries. 

Whether the B2B sales process is still completely offline or already an online experience, providing standardised parts data to customers is essential to help them easily and accurately sell the right part to the consumer. This can mean providing parts inventory and pricing information via CSV/Excel files, but the more modern way to share this data is via a centralised database and API.

For B2B auto parts sellers, providing your distribution network with complete and accurate parts fitment data will increase sales by providing the complete list of compatible vehicles. It will also reduce returns and warranty claims due to reducing incorrect parts making their way to the consumer.

Many businesses that have traditionally stuck with their B2B model are now exploring selling direct to consumers. This requires a steep learning curve for many and involves a very different online customer experience. 

B2C selling 

Often referred to as e-commerce, online selling is the fastest growing segment of B2C auto parts commerce. Aside from the technological advances in the field, customers’ behaviours also play a part in this trend. People now expect to be able to buy the right part for their car in one simple fast online transaction - often from a mobile device. 

Businesses selling direct to consumer online need to access standardised fitment data, and then be able to present this data on their sales channels.

Common sales channels for online parts businesses include:

1. Business e-commerce website. This is often built using technologies such as Shopify or WordPress.

2. Online marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon or OLX. Depending on the region, these marketplaces can require different formats when listing auto parts and their fitment data.

Different platforms and sales channels have their own advantages. Marketplaces provide a steady stream of traffic, but take a bigger cut of the profits. There is also higher competition and it is harder to differentiate your business’ brand. Your own website gives you more control over the customer experience and lower fees, but involves more work to drive traffic to your website.

The most difficult challenge for selling on any of these platforms always revolves around the vehicle and parts data. 

Accessing a central and standard database for fitment data is the first step in solving this problem. The second step is translating this data into the formats required by each of these sales channel platforms. 

PartsPal is one such tool that provides access to a global auto parts catalog and can automatically map this data into the fitment standards of eBay, Amazon and Shopify.

The challenges of the auto parts industry

As already alluded to in the previous section of this article, there are a number of new challenges alongside existing ones that auto parts businesses face when selling online. Here are some of the most prominent ones.

Logistics

As with other areas of e-commerce, but for auto parts in particular, customers require quick delivery of their purchased auto parts. The rise of delivery applications as well as new logistic chains has made quick delivery the new normal. Therefore, businesses will have to find ways to allow customers to quickly gain access to new and high in demand parts.

Some businesses solve this problem by integrating their delivery with third party logistics providers. A number of these providers have perfected their delivery routes to optimise the efficiency and may deliver up to 5 times a day.

Other businesses have simply chosen a reliable and fast provider or depend on a larger distribution partner to dropship a portion of their inventory.

Inventory management 

Inventory management is a big challenge for any business, and even more so for those in the automotive parts industry. Auto parts businesses generally stock a larger number of SKUs and require tracking more data for each SKU than the average business. This means that there are particular features required when tracking inventory that are not often provided by most software.

The ideal inventory system integrates seamlessly with existing business processes - this means the recommended software may look different for those selling B2B vs B2C. In either case, it is important to be tracking the sell through rates for each part or part group. Auto parts, unlike other industries can quickly become dead or written down stock - it’s important to try to move these items more quickly by either offering discounts or adding to additional sales channels.

Above anything else, inventory software for auto parts needs to be able to track the part number. This should be separate to the tracking of the SKU which is a unique identifier within your own particular business. Part numbers are crucial to have entered within the software as this is the base for any additional fitment filtering based on vehicle, cross-reference/interchange parts or brand. 

Part accuracy and fitment

In traditional retail, consumers are able to head to the dealership or retail outlet and ask the sales assistants for the correct replacement part. This, of course, is rather time-consuming, requires employing someone with vehicle knowledge and is becoming less and less common as consumers move online. There’s also that chance that the parts that fit are not available and the sale is lost. 

E-commerce theoretically solves many of these challenges. It is possible to help the consumer find the correct replacement part in an automated way, save time and provide opportunities to cross reference an upsell. The problem is that solving these challenges online for an individual business is an arduous task that is far more difficult than it seems at the outset. Some large auto parts businesses have spent millions of dollars building internal systems to solve this on their individual websites.

