The manufacturing companies devote most of their resources to selling new units of their products and discovering untapped markets. It’s quite obvious for OEMs to do so since the majority of their revenues come from making new equipment sales. We know that capital equipment (commercial and industrial machinery with an operating life span of more than 10 years) that is meant for long-term use will not be purchased frequently. But it will require servicing and change of parts and related accessories during the course of time. Thus the aftermarket parts sales and service is the area that if properly tapped can bring huge profits to OEMs.
The repair and maintenance services bring in higher revenues compared to the sale of a new model and contribute enormously to the manufacturer’s top line. Therefore, OEMs have to think about how they can increase their aftermarket parts sales. Traditionally, they used to follow two routes; one is selling through the dealer network and the second is direct sales to the equipment owner. The dealers kept printed parts books i.e. manual catalogs with them which helped them with parts lookup and identification. The equipment owners were, at best, given a parts list in an Operator’s Manual and a toll-free phone number so that they could identify and order the required part. These old ways were not only troublesome but time taking also time-consuming. Thanks to the digital revolution, nowadays we use web-based parts catalogs which has blown away the limitations of those old ways of distributing goods and information. Let’s explore what’s the best way to sell high-margin OEM parts in today’s internet age:
The best way to enhance aftermarket parts sales is by putting it online where the dealers and other part buyers can easily find a detailed drawing of every single part in a machine in one place. Also, they are assured of the accuracy of that information since it’s directly coming from the maker of the machine.
It’s quite unfortunate that there are many companies that still manage online sales by providing a generic contact form with a message saying something like, “Let us know what parts you need, your model number, and any other information you have”. This puts pressure on the potential buyer and many customers don’t even bother to fill out these forms and decide to call the parts department immediately in order to avoid this unfriendly online experience. Or even worse, a buyer who is in a hurry would simply perform another online search, seeking an easier way to buy.
The most common format for online parts catalogs is the PDF which is only slightly better than a blank form. PDF files, in general, are not searchable or indexed by search engines, either on the Web or on the OEM website. That means they’ll never appear in search results, and users are required to browse through, page by page, in order to find the assembly or part they’re looking for.
Thus what the OEMs, dealers, and other buyers require is an online parts catalog with as much specific detail as possible i.e. clear images and drawings, expanded part descriptions, a history of superseded part numbers, availability, inventory locations, and other data that can only be provided by the manufacturer. The companies may choose to add e-commerce functionality to the parts catalog and enable direct online sales depending on the software used and their business objective.
Make your parts catalog attractive and easy to navigate
Simply stated we are talking about customer experience i.e. how to satisfy your customer because only a fully satisfied customer would bring in more customers and business for the company. There are still some companies who value their customers’ time so little that they publish industrial parts lists on web pages with no illustrations and very little context. Just three or four columns with part numbers, prices, and a brief description that may or may not be helpful to the customer would do no good.
Therefore it’s always better to have a clear illustration, a 3D representation, or even an augmented reality (AR) app that makes parts look fast and simple. The users should be able to search parts by part name, number, description, or other criteria as appropriate. The technology is readily available for those who are prepared to take advantage and make the most out of it. For companies that provide highly interactive web-based electronic parts catalogs, the contrast for users is remarkable. While many people think of parts as commodity items—and believe that buying decisions are primarily based on price—this is actually not true. Buyers value speed and convenience in ordering, and they will pay to get it.
Accuracy is the primary concern
The catalogs lose their significance if they are unable to give the correct information and the dealers and OEMs end up buying the wrong part or have to buy multiple parts because they don’t know which one fits. How many aftermarket sales departments track returns and express shipping costs due to customers ordering incorrect part numbers? What we experience is that it’s a subject most people don’t want to talk about. We occasionally hear stories about the extreme costs of express freight shipping when an error is made in a critical parts order and the thousands of dollars per hour that operators lose when machines can’t be repaired on schedule. There are few who view outrageous shipping costs as the price of great customer service and a necessary component of doing business. Wouldn’t it be much greater customer service to actually sell buyers the right part the very first time?
Digital parts catalogs provide the correct parts information and achieving accuracy close to 100% is completely realistic with these modern parts catalogs that are dynamically generated from a database. Technical publishers don’t need to wait a year before printing the next edition of an outdated paper catalog, they just quickly change the data in a master database and everyone in the world who opens the digital catalog can see the updates right away. Thus the illustrated parts catalogs have increased the aftermarket parts sales many folds.
Add value to your catalog by providing additional content
In today’s world, consumers are “on-demanding” and therefore, it’s not good enough to offer the minimum in terms of product support. So an OEM can’t just publish a non-searchable PDF parts manual and call it a day, at least not if they want to stay in business.
For example, people search online for video demonstrations when they need to fix their personal vehicles, and that behavior is leaking over into the commercial and industrial workplace. If the manufacturer sells equipment that is maintainable by it then it has to keep in mind that they will be the first source that customers would think of for reputable advice.
Apart from this, what else can you offer that is related to parts, service, and technical support? Is your parts catalog software smart enough to show the buyers related items when they view a part? For example, the seal kit that’s necessary when replacing a drive shaft, or a crush washer that goes along with installing a new bolt?
OEMs have the ability to provide buyers with warranty information, inspection certifications, operating instructions, and other proprietary data which puts them in a unique position. They can turn this information into a competitive differentiator by exposing as much as possible to users.
All these things build up the manufacturer’s brand reputation in a customer’s mind and how much loyalty they will feel the next time they decide to make a major equipment purchase. Not to forget, it’s much easier (and cheaper) to sell to an existing customer than it is to a new one. Therefore, the crux lies in treating the current product owners as well as you will treat the potential prospects. That means giving online visitors the product information they want and keeping their machines running.