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Heavy-duty parts and service provider FleetPride has rolled out an e-commerce platform, a move the company said advances the aftermarket industry toward equal footing with others in terms of online sales.
“The thing about this industry is it’s behind other industries; it’s slower to adopt e-commerce and other digital solutions,” Darren Taylor, senior vice president of marketing and digital, said during an Oct. 12 presentation. “As a leader in aftermarket, we’re actually in a perfect position to lead in digital.”
The Irving, Texas-based company began beta testing some e-commerce features about a year ago to learn more about customer behavior.. The move is one part of the company’s growth strategy, which includes expanded service offerings and increased points of contact, CEO Mike Duffy said.
“In addition to our expanding service footprint, we’re also offering multiple ways for customers to reach us when and where they need help,” Duffy said. “I’ve been in the business a long time, and right now the pace of change is faster than ever.”
Duffy noted, for example, that the website offers shoppers the option to chat with an expert before making a purchase.
Taylor noted that this expansion gives FleetPride an opportunity to leverage product and customer data to help steer future technology investments, including artificial intelligence. With this current update, he said the company is implementing the IBM Sterling Order Management System, which Taylor said boosts inventory visibility and customer options by opening up FleetPride branches and distribution centers to direct customer shipping.
“This is a game changer,” he said. “It’s a great example of listening to customers and transforming the way we do business to make it simple for them. It changes how customers get their jobs done on a daily basis and changes the physical flow of goods across the country.”
FleetPride also is working to better understand everyday issues confronting its customers. That can include truck breakdowns or simply staying ahead of replenishing routine stock items. To that end, it is testing new user experiences to learn how customers use digital tools, and working to improve its data analytics.
“We implementing a top-tier MDM, or master data management tool, and artificial intelligence, and we continue to partner closely with our suppliers and other third parties highly focused on the customer and their needs,” Taylor said.
He also stressed that the increased digitalization is not meant to create friction with those operating physical branch locations. Rather, he said the two sides are meant to complement each other in an omnichannel experience that provides multiple ways for customers to connect. That includes technicians at the stores being trained in how the system works.
“We’re building tools for both the customer and our internal team,” Taylor said, noting that the website and branches are intended to “work together seamlessly.”
“Somebody could be looking for something online,” he said. “They can start a live chat with a local branch product expert. That customer can actually upload photos now directly to somebody that actually knows the product.”
FleetPride has 280 branch locations and 52 service centers. Mike Harris, senior vice president of sales and branch operations, said the technology actually can drive more customers to the branches, and noted there has been an increase in phone calls and walk-in traffic.
“Those folks on the front lines, the legacy counter folks, with tremendous knowledge, they’re at the heart of the development of our capability today,” Harris said. “Those very experts are the folks that are giving us feedback real time, even sometimes serving in the chat features.
“So we think about the evolution of e-commerce as a way to enhance the customer experience, providing faster solutions, to help customers keep their trucks on the road.”
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