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Podcast

The Power of Rich Content

Learn how using rich content on your website can help you sell more parts.

Episode 235: When it comes to selling heavy-duty truck parts, things have really changed over the last few years. We are seeing a drastic change in how people are buying and selling, and taking advantage of digital tools. When it comes to creating an eCommerce site, how can rich content help us to sell more parts?

My guest today is Jennifer Smith, the e-Commerce Digital Content Specialist of JIT Truck Parts.  

Jennifer Smith, the e-Commerce Digital Content Specialist of JIT Truck Parts. In this episode, learn how using rich content on your website can help you sell more parts.

Guest Website: JITTruckParts.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.

When selling truck parts, things have really changed over the last few years. The traditional distribution channel that we relied on for decades is not being replaced, but is being, let’s say, augmented with digital tools. And so a new skill set is required to sell heavy-duty parts in a digital world. And I’m really excited to talk to my guest today because they’ve had a lot of success with this, and I think they’re gonna be able to share a perspective and a point of view that will be helpful to anyone who sells heavy duty parts.

My guest today is Jennifer Smith. She is the e-Commerce Digital Content Specialist of JIT Truck Parts. Jennifer, welcome to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. So glad to have you here.

Jennifer Smith:

Thank you. I’m glad to be here.

Jamie Irvine:

Well, we’re here to talk about digital and content. We’re gonna call this episode The Power of Rich Content. Let’s first talk about the overarching trends in the industry when it comes to selling truck parts in a digital world. So what are you seeing as a whole? What’s important? What do we need to know?

Jennifer Smith:

Yeah, well, first of all, whether it is a younger generation thing or older, we like to hide behind the screen. We don’t want to make a phone call and order our truck parts. We don’t wanna email our order in. We want to actually get online, do it ourselves, and just have it land on our doorstep as quickly as possible. But that is why truck part organizations need to know the power of rich content.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me. I think the pandemic was a real accelerator for the change in buying behavior. I don’t think it’s just a young person thing anymore. I mean, the reality is we’re all facing labor shortages. We have less people, people with 40 years of experience are walking out the door in retirement, and it’s really tough to replace someone. Like one of my mentors always said, you know, how do you get 20 years’ experience in the business? Come see me in 20 years.

There’s no shortcut to that. So I’m seeing that a lot of companies are really needing to focus on making their customers more efficient, because of course, their customers are facing the same labor issues as well. So whether it’s a generational thing or it’s just a, basically the demand of the job, you know, having access to these digital tools does make it a lot easier to buy the parts that we need, especially if it’s a commodity part.

Jennifer Smith:

You’re absolutely right. And I think the way that we’re actually searching for products has changed, not just reaching out to vendors for products or whether they’re used parts, but also these cross references. Most people nowadays are turning to cross references to find their primary choice for a truck part, and most people don’t know what a cross reference is.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, well, I mean, when I started in the industry, we had to do everything by catalog. So every parts person, they would have this metal frame. It was probably about anywhere from three to four feet long. It had bookends and then it, it had rings for all of your catalogs. And, you know, you kind of customize that for your own use and, you know, you put your catalogs where you wanted them, and you really got to learn how to use that, that very analog technology very efficiently.

But today, it’s so much different, right? We want to have a search where we get a reliable, you know, response to that search. I think a lot of people recognize that if you just do a Google search, you might not get the most accurate information. So that parts cross reference is so important. And, you know, I don’t know if you’re familiar with, there is one parts cross reference tool that’s been out there for a lot of years.

They will remain nameless, but we all use them in the aftermarket world. And the problem with their database was that there would be like 10 or 15 results with the same basic part number, but maybe the prefix was different or the suffix was different. And so there was just a lot of information that wasn’t necessarily exactly what we wanted, and it was just a part number and a description. It didn’t have an image, it didn’t have any of the specifications of the part. So comparing it, you know, are we actually comparing apples to apples here with this cross reference or not?

That was always a challenge whether you were using the old analog system or you were using, you know, the, the one cross reference tool that, that was kind of predominantly used for the last 10 or 15 years. So your company has really seen that as an opportunity to change the way that you approach making this content available and giving people another option.

Jennifer Smith:

You’re right, I know the website you’re talking about, and, you know, cross references are a great tool, but if you don’t know anything about the product, then it’s going to be extra work for the customer. You may lose a customer, they may turn to a competitor’s website because you didn’t go the extra mile to give them additional images or web descriptions.

I think customers nowadays, they’ll go on a website and they expect certain things. They expect web descriptions, they want a story, they want to know about warranty information. They wanna see pictures, they wanna know exactly what they’re getting when it lands on their doorstep. And that’s what my company is all about.

Jamie Irvine:

Okay, so when we get back from our break, we’re gonna go into more detail. I got a bunch of questions. We’re gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back.

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Jamie Irvine:

We’re back from the break and before the break we were talking about the power of rich content. Jennifer, you kind of ended our last segment with a great description of what is involved in putting together what we would call rich content. Like you said, pictures, web descriptions, cross reference information, even a story. I wanna pick your brain on that a little bit. When you say a story, what kind of a story would you make around, you know, a brake shoe or a drum or a light? Like how does story play a role in producing rich content?

Jennifer Smith:

When customers go on a website, they typically see a few bullet points, maybe product attributes about a certain product. And while that’s great, it doesn’t tell the whole story. We start off on our website, JITtruckparts.com. Every product page has a long web description. It may say a certain reason why a product is used, may be warning signs of a failing part or causes for that failure.

Then we lead into the actual product features, then we reveal the warranty information because I’d like to feel that customers that know they’re getting a warranty we’ll probably purchase from that organization. And lastly, we always end our product pages by revealing information about a brand, not just to build trust with the customer, but also awareness. If they hadn’t heard of a certain brand, they may learn more about them, they may like them and tell their friends and colleagues.

Jamie Irvine:

Okay, so what have you been able to observe when you see people coming onto your site and they’re taking advantage of all of this really rich content that you’ve made available for every product page? How does that translate into a measurable benefit for the actual customer?

Jennifer Smith:

The customer knows that they are getting a product, not just that is a direct fit for their application, but also at the best price point, the best warranty. And, they’re getting it from a credible source

Jamie Irvine:

So that confidence, they’re not just, my mentor used to say, how did he always word that he would say, Jamie, don’t sell them what they ask for, sell them what they need. And so I think when you give people the opportunity to research all of that information on their own, first of all, they’re not waiting on call, right? They’re not on a phone call, waiting on hold to talk to somebody. They’re able to get the a access to the info immediately.

They kind of have a more full understanding of the actual, like you say, the cause of the problem, the, the correct replacement part, the warranty, the downstream cost that could be incurred by buying one part over another. I think it’s very important to empower your customers. And going back to that demographic issue, if we can’t make our customers more efficient, they’re gonna go somewhere else, aren’t they?

Jennifer Smith:

I really do think so. And I think it moves even beyond web descriptions. People love to read, but they don’t like to read that much. They also want to see images as well. So if we can provide them with as many viewpoints of a product as possible, then we’re not just gonna retain those customers, but we’re going to attract new business.

Jamie Irvine:

And, you know, realistically too, to your point about younger buyers, as they take on more senior roles, their expectations are wildly different than the generation before us. Maybe the generation that mentored me and my colleagues, you know, that was a very, very relationship focused.

Everything was the traditional method. Everything was about face to face, in person, and that’s just not what people are looking for today. So it’s a big job though to get all of this content together. Why did your company feel that the investment was worth it to go in and collect all of this information and put it into a format that your customers would use? What was it that really made you as a company decide to go in that direction?

Jennifer Smith:

We noticed that our customers were getting frustrated. They wanted to know what the product looked like. They wanted to make sure that it would definitely fit their application. And so we decided, hey, like we need to do something more than just give them a few bullet points or a few cross references.

We need to give them that story that will not just help them, but help other people understand the certain need and, and the snowball effect of maintaining certain parts, especially on a seasonal basis.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I’m kind of curious just from your perspective. So JIT is connected to Autocar. It’s a truck manufacturer. So you’re in that, that kind of category of OEM truck manufacturer, and then you have JIT Truck Parts. It’s not just Autocar parts that you sell in your website though, is that correct? You have a wider range? It’s an all makes site.

Jennifer Smith:

JIT Truck Parts is an e-commerce site. It’s located in Highland Park, Illinois, and it is a national aftermarket truck parts distributor for local, regional, and national fleet. And so if you are just the owner and operator of a trucking company or even a repair shop and you need parts, uh, whether for maintenance work or you need parts now because you broke down on the side of the road, then our organization can help.

Jamie Irvine:

So that that’s who you are. So when someone’s considering like, who should I buy from? Like who does JIT look to as their competitors, then? Like what are you worried about? You know, when you look into the competitive landscape?

Jennifer Smith:

We have, we have competitors. I mean, we were a truck parts distributor. There are many that are well known out there. However, what sets us apart is that we do offer the trifecta of rich content. The trifecta in my eyes are web descriptions, high resolution images and cross references. And we are one of very few truck part companies that offer that.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, the data is so important. You know, as a consultant, I work with companies all the time on their digital sales channel, their marketing, their e-commerce. And inevitably when we get around to the discussion of the e-commerce component of a digital sales channel, it’s the data that is so critical and that data needs to come from a number of different sources.

I’m sure that you can attest to the fact that it’s no small task to be able to bring all that data together. What was the biggest challenges for your company when you are assembling this site and pulling that data together?

Jennifer Smith:

One of the hardest challenges is maybe the vendor themselves don’t have the information on file. We may be missing a few images. We may need to put a blanket image until we get an image from the vendor. But we have a wonderful staff. We’re very dedicated. We have a great group of vendors who help us on an ongoing basis. And we’re just a very proud company.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, it was a shock to me as well when I talked, started talking to manufacturers and you know, you think to yourself, okay, well you’re manufacturing this. Maybe you have a tier one division where you’re sending parts to the OE and then you also have an aftermarket tier two division, and yet they didn’t have the data themselves and that was a little surprising.

I think the average person, like owner operator driving a truck, they would just assume, well, the manufacturers know, but they don’t always. And that definitely has been changing and I think Covid actually has been a great accelerator of that. Have you noticed that that is getting a lot better over the last couple of years?

Jennifer Smith:

I do. And I don’t know if it’s because maybe we have extra time to take some product images or maybe we’ve just come up with a better system over the last couple of years. But it is getting better and I think it’s all working for the benefit of the customers.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, they are the winners. At the end of the day, I think this move towards digitization of all of the data around the, you know, replacement parts and diagnostic information, The winners are definitely the fleets and the end users and the repair shops who do the work. So when you look to the future, where do you see this going because this is where we are in 2022, but what is the future gonna look like? What, where do we need to go as an industry next?

Jennifer Smith:

As an industry, I think we still need to focus on rich content. We need to work on those long descriptions. We need to work on those images and we need to educate the customers. Most importantly about cross references, for those that don’t know, cross references are part interchanges. They’re the same fit form and function as an OE part.

They may not be the primary choice for a customer, but they are a identical second choice. And we want customers to know that they may not be able to get the part they need right away because of back orders or out of stock, but they’ll get exactly what they need.

Jamie Irvine:

Right, because there’s exact fit. There’s a one to one replacement. This is exactly the same part. It’s just manufactured by two different companies, right? There’s that scenario. Then there’s the scenario of, well, you know, our number one choice would be this brand, but there’s another company out there that makes a similar part, but there’s some differences.

It’ll still function, it’ll still do the job. But what are those differences and what’s the implication of those differences? How’s that gonna affect cost per mile? How is that gonna affect total cost of operation? You need to know that. So, you know, parts cross reference, it seems like a relatively simple concept, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

Jennifer Smith:

There is a lot more to it. And I think it’s often difficult to determine if a part is actually going to be a direct fit for a Navistar, for a Freightliner and that’s why we turn more often than not to our vendors to give us a list of all the cross references that they know of because it’s going to come directly from the source and it’s going to be credible.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. And also that supersession of part numbers. Like I know in diesel emission system components, man, do they ever have a lot of like, well these six part numbers, you know, they were all in service at one time, but they’ve all been discontinued and now there’s this next, you know, generation part number and you gotta stay on top of that because you put the wrong part in and all of a sudden you’re causing, you know, these trucks are getting more complicated every year and there are these massive systems that are all integrated and interconnected.

So you can make a mistake over here on the left and you, you affect something over here on the right. So how are you validating the information beyond just getting the information from the OEs? Do you take any additional steps to validate that content?

Jennifer Smith:

We may actually turn to our competitors’ websites and see what they’re posting on their websites and we may do additional Google searches and if we see similar content, then everything checks out.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, it’s almost like personally the way I approach the news and the media is that if it’s being reported on several different types of networks, then chances are it’s probably accurate. It’s kind of the same, kind of the same thing with truck parts. If, you know, especially like filtration is a good example, right?

Like if you’ve got some of the big, you know, standard manufacturers and like, you know, Donaldson and you’ve got lube refiner and, and you know, the other different ones and if they’re all saying the same thing, then you know, it stands the reason that this is probably the correct information and that it’s trustworthy. So yeah, definitely having multiple points to validate data is very important. If there’s one thing you want to leave people with before we end our conversation today, what’s that one thing?

Jennifer Smith:

We want customers to know that they don’t have to give up on their number one choice for a truck parts company. Truck part companies, you don’t have to lose your fan base, you just need to educate them about cross references. You need them to stay on the website, don’t have them turn to a competitor for no reason.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, absolutely. You’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. We’ve been speaking with Jennifer Smith. She’s the e-Commerce Digital Content Specialist at JIT Truck Parts.

To learn more about JIT Truck Parts. you can go over to jittruckparts.com and you’ll be able to get an idea of what this rich content is all about. Jennifer, thank you so much for being on the show. I really appreciate it.

Jennifer Smith:

It was a pleasure.

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