Auto Parts E-Commerce Deliverables: ACES, PIES, and Images
WiseAutoData has been working in the e-commerce auto part industry long before ACES became a standard and has been working some of the industry's biggest and most diverse retailers around, including marketing efforts, front-end website design, back-end database design, and, of course, cataloging departments of all kinds. We know what's needed to play in this industry.
Any auto parts suppliers (manufacturers or distributors) working with e-retailers to sell their products should consider the completeness of the cataloging data they should (or need) to supply to that retailer in order to satisfy the needs of both the sales objectives retailer and the proper information consumer's need. Every piece of information that isn't provided to the retailer either puts more work on the retailers to get it themselves or will most likely simply be left out of the retailer's catalog. All of the information is out there, starting with the manufacturer themselves, and it shouldn't have to be the retailer's responsibility to go get it - it should be supplied and made easy. Delivering these materials alone can give any manufacturer an edge over their competitors because there are few companies that provide a complete and optimal set of e-commerce materials to their retailers.
Auto Parts Cataloging
Perhaps only the auto part manufacturers and suppliers themselves know how complicated it can be to accurately associate an auto part to it's correct vehicle. With so many auto makers in the world today, spanning decades, with all their model names, sub-model names, different size and style engines or variations in the suspension or drive train per model correctly associating the right part to the very specific correct vehicle is no small task, let alone getting every auto part manufacturer on the same page across the industry! In e-commerce, all of that information needs to be synchronized in electronic form, no paper catalogs here.
Thankfully, the automotive industry has associations that greatly help keep things organized and communicated. In North America that is the Auto Care Association, formally known as AAIA (Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association). In electronic auto parts cataloging, the Auto Care Association strictly maintains a standard for all year, make, and model vehicles and the auto parts that go with them. These standards are held within a series of databases commonly referred to as ACES and PIES.
What is ACES?
ACES = Aftermarket Catalog Enhanced Standard.
ACES is North America's standard for the management of vehicle application data that make publishing automotive data possible, with all their vehicle attributes, auto parts classifications, and qualifiers. An ACES file is an XML formatted, machine-readable exchange file comprised of a number of databases, primarily including the VCDB and PCDB; Vehicle Configuration and Product Classification Data Bases.
Yes, databases. And if it's not an XML file, then it's not ACES. In other words, ACES is a vastly complex series of tables and ID numbers that ultimately (and accurately) associate part numbers with their respective vehicles. Access to these databases are available through membership subscription to the Auto Care Association and require experienced and trained professionals to utilize.
How to get your auto parts catalog into the ACES format.
Quickly, Wise Auto Data's Quick ACES service can get you there!
Constructing a legitimate and working ACES file requires access to the ACES databases and the talents to know how to use them, which is why almost everyone in the industry turns to a 3rd party source to complete the process, but everything must start from the manufacturer and their data.
Before you can entertain the idea of having your catalog put into an ACES format, you must have good, clean, usable data. Having this prepared information before you go to a 3rd party ACES supplier can save you immense conversion time and the money those companies are likely to charge you.
Wise Auto Data's specialty is analyzing your existing cataloging data, help organize and prepare that data