When eBooks first came on the scene, many people thought that they were going to be a passing fancy and get a small piece of the total market. I was one of those people until I saw a graph that Amazon put out showing that, eBooks went from 20% of the total market to more than double the volume over print books. All in four months! One thing was clear to me; the book business has changed forever all along the chain from the author, publisher, printer, retail store, and finally the reader. So what drove this explosion in sales and how does this relate to how parts buyers search for heavy duty truck parts?
There are many reasons why eBooks have come into their own, but there are four things that changed the book world and which are beginning to have a major impact on the way truck maintenance shops find and buy urgently needed or hard to find maintenance or aftermarket parts.
First is the availability of eBook readers like the Kindle, the Nook, and the iPad (I wish I had bought a lot of Apple stock when it was $4 a share). Second, Amazon and Apple made millions of titles available as eBooks. Third, a reader can go to one place to buy all the titles he or she wanted. But most importantly, there are lots of people who want to read this way; you can have all the eReaders, eBooks, and others but if no one wants to read this way, the whole thing will go up in smoke.
Our polls show that a similar change, although more slowly, is happening in the truck parts business. Every part buyer has a computer connected to the internet. There are more and more sellers with websites that have either an online parts catalog or a real online store that can take and ship orders. But the real key is that as younger parts buyers join companies as purchase executives, they are more and more oriented to buy online. Whereas some of the more seasoned buyers relied almost exclusively on the telephone and personal relationships, which will always be a foundation for most buyers. The younger buyers are very comfortable buying parts online. If a shop needs a part right now, price and shipping costs may not be as important as getting the truck running again.
Is online buying going to explode like eReaders? Maybe not. But one thing is clear: part suppliers that have good, clear, easy-to-navigate websites that can take and ship orders quickly, will start winning more business. These companies will have to show the buyer real availability, pricing, and prove their reliability for quality and service.
I don't look to online buying to come anywhere close to replacing the local supplier for standard maintenance parts, but for urgent need, look out.
What's your experience? Agree? Disagree? I would love to know what you think.