Progressive e-Commerce means e-Commerce in stages, depending on the objectives of sellers and the needs of buyers. It means that part buyers can still find sellers and parts without necessarily ordering online. Sellers can display their business, contact information, and parts just for local buyers if they don’t want to market nationally. Sellers can be more specific by displaying only a specific category, specific manufacture, or even a specific part number. They can display just stock information or show a price as well. In other words, e-Commerce should serve, not dictate.
I think most of us in the heavy duty truck part world know that the transportation industry is not as quick to change as other industries, but there are some very good reasons for this. The life cycle of transportation equipment is very long so replacement parts must be available for many years. Also, product designs must last for decades and fundamental design changes tend to me more evolutionary than revolutionary. When you look at heavy duty truck parts, the way companies buy and sell parts reflects the very traditional patterns that have been established over decades. Fleets typically have long-term relationships with local parts suppliers. The suppliers know their customers’ need and the best see themselves as true partners in their customers’ businesses. They reach beyond their local borders only for availability.
So why change these methods if products change slowly and the supply chain is firmly in place? Because even though the transportation industry may change slowly, e-Commerce is offering new efficiencies that can help fleets and truck part suppliers dramatically lower costs and improve profitability. Ignoring these developments can prove to be very costly for small and large fleets alike. The companies that take advantage of these opportunities will gain a huge edge over their competition. By adopting e-Commerce in some form, it becomes possible to see product availability, alternate parts, competitive pricing, and analytics all online. Parts buyers can now search for availability from a wide range of sources and locations which can significantly reduce equipment downtime.
If that is true, why don’t all fleets and every truck part supplier adopt e-Commerce at lease as a secondary resource? One reason is that there is a misleading perception that e-Commerce is an “all or nothing” commitment where all proprietary information is laid bare for all to see and market geography is compromised. Sellers are reluctant to put their inventory and pricing online and many are not set up to ship out of their market area or compete with other sellers that belong to their dealer network. But the reality is that e-Commerce can be a powerful addition to buyers and sellers without disrupting the way the currently buy and sell parts.
The Progressive e-Commerce solution. e-Commerce engines have become very smart and sellers can offer online sales that are tailored to each buyer’s preferences even as those preferences evolve. Online sites can offer the buyer telephone access, a marketplace in which multiple sellers participate, or an e-Store that represents one supplier and offers online inventory, pricing, a shopping cart, and payment options (including open account). Also, the online site knows where the buyer is located and can limit the search results to sellers that are within the market area of the buyer. “Progressive” means flexibility for the buyer and the seller. If a buyer moves from the telephone to full online e-Commerce, the ‘Progressive’ e-Commerce sites will be ready to serve.
It is true that e-Commerce can expand a seller’s market area dramatically and it is also true that e-Commerce is going to account for a larger and larger share of fleets’ spend on heavy duty truck parts. Global Business to Business e-Commerce sales will exceed half a trillion dollars in 2013. But it also true that Progressive e-Commerce Services allow some buyers and sellers to continue business as usual and for others, they can take advantage of full featured e-Commerce.
In the end, or perhaps better said, the beginning, online buying is here to stay, but if done right, it is here to serve the buyer the way he wants to be served. And as he progresses to more automated buying, e-Commerce will be ready.