December 13, 2016, 12:29 PM

Auto parts suppliers fire up stalled online sales

Fewer than half of automotive aftermarket suppliers can process online orders from chains of repair service centers, but many plan to soon, an industry study says.

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Most manufacturers of automotive aftermarket products—items ranging from engines and fuel pumps to seat covers and roof racks—aren’t yet equipped to accept online orders from chains of repair service centers or individual shops, according to a report from the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association.

But the key word is “yet,” because many plan to offer online ordering soon, the AASA says.

“There appears to be widespread interest in enhancing these transaction capabilities,” the AASA says in a report it produced this past summer with business software company SAP SE, “Business Capabilities in an Evolving Industry.” The report, which the AASA distributed publicly this week through e-mail, was based on a survey SAP conducted of manufacturers, including members of AASA, in late 2015. SAP didn’t note the number of respondents, but says more than 4,000 companies have participated in its benchmark surveys in recent years.

It adds: “The broad-based use of the Internet by both consumers and businesses has dramatically changed the landscape, as rising expectations drive not only online searches for information but also the ability to place orders for shipment.”

The study found that fewer than half of suppliers could process online orders from service center chains, and that only one-fourth could handle online orders from independent shops. Fewer than 10% take online orders from individual consumers.

But close to one-third of respondents said they planned in 2016 to offer online ordering for service chains, while 40% said they expected to begin taking online orders from independent shops.

The AASA hasn’t yet updated the study results to confirm how many suppliers had completed their online plans this year, but it notes that there is still much work to be done in getting suppliers into e-commerce. “Even if these plans come to fruition, about one in four suppliers will continue to have no transaction capability with service providers of any type,” it says.

It adds that the study also found that 50% of suppliers planned to accept online orders from individual consumers, up from 8% last year.

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