Though it is often possible to find online catalogues for parts data, actually using this data on a website or sales channel is another story entirely. 

Once the internal systems have been built, the catalogue and inventory need to constantly be maintained as new vehicles and parts are released. 

The solution needs to provide two core functions:

1. Access to a standardised vehicle database linked with parts 

2. Integrated vehicle lookup filtering systems on website and sales channels 

This is the foundation for a scalable solution for part accuracy and fitment. The most important step in this is the standardisation of the data. Without data being standardised, it is near-impossible to map onto any online channel.

This is where a solution like PartsPal provides value. With integrated global databases of vehicles and parts as well as systems for inputting and mapping businesses own individual catalogs onto standardised vehicle data - it then becomes possible to sync this data onto a custom website or existing marketplace such as eBay. 

Why auto parts sellers need car parts databases

For auto parts businesses, accurate and complete vehicle and parts data is always the game-changer. It is the backbone for online ecommerce user experience in this industry and the one thing that enables all other product and marketing functions.

There is no point marketing a car part to a customer without providing certainty that the part will fit their vehicle.

With this database integrated into  your auto parts ecommerce, keeping the catalog up to date becomes an easy task. More time can then be devoted to other logistical aspects, marketing or other important business priorities instead. 

Furthermore, the integration of a car parts database to the e-commerce system itself will allow sellers to declutter unorganised data sets, as these databases are generally vast enough to cover most products with ease. This will considerably boost the performance of the website itself, as well as save precious data space. 

Perhaps the most important use of a car parts database is to improve the overall accuracy of the car parts buying process. Human minds are prone to making mistakes, and it is always possible for customers to mistype the relevant information of their vehicle while looking for the appropriate car parts. 

This will not only impede the sales process but it could potentially cause the customers to actually buy the wrong parts, making it complicated for them to return the bought parts. A car parts database, however, is completely automatic, and does not make human errors. Therefore, a system with an auto parts database integrated will result in much fewer errors than ones without any installed. 

The future of car parts databases 

The future of the car parts industry lies in e-commerce. Even for businesses predominantly operating  through retailers, online selling is becoming an integral part of a customer’s experience as customers often start their journey online even if they complete their purchase in-store. Businesses creating your e-commerce website should consider integrating an external standardised car parts database into it. 

This innovative tool will not only help businesses organise data more effectively but its accuracy will greatly reduce rooms for error. With an integrated car parts database, your website will be more accessible to customers, and you will not have to constantly update data every time there is a change. 

Customers’ behaviours are ever-changing. As customers are becoming more and more engaged online, they are more likely to seek opinions of others through online platforms. They are also more inclined to make online purchases than go to a brick-and-mortar store. 

As a result, the share of online auto parts sales will skyrocket in the future, making websites an increasingly important channel to sell car parts. If you wish to further improve the accessibility of your website as well as streamline the sales process, consider integrating a car parts database into it. 


There are two parts to auto parts fitment data.

1. Vehicle Data

This needs to be a database of all vehicle details. The database needs to cover all the relevant vehicle properties for the parts that are being sold. For example, for engine parts, it’s likely that the engine size, designation, code, number of valves etc all need to be tracked, while for a body part, the trim level/sub-model and body style are likely to be more important to track.

2. Parts Data

This is a database or catalog of parts with their part numbers, brands, weights, dimensions, interchanges and cross referenced parts and categories or part types. 

It’s the linking of the vehicle data and the parts data that equals the fitment information. 

These databases allow for a structure to provide lookup and filtering systems for customers. There is no longer a need for customers to scour through different websites just to get the information they need.

Advantages of integrating car parts databases

Parts interchange and fitment data can also be used to generate precious data for marketing purposes. Having all of the cross referenced parts and vehicle details is gold for SEO as it helps your website rank for customers searches on Google. 

Easier product management

An auto parts database will vastly improve how eCommerce businesses manage their product inventories. We’ve mentioned this before, but the key here is that the data is in a standardised format that can be shared with your e-commerce platforms or even with your industry partners.

Parts data is separate from product data. You may have multiple SKUs or stocked locations for the same part number. Having these separated within the tracked inventory is super important to ensure the correct data is managed internally. 

Quicker data syncing

Integrating a third party database means that you don’t need to constantly maintain your vehicle data yourself as new models are released. This is particularly true if your database integration is via a modern API. This helps boost the accessibility of the platform immensely.

Some auto parts databases such as the UVDB and GAPC databases which are accessed via the Partly API or PartsPal software are usage-based. This means that you only pay for the data you need. 

Reliable information

Even the most reliable data experts make mistakes from time to time, it is far easiest to outsource this problem from your business and have assisted computer algorithms improve the data accuracy for you. By automating the cross-reference steps as well as the data organisation steps, ecommerce websites will greatly reduce the margin for human errors.

Car parts databases also allow customers to quickly compare and contrast different parts of the same category from different brands. This will help them to make the purchase that will benefit them the most. Furthermore, a high-quality car parts database ensures that the data it contains is always up-to-date, which is a huge task to maintain internally within your business.

Easier orders processing 

At the end of the day, the intended outcome and benefit is simple: Make it as easy as possible to find the right part for their car.

This in turn makes the seller's job far more simple. Spend less time worrying about compatibility and more time on growing the business. If needed, a sales representative can confirm the compatibility before the order is shipped.

The general idea is to empower the customer to browse themselves and follow an easy online ordering experience. This in turn, makes the entire purchase flow easy for all involved. 

Integrating a database also allows the seller to upsell or cross sell other parts should they be out of stock. Databases will show the alternative parts whether via supersession or from alternative brands.

Fewer errors and product returns

Without complete and accurate data auto parts customers might make mistakes when ordering. This almost always ends up with them returning the bought products. This can be quite frustrating for both the customers and the car part sellers.

With an integrated auto parts database the parts interchange database will automatically compare and contrast the information that customers input and cross-check it with the database to produce the most accurate result. This will, in turn, reduce the number of returns that your car parts sellers might have to process.

If businesses integrate an auto parts database into their ecommerce website, the amount of data their website uses will also see a considerable reduction. Without a coordinating database, the website might use unstructured data, which will cost them a lot of time and effort trying to organise it. 

The integrated vehicle parts database will automatically feed data to your website or application, organising data without a lot of added effort. The database itself also requires very little management, so the car parts business owners will have a lot of free time to devote themselves to other projects. 

Improved sales volume

At the end of the day, data is king. Confidently showing customers that a part fits their vehicle substantially increases conversion rates. This is true whether on your own website, on a marketplace or any place a consumer purchases a car part.

A good auto parts database will not just help you with the infrastructure of your website. It can also help drive sales volume and promote upselling or other targeted marketing campaigns. Integrating a car parts database into an ecommerce website will make it much more appealing to customers, urging them to buy more from you. 

A website without a working or structured database may put off some customers, as they will not be able to purchase the parts they need quickly. Integrating a car parts database into the website will considerably boost their experience, making it easier for them to surf through the website. As a result, customers will develop loyalty to your company, and they are more likely to buy parts from your website again and again, driving sales volume up. 


How to choose a car parts database

There are a number of solutions on the market that operate in the auto parts database space. The key here is to actually understand whether the solution is a true database, how complete the database is and whether the data will be in a usable format for your business use-case.

Here are two very important points to consider.

Accessibility

The first priority should be accessibility. At the end of the day, the data needs to be in an easily accessible format for you to use. The database should be regularly updated and avoid legacy technologies that may become increasingly slow and lose support from the development community. 

To reiterate earlier points, it’s incredibly important that the data is structured and in a standardised format. Ideally the data can be mapped or translated into formats that are used in other areas of the industry internationally. For example on eBay or Amazon which can require different data formats depending on the marketplace region. 

Accessibility also means that you should have some control over your own data. This is particularly important for manufacturers who need the ability to upload and manage their own parts catalog. This function is not available with all auto parts databases and for others mapping data into them is an extremely expensive and arduous task. 

The database should easily be integrated into custom web solutions and software. This is not possible with simple file exchanges or even some legacy APIs. Without full infrastructure to integrate the data, it can become a huge job just to get integrated onto your platform.

Finally, for the best accessibility, consider using the databases by Partly. The Partly databases provide data in the most accessible format using the latest technology and save businesses from months to years of work. 

Accuracy

In addition to accessibility, the accuracy of the database is a key point of consideration. If fitment data is wrong, customers might not be able to fit the parts into their car at all. 

Some databases may only provide linking to the year, make, model and engine. However, for most auto parts, this level of detail is not sufficient to determine fitment as there are a large number of configurations for vehicles below this level of detail. 

Some standards such as ACES and UVDB are compatible with vehicle configuration fitment. This means that, rather than simply linking parts to an approximately defined vehicle, a part can also be linked with a specific grouping of up to 40 different vehicle properties such as a transmission code, body code, wheel base, engine designation and so on. 

Partly’s UVDB is the most detailed and accurate vehicle database in the world. As a community and industry-driven global standard for vehicle data, UVDB makes it easier for car parts businesses to standardise and distribute vehicle data.

A global data standard for auto parts can be used in conjunction with one another by not only manufacturers but also by dealerships, distributors and online marketplaces. 

A top-quality auto parts database should be able to make sure that the fitment data is always up-to-date. Whenever customers search for anything, the compatible parts will show up on the results, preventing human errors while searching for the appropriate parts. 

To reiterate points that have been made above, this increases conversion rates. Buyers only make an online purchase of a car part when they are confident that it is the correct fit. This is the end goal of a global database standard. It makes it easy for anyone or any business who needs to know:

1. Which vehicles does a part fit

2. Which parts does a vehicle have

3. Which parts are interchangeable with the original part

The key point that many buyers don’t realise is that most car parts are compatible with multiple vehicles. Depending on the part type, this can often be up to 100 different Make, Model and Year combinations. 

Having the accuracy in a connected parts database to tell buyers that a different part to what they were originally looking for will also fit their vehicle is key to increasing sales and customer retention. 

In addition, a highly accurate car parts database will also boost your visibility on the search engine rankings. Google prefers pages with highly accurate information, so your page will be given priority if the fitment data is complete and accurate. If your website shows up on the first page of Google searches, you will have higher chances to convert views into new customers, or to improve your brand’s visibility. 

Finally, it should be noted that a car parts database will gather all the relevant fitment data, from configurations to sizes, and round them up together in one spot. Thus, the customers no longer have to scour through several websites just to get the information they need. As a result, the accessibility of your website will be much more user-friendly, and customers are more likely to make other purchases on your site again. 

Conclusion

The auto parts industry is facing great changes, and auto parts databases are useful tools to help businesses adapt to these changing times. Auto parts databases help businesses to navigate and to manage the vast amount of fitment data more easily. Customers who want to buy parts online will be able to cross-check the fitment data they need through a very simple process, and they no longer have to go through research online catalogs  just to find the right data and part they have been looking for. 

For businesses, the integration of a car parts database results in a big boost in productivity. The database will help them to update new fitment data with every new part, making sure that the business can focus on other important matters. Finally, with an auto parts database, the car parts business will be able to upsell products as well as offer alternatives more effectively. 

There are a lot of auto parts databases available on the market right now, but not all are created equal. Considering the key points of data coverage, accuracy, and affordability, the Partly databases are the obvious choice. 

Because the Partly databases can be priced based on usage, this means that you don’t need to pay for unnecessary data, only for what you need. Furthermore, the system is also highly accurate, and it adheres to strict industry standards. This will ensure that your customers will make accurate purchases that end up with much fewer returns. Furthermore, the system is also highly accessible, and members from other teams can also use it to upsell new products or to send out marketing emails. 

For businesses that wish to break through in the auto parts industry, ecommerce offers the key to do so. Customers’ behaviors are changing, and they are increasingly moving online. This trend is expected to grow exponentially in the near future. If you wish to build a smart and streamlined car parts ecommerce store, consider integrating the PartsPal UVDB and GAPC databases into it. Not only will this step make it much easier to manage the site but it will also make it much more accessible to the general public. 

The changes in the auto parts industry are already in motion. Consumers and businesses are moving online to complete their ordering process. This is a trend that will continue for the foreseeable future.

Integrating a complete and accurate parts database is the backbone of any automotive parts ecommerce activity. At the end of the day, a buyer needs to have a high-level of confidence that the parts are what they need, if the user-flow to direct the buyer to the right part is not up to standard, this results in lost sales and revenue.