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3 Myths About Selling Parts Online

Learn about some of the myths around selling parts online.

Episode 214: The pandemic accelerated the trend of people buying heavy-duty parts online. In a recent survey by The Heavy-Duty Parts Report, 74% of respondents now regularly buy heavy-duty parts online. In this episode, we dive into some myths about selling parts online.

My guest today is Dave Olsen the Executive Vice President of Find It Partsan Online Seller of Heavy-Duty Parts.  

Dave Olsen is the Executive Vice President of Find It Partsan Online Seller of Heavy-Duty Parts.  In this episode, learn about some of the myths around selling parts online.

Dave is an industry veteran that has led companies within the independent channel, the OEM world, and at the component manufacturing level. 

Guest Website: FindItParts.com

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Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You’re listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keeps trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering cost-per- mile.

The pandemic accelerated the trend of people buying things online. We definitely saw that, but it has had an impact on the trucking industry and the buying behavior of people who buy heavy-duty parts as well. It’s not just the stuff that we all bought when we were locked down at home. This is having an impact on the way people are approaching buying heavy-duty parts. And when you think about selling parts online, there’s definitely some myths that affect the way people approach whether or not they’re going to sell parts online themselves, if they’re a distributor or even a manufacturer. And so I really wanted to talk about what those myths are, try to get to the bottom of what the perspective we should have. And I thought that the best way to do that was to interview someone who is actively involved in selling parts online. So my guest today is Dave Olsen. He’s the Executive Vice President of Find It Parts, an online seller of heavy-duty parts. And Dave is an industry veteran. He has worked at just about every level from component manufacturer to being an independent, to working with the truck OEM. So this is an individual who I am so excited to have on the show. And I think we’re all going to learn quite a bit from our conversation, Dave, welcome to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. So glad to have you here.

Dave Olsen:

Oh, thanks very much for having me today, Jamie.

Jamie Irvine:

Well, you’re working for a company called Find It Parts. You are selling parts online. So you’re living this day in and day out. And I think it’s gonna be a great opportunity for us to share some of your experience and share the experience of your company to help the industry. Dave, what kinds of customers are buying heavy-duty parts right now from your website FindItparts.com?

Dave Olsen:

Oh my goodness. So maybe a better question is what kind of customers aren’t buying. I mean, everybody from small fleets, folks that have one or two trucks, repair garages, the largest OE dealer networks, the largest independent dealer networks. I mean we specifically kind of fill a void when you’re looking for a part and it’s not readily available. So we really have a, you know, complete cross section of the types of customers that buy heavy-duty truck parts.

Jamie Irvine:

That’s an interesting thing about when you go to that digital sales channel online model, it really opens you up to have an opportunity to sell to such a wide variety of people. So, okay. Let me just get this straight. So really your customers are ranging from like owner operators who maybe own their own truck to fleets, to other distributors and even truck dealership groups.

Dave Olsen:

Absolutely. And manufacturers as well. I think we’ve kind of become a central repository for finding a part that you need, when it’s not readily available under your more traditional channels.

Jamie Irvine:

Now, if I remember correctly, your founder, I saw an interview that he did with our friends over at diesel laptops with Tyler Robertson on the DL. And if I remember correctly, he did say that at one point, your strategy was kind of like not the 80% of parts that everyone’s buying, but the 20% that maybe they can’t get, have you, first of all, do I have that right? Was that your original strategy and has things changed in the mixture of products that people are buying now over, let’s say pre pandemic levels?

Dave Olsen:

Yeah, certainly pre-pandemic, you know, the focus was, think about the name, Find It Parts.com like when you could find it, we were a place to go and we had access to a tremendous amount of SKUs, to fill that need. So really focus on that long tail or the bottom 20% of the parts. I think with the pandemic, I think everybody’s buying behavior has changed and we no longer are limited to that little niche. And we’re increasingly being used for more traditional components and more popular parts, stocking orders and things like that have really become a significant part of our business.

Jamie Irvine:

I think that indicates a bit of a shift in overall attitude towards eCommerce and buying behavior. Why would you say that people who do buy heavy duty parts online like that option over the traditional option, where they have to maybe go to a parts counter or they have to phone in an order?

Dave Olsen:

Well, I think everybody’s talked about just the shifting demographics and, you know, the younger buyers and there are comfort level with digital solutions and things. So I won’t really go into that as much, but, but, but clearly I think over the last couple years a really well served market, a commercial vehicle aftermarket hasn’t been served that well, there’s been some tremendous supply chain challenges. So a lot of consumers, buyers of parts have been put in a situation where, you know, they’ve had a pretty much an easy button, for many years, they pick up the phone, they get the parts delivered next day. It’s worked pretty well. Well, that whole thing kind of shattered a little bit with the supply chain challenges. People were forced, I think, to kind of get out of the box and while everybody knew they could buy parts online, I think they were forced into, you know, using that as a more significant part of their supply chain.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. That makes sense. I can see what you mean by in the trucking industry. It wasn’t necessarily that people, one day just were like, you know, I think I might prefer buying parts online. I’m going to explore that it was more of like, we’ve got equipment down or we have customers with equipment down and we can’t get the parts. So now we’re forced to look elsewhere. Was there any hurdles that you had to overcome with customers or was there any concerns that customers had maybe when they first reached out to you to buy something that you had to kind of overcome or help them kind of get past before they started using your e-commerce platform regularly?

Dave Olsen:

Well, you know we have a fully staffed call center of, you know, 17 to 20 people, but really 95% of our transactions are seamless. In other words, we don’t talk to the customer. So really their experience is driven by our site and the content behind our site. So when you think about the challenges we face, it wasn’t so much with the customer as it was with the supply base and getting access to the digital content so that we could represent the parts in such a way that the consumer would have confidence that the part he’s looking at is the part he needs, it’s gonna fit his vehicle and we have it in inventory. So there’s a lot of data that drives that behind the scenes. And I would say that over the last two years, there’s been a sea change as it relates to the digitalization of that content by all of the manufacturers have really stepped up. I give a lot of credit to the Autocare Association for spearheading the Pies and ACEs standards and as our industry adopts those standards, it’s gonna make all forms of communication more seamless.

Jamie Irvine:

We’ll get to the myths in a couple minutes. But just before that, I wanted to ask you one more question. You know, a lot of our listeners they’re parts people, they’re repair technicians, maybe they work at an independent repair shop, or they work at a fleet. And what would you say is one or two of the biggest upsides to buying parts through a site like yours at finditparts.com versus the traditional method? What benefit do they get out of that? I just like to hone in on that before we move on to what the experience of the actual seller might be, if they were to adopt eCommerce.

Dave Olsen:

Sure. Let me just give you an example and I think a lot of it’s driven by the, the supply chain challenges right now. We certainly feel that that’s been a, a great tailwind for our business, but like, if, if, if you’re shopping locally, you’re buying from a dealer or distributor, he has two or three or four potential sources for product. And then he has, you know, a significant investment in inventory, which is critical when you look online for that same part behind the scenes, we use kind of a one to many approach. So we might have 50 sources for that part. So, you know if you’ve got five people at a local market that are stocking the part you need, and they’re willing to deliver it tomorrow, that’s probably not a candidate for eCommerce but if you don’t have a stock locally and you know, you have a couple of choices, you can start dialing for dollars, calling a lot of folks, hoping they answer, hoping they give you price availability, hoping they get back to you, things like that. Or you kind of, it’s an easy button. We provide you go to one place, you get to check availability and get certainty of availability, certainty of delivery, and certainty of the product that you’re buying, all with a few clicks of the mouse. And you could do it 24/ 7.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. That makes sense to me. And you know, the other thing too, when I look forward anyway, over the next few years, I don’t know about you, but I know a lot of the people that I grew up in the industry with they’re retiring very quickly. They’re exiting and they’re taking 30, 40, 50 years of experience with them when they leave the industry. And the younger people who are left to kind of replace those, those senior positions, man, they’re under a lot of pressure and they don’t necessarily have the benefit of all those years of experience. So anything that a supplier can do to make those customers more efficient themselves, like to your point, giving them that easy button to buy the parts that they need. I mean, that’s gonna go a long way to fostering a deep relationship with that customer as time goes on.

Dave Olsen:

Yeah. You know, it’s so funny. Just as easy as looking at the comparison, you walk into an Auto zone, you have three guys that are 27 years old and you know, you never even see anything, but the top of their head, because they’re just banging away the keys. That’s because I have a well oiled taxonomy that allows them to drill down from what you think you need, you know, a starter for a 2013 Toyota Camry to what you do need, which is a partner number 123, in our industry that hasn’t existed. It will exist. You know, there it’s more difficult. We all know that, you know, the commercial vehicle aftermarket or commercial vehicle market, I should say are all purpose built trucks, but there is a source of truth. And there is a lot of commonality and there’s a lot of folks and a lot of money and a lot of technologies being deployed to simplify and duplicate that taxonomy that’s allowed the automotive aftermarket to be served 15% eCommerce. And in the commercial vehicle world is still much less than 1% of the final demand.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re gonna take a quick break. When we’re back from our break, we’re gonna talk about those three myths. So stay with us. Don’t have a heavy-duty part number and need to look up a part? Go to parts.diesellaptops.com or download the app on Apple or Android to create your free account. Looking for high-quality fuel injection for heavy-duty applications? Having one supplier for fuel injection allows you to better serve customers by providing them with a complete line, which increases your sales and profitability. Learn more at ambac international.com/aftermarket. We’re back from our break. And before the break, we were talking about the way that the pandemic has accelerated and modified buying behavior. Obviously the supply chain crisis that we’re in has really forced a lot of people in the trucking industry to evaluate new suppliers. And one great place to go to find parts is finditparts.com. Dave, when it comes to parts distributors who are selling parts, you know, you talked about that traditional model. Maybe you’ve got five or six stores in several different cities and you sell parts directly to repair shops and fleets. If you’re in that position and you’re evaluating whether or not you should get involved in this whole eCommerce thing, what is one maybe common myth you’ve heard that’s holding that person back?

Dave Olsen:

Well, I just think there’s a lot of trepidation for people that have invested, you know, their family’s money or their money in brick and mortar, you know brick and mortar is expensive. Inventory is expensive. So you’re really putting at risk of a significant part of people’s investment. So I think one of the myths is wow, you know, eCommerce is the is the enemy of brick and mortar. And I would say, it’s really not that at all. I mean, when you think about eCommerce, it comes in in many flavors, but you know in our world, it’s a marketplace. Basically we connect buyers and sellers. So without a fulfillment arm that has the inventory, it has the knowledge to get the operational side of the transaction done, we’re not gonna perform very well, so we need strong partners.

So, you know, one of the buzzwords people talk about is omnichannel distribution, right? You know, brick and mortar has historically kind of gone to market the same way they buy in bulk, they inventory. They deliver it to a select group of customers and a certain geography, and that served them very well. When you broaden your thinking to an omnichannel approach, you have a portal for your existing customers to buy from you. You offer B2C opportunities with credit cards, you support established marketplaces, whether that’s eBay or Find It Parts or others and kind of take advantage and really spread the wealth of this investment you’ve made can, can serve so many different markets. It’s really an opportunity to coexist and thrive if you take an omnichannel approach to distributing your inventory and your resources.

Jamie Irvine:

You know, I know that some people have expressed concern about you know, making their pricing available online so that everybody can see it and things of that nature. But the reality is that, you know, that price game’s been going on for a long time. I remember when I was selling parts and I’d go into some of my customers and they would have all of the distributors in that local area, including truck dealership groups, they’d have all the flyers pinned up on their, on their wall, right? So it’s not like the information wasn’t accessible, but to your point, there’s a big difference between having a relationship with a client who has a client login that gives them access to their pricing, and only they can see that and making all of that information publicly available to like that B2C customer.

Jamie Irvine:

Who’s just not gonna buy in volume and doesn’t maybe have net credit terms and is using a credit card. And I also think that the whole, like all or nothing approach to this isn’t reality, right? It’s not, should we do digital only and abandon brick and mortar, or should we stick, you know, to brick and mortar and not touch digital? Isn’t it really going to be a hybrid of the two that’s going to be the, the reality of most parts distributors, like at least for the next 10 or 20 years.

Dave Olsen:

Without a question, I mean, a marketplace doesn’t exist without brick and mortar in inventory. And I think increasingly brick and mortar is gonna have a hard time living solely on the way they transacted business in the past. You know, a lot of people are nervous about the price visibility, but, you know, in today’s world, every part you can Google it and you can see what prices are. So like that whole thing has changed. I really find it interesting over the last two years. I think this industry’s had an epiphany that it isn’t about price. It’s about availability, availability, trumps price when the two are in conflict. Right? And so I think in a marketplace, you offer transparency of pricing. People can go to our site or anybody else’s site, and they see your price. It’s not the reason you’re gonna buy, you’re gonna buy it because we have availability. And we do that with our brick and mortar partners.

Jamie Irvine:

Right. And I mean, in addition to the purchase price, the purchase price is never the cost, right? It’s not the cost there. There’s so many other factors with commercial vehicles that gets you to your total cost. I remember when I was selling MGM spring brakes, right? They’re like three times a cheap off offshore spring brake is in purchase price. But if you look at a one year cycle versus a four year cycle, you can save like 700 bucks an axle with that more expensive product. So, yeah, I mean, price is always a factor, but, and to your point, it doesn’t matter what it costs. If a truck is down for six weeks the downtime is going to eclipse any price for the individual part. But what about relationships? You know, I remember my mentors teaching me the parts business. They said, Jamie, this is a relationship business. It always has been, always, will be. I’ve heard some people really concerned that if I don’t have the opportunity to physically talk to my customers day in and day out on the phone, and they’re just buying stuff online from my eCommerce site, I’m gonna lose touch with my customers and those relationships are going to evaporate. Is that a myth and what’s the reality if it is?

Dave Olsen:

I’m not sure it’s a myth. I think everybody wants to be able to touch the training partners they have that are important to them, whether it’s a distributor and a supplier or a fleet at his distributor or dealer. I think that’s a super important part of it, but it takes two to tango. And if your customer has changed what he wants, well need to be cognizant of that. And you need to engage him the way he would like to be engaged. And that might be not an every week conversation. It might be a once a month check in. That’s more strategic in nature because the day to day routine is kind of been automated and it is going on, you know, online behind the scenes. So the nature of the communication can change. I don’t think relationships are being watered down or replaced by technology. I think the nature of the conversation, the communication is a little different than it has been in the past.

Jamie Irvine:

Well, to me, the big upside is that you can have higher value conversations with your customers because the commodity stuff, or the day to day stuff has been automated to some degree, this is a good thing. Not a bad thing.

Dave Olsen:

Yeah, absolutely.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. This is where you get into like true value selling where you can start to evaluate what products are you buying and when you’re installing them and how long are they lasting? And what’s the uptime, implication, downtime, implication, labor costs. And as a supplier, you can get into those conversations, which is what’s gonna truly forge that relationship stronger and stronger over time because you’re helping your customers succeed. So everyone’s experiencing part shortages. What myth exists about eCommerce and inventory? You and I talked about that before we hit the record button. I’d like to hear your opinion on it though.

Dave Olsen:

Yeah you know, inventory, one of the concerns you hear is, well, if I have eCommerce I’m gonna deplete the inventory I’ve got for my customers. And you know that just kind of falls on deaf ears with me because I mean, at the end of the day, you drive your inventory to service your customers. And if a new set of customers come to you that happen to be e-commerce space, you’re gonna adjust your inventory to accommodate that, right? So you wouldn’t wanna turn a faucet on full blast, but you’d certainly want it running pretty fast as quickly as you get it there because that’s what we’re all in business of doing is growing our companies, growing the opportunities for our people, you know, becoming profitable, sustaining profitability. So I really don’t think it’s interesting in our relationship with our vendors.

Dave Olsen:

We’re very careful, you know, we don’t ask our vendors to stock for us. You know we expect that they’ve done a really good job of deciding what parts should be stocked and what parts don’t need to be stocked. And then we just layer on top of that and drive demand to them that they previously wouldn’t have, whether that be a different demographic or, you know, outside of their traditional geography, outside of the United States geography, we can drive demand to consume the inventory that they’ve already invested in. We’re not asking them to really stock on our behalf.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. And I think some of this comes from maybe just a misunderstanding or just not having enough knowledge about what you can do. So just like with the pricing issue, you can put pricing behind a password for a customer of yours. That’s on net 30 accounts with an e-commerce platform, same with inventory. You don’t have to open up all your inventory to everyone, you could easily decide to say, Hey, 50% of my inventory needs to be for my regional customers that are right here in our backyard and the rest of that inventory we’re gonna make available and anybody anywhere wants to buy it, they can. So I think that’s where some of these myths come from is that they just haven’t really investigated what the technology behind these platforms will let them do and won’t let them do.

Jamie Irvine:

And once you start to understand that you can start to see how you can adapt your approach to fit your specific needs. So it’s really not a one and done, and it’s not a one fits all. There’s a large spectrum here when we use the word eCommerce or digital sales channel. We saw some big news recently with Find It Parts, a 30 million raise, first of all, hats off. Congratulations. That is really exciting. Obviously that money is going to enhance your plans for the future. Can you give us a little insight into the direction where you’re taking, Find It Parts with that investment?

Dave Olsen:

Yeah. So, you know, I’ll give a lot of credit to David Eck, you know, the founder of the business and his partner, Danny. I mean, they have been building this business for 10 years. And I think through a combination of circumstances, things really exploded in a positive way over the last couple of years. And it really opened our eyes that, you know, when things move at internet speed, they don’t take years to develop. They take quarters and months, and things change that fast. And so the opportunity to really capitalize on what these guys built over the last 10 years, it was now. And so that, and we didn’t wanna wait and you know, this whole business had been founder financed and so, you know, we wanted to have the freedom to invest in all the areas that we knew and at test it out, we spent a lot of time testing what works and what doesn’t.

So by the time we got to Crestline Investors, which has made a minority investment in us, we really knew how we wanted to spend the money. And it’s really people and technology and speed. That’s really what it’s all about. So we’ve been, partners now for 45 days. And, you know, we have made a lot of significant decisions in terms of bringing people aboard to strengthen the bench and, and add scalability to our business. So it’s really about speed, technology and people that’s how that money’s gonna be deployed.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. And I mean, I have said for years, you can go back and look at some of the past things that I’ve recorded and made public. But I have always said like the holy grail with heavy-duty parts is getting it there within a couple hours of ordering and whoever figures out, how get parts there, same day, or in certain categories next day, even it’s the next best thing. Right. And that speed to getting the parts in the hands of the people who need, them making it easy, making the information available and, and at the fingertips 24/7 on demand, like those are the fundamentals that underpin what will make the people who distribute heavy-duty parts in the future successful, because really those have always been foundational pieces. It’s just now that we’re layering technology. So that’s really exciting. And we’re anxious at The Heavy-Duty Parts Report to see how things evolve over time. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Dave Olsen:

Well, we’re excited to see where it leads us all as well. We’ve been students of the industry for a long time, and we’re big fans. So we want to be a successful journey for all of us that are in the industry. Thanks so much for having us.

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And we’ve been speaking with Dave Olsen, the Executive Vice President of Find It Parts to buy parts online, go to finditparts.com, links will be in the show notes. Dave, thanks again for being on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. And I look forward to having you back soon.

Dave Olsen:

We’ll do it. Thanks again, Jamie.

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