Alliance Automotive Group (AAG) is a leading distributor of passenger and commercial vehicle parts in the European independent aftermarket. It operates in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Poland and the Netherlands, supplying automotive parts to more than 30,000 repairers, auto centres, fast fitters, transport operators, and body shops. AAG Germany serves the aftermarket through a distribution network that includes three large independent trading companies – Coler, Bush and Hennig.
We speak to Andreas Leusbrock, Head of E-Commerce at Alliance Automotive Group (Germany), to get his views on how to stay competitive in the aftermarket and why TecDoc and its Data Quality Management (DQM) Initiative are so important for the independent aftermarket.
Mr Leusbrock is responsible for e-Catalogue Data Management in Germany. He has been working with the TecDoc Catalogue data for more than 20 years as both a data supplier and a TecDoc user.
“The complexity of the vehicles requires high-quality data in our catalogues. Technical progress makes it increasingly difficult for parts suppliers to pinpoint the differentiating features necessary to workshop customers. With the introduction of DQM, the TecDoc team is improving the quality of the TecDoc Catalogue Data. And this improvement comes at the right time.”
Andreas Leusbrock, Head of E-Commerce at Alliance Automotive Group Germany
What trends do you see in the market? What is your focus, and what are the challenges?
In the automotive sector, digitisation and coronavirus pandemic have triggered a long-term disruption. As consumers shift to digital platforms, e-commerce in the automotive aftermarket is expanding. We see the changes – there is a growing set of new players such as online dealers, online platforms, filling the niche between workshops and end customers. They are redefining the customer experience and distribution channels.
AAG is all about selling replacement parts, workshop equipment and consumables online. We operate with different catalogues to meet customer needs in both the OE segment and the independent aftermarket with a strong focus on the German market.
Germany is the largest automotive market in Europe, accounting for more than 20 % of the total. With over 45 million vehicles on the road and an average age of 8.9 years, it offers considerable opportunities. But that is also why it is very competitive. Increasing market numbers is a challenge, but we can achieve more efficiency in our business if we properly optimise our processes.
In your opinion, how can a trader be successful in this competitive environment?
In essence, there are three major things we need to do as traders in the IAM to be successful:
- To be reliable.
- Our products must be easily accessible – we have to make it easy for customers to find our products when they search.
- To be in a position to offer a wide range of products.
Reliability and a comprehensive product range are our regular job. For “easy search” we entirely rely on TecDoc. The TecDoc Catalogue data is integrated into our own platforms. Our AAG catalogues are only as good as the quality of the underlying data and information.
That is why the data quality from TecDoc is a critical success factor. It facilitates the identification of the right part from the range, making it easier for us to sell parts online, reducing errors. Customers have a positive experience when they can identify parts reliably, correctly and quickly based on the TecDoc Catalogue data.
What should customer experience in the aftermarket look like?
I believe that the customer experience is the key to a successful business. From a customer perspective, big e-commerce platforms offer solutions for customers searching for non-critical parts. They can browse through similar products, check reviews, place an order and get fast delivery. Simplicity and convenience in payments, parts-in-stock information, delivery options are among the key drivers behind the growth of these platforms in the aftermarket.
However, specialised traders like AAG operate differently. First and foremost, we satisfy customer needs by offering a range of products rather than just one product. Workshops require a specific product and a set of items along with it. But that’s not all.
We strive to provide an enriched customer experience based on in-depth product expertise. With the increasing complexity of vehicles, there is a need for supporting information such as labour times, manuals and special tools. And we provide these almost the same day.
You work with catalogue products on a daily basis. Where do you see the value of the Data Quality Management (DQM) Initiative driven by the TecDoc team?
The complexity of the vehicles requires high-quality data in our catalogues. Technical progress makes it increasingly difficult for parts suppliers to pinpoint the differentiating features necessary to workshop customers. It is not possible to distinguish among products for the same vehicle and ensure a correct product/vehicle allocation with incomplete information.
With the introduction of DQM, the TecDoc team is improving the quality of the TecDoc Catalogue Data. And this improvement comes at the right time.
What are the advantages of DQM for you?
Data Quality Management (DQM) optimises our daily data management processes. We want to become more efficient, and we can do this based on the quality of data we receive from TecDoc. I would like to mention:
- DQM optimises product comparisons, which means that, in the future, it should be possible to distinguish among several brake discs without having to search for differentiating information. This is a good thing!
- DQM standardises article and linkage attributes that can be used by a supplier per product, which is why we will be able to filter more efficiently.
- Standardising vehicle manufacturer-specific attributes, such as the PR number, ensures OE-compatible data at the point of service.
- Evaluation of free texts delivered by suppliers: the more the free texts can be converted into concrete attributes, the better the filtering in IAM catalogue systems.
What are your expectations for the DQM initiative?
For us, it will mean a higher percentage of online orders, especially in particular product groups where we now have fewer. We will also measure the returns.
I hope that the improved quality of the TecDoc Catalogue data will help customers to accurately identify replacement parts through better descriptions, reducing the need for the IAM to use OE identification systems. We expect to see results at the end of Q4 2021.
As a TecDoc user, what changes do you see as a result of the DQM measures?
Data quality starts with data suppliers. We know that they are currently working hard on implementing the new DQM rules.
- They have to fill in mandatory criteria to make the product accessible for easier online conversion.
- They must use the same attributes and key table values per product to describe the same link properties. Their data will need to be complete and accurate.
This year, the work has started, and I am glad to see that the industry is on board because all these changes will lead to greater standardisation of data so that ultimately we will sell more products in the IAM. We obtain the TecDoc data via monthly data packages. And every month we receive better data. Although DQM has triggered work on our part, it was the right thing to do.
DQM increases customer confidence in buying online. More orders – fewer returns. And that is what we would like to achieve.