The Irving, Texas-based distributor is taking its e-commerce capabilities to the next level with an investment in master data management to overcome limitations of legacy systems, and continuing to invest heavily in technology and talent in order to provide customers with a best-in-class online experience.
FleetPride has developed a new set of e-commerce capabilities that remain unique in its industry, centered on aftermarket parts for heavy-duty trucks. The transformation has kept the Irving, Texas-based distributor competitive and modern.
With its technological advancements, MDM selected FleetPride as a 2019 Digital Innovator Award winner. These awards honor 10 businesses that have leveraged technology to advance their operational excellence.
It’s been a speedy transformation.
“A few years ago, we had no e-commerce capability. We had no product information management (PIM) capability, no content on our products, no images,” says Robert Sammons, senior vice president of merchandising for FleetPride.
After implementing a PIM system, the next step was to build an e-commerce website with photos and spec sheets for all the products. FleetPride hired about 15 people to develop the content for the website — a huge undertaking, since the business sells more than 260,000 different truck and trailer parts.
“We began building rich content about all of our products. That kind of data is not readily available from manufacturers. The majority of it we literally created ourselves by setting up a photo studio,” Sammons says. Now, it has an industry-leading online catalogue.
The next phase in the transition will be to migrate all the PIM data to a master data management system (MDM). FleetPride is working on that now.
“It will allow us to track contracts on the merchandizing side, tracking contracts for our national account business. It will hold all of our customer information. It brings a lot of data sources into one place and integrates those data sources,” Sammons explains.
“We have some legacy systems that have limitations. They were built before e-commerce. They were built before omnichannel sales was even contemplated. The MDM will augment what our capabilities are today and let us go to the next level,” he adds.
Search functionality is important in an industry where the products are very precise and not universal.
The company has built an electronic catalog that allows people to do detailed and specific searches, buy the parts online and get those parts delivered quickly, with the goal of creating a true e-commerce experience.
Pay Any Way
FleetPride also recently added technology to be able to send ACH payments to suppliers. ACH payments occur when a customer gives a company authorization to debit directly from the customer’s checking or saving account to pay a bill.
“Whatever the payment mode is, we’re capable of doing that today,” says Amath Fall, chief financial officer at FleetPride. “Now, we can electronically work with any supplier out there and do any data exchange that’s required on their side. We built this open platform that allows us to do business with anybody who has electronic capabilities.”
The digital transition has brought financial benefits in several ways. “Electronic commerce will allow you to gain efficiencies, being more effective in how you sell,” Fall explains.
With the PIM system and the e-commerce website, “you end up with better inventory management. You end up with an easier sales process. That helps with profitability, too. It’s been phenomenal since we launched it,” Fall says.
Typically, younger customers are comfortable with e-commerce, but some others are not ready to fully adopt it.
“It’s mostly reaching new customers. It’s going to allow us to attract a new breed of customers who are more inclined to using electronic modes of business. It will take time for people to jump on it and embrace it,” Fall says.
Tips for Starting Out
Before distributors build an e-commerce website, “it’s really important to have a clear definition of what you want the outcome to be,” Sammons advises.
Understand that the development process may not be fast and easy, and it may require more internal staff to implement and maintain the digital upgrades.
“This industry is not as well-developed in terms of e-commerce and electronic catalog,” Sammons says. “It takes a while, because you really have to do it from the ground up.”
Have a vision for the future of your company’s digital presence, online sales and data management, Fall recommends.
“You have to think of it as an evolution. This was like ‘phase one’ of this journey. The next steps will take us to a far greater level than where we are today,” he says.
Remember that the business ultimately comes down to serving customers and partners.
“As a distributor, you want your suppliers to be pleased with how you do business. You want to make it easy to do business with you. You also want your customers to find it’s easy to do business with you,” Fall says.
Growing Through Acquisitions
FleetPride is celebrating its 20th year in business. It has more than 271 branches, 45 service centers, and 150 FleetCare affiliate locations across the United States. The company employs more than 3,200 people.
American Securities, a New York-based private equity firm, acquired FleetPride in December 2018.
During the past two years, FleetPride acquired Patriot Truck & Trailer, B&A Friction Material, Long Island Truck Parts, Interstate Diesel Parts & Service, Ohio Diesel Fleet Supply, Hardy Brake & Electric, Truck Parts & Equipment, and Colton Truck Supply
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