The following are remarks from Stuart Schuette, president and CEO of American Tire Distributors (ATD). They have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Insights from our customers about the use of transparent online marketplaces show the automotive aftermarket has an opportunity for innovation. In an era of increased customer demands and decreased service center staffing, the time is ripe for change.
1. Urgent Innovation
Changing customer expectations, supply chain issues, rising costs and labor constraints are just a few of the challenges facing the automotive aftermarket. Layer on the growing acceptance of electric vehicles and connected cars that require new types of service, and business is suddenly far more complex. With off-the-shelf inventory largely a thing of the past, on-demand stocking is a new pain point.
Automotive centers—from small independents to large dealers—often rely on various sources to find the replacement parts, accessories and tires needed for their customers. This web surfing takes technicians away from servicing vehicles and is exacerbated by staffing challenges. All this translates into slower customer service in an era when consumers expect immediate support, and industry retailers need innovative solutions.
2. Speed And Efficiency
Today, retailers looking for auto parts—and the end consumers they serve—have a heightened need for fast responses. Studies show many customers value speed as much as price. Often, the first company to respond to a consumer keeps the sales advantage. Retailers must be able to react quickly through omnichannel options, with information that enables fast and informed decisions whether the customer is searching by phone or computer.
It would save considerable time if the technicians working in auto parts and service could speed up their businesses’ tactical functions—from inventory planning and sourcing to pricing and marketing. ATD recently commissioned research to better understand these pain points.
3. Frictionless Learning
Our team’s proprietary research discovered other operational challenges, including that the labor shortage is even more of an issue than the ability to procure timely access to parts. More than a third of the auto dealers and specialty retailers we queried feel the pinch when it comes to qualified staffing. These constraints make it difficult to upskill on best practices or to efficiently onboard new technicians.
The speed of business and a changing workforce require on-demand digital training so operators can keep their eyes on their trade. E-learning platforms are not only widely accepted but also preferred by workers today. Bringing digital learning to the automotive aftermarket would improve workflow, help retain technicians and boost business growth.
4. A Centralized Digital Marketplace
Our research led us to create a new digital hub called Radius. We believe it will elevate the customer experience across our industry. By consolidating products and services in one place, retailers can instantly compare features and pricing on one platform. This transparency enables them to make fast and informed decisions, reducing their customer service times.
There’s a solution to automate customer support and appointment scheduling, too. Its state-of-the-art data analytics provide insights that ultimately translate into cost containment and revenue. And it incorporates an e-learning resource called Spark. Everyone in the automotive aftermarket ecosystem will benefit as it levels the playing field through transparency and access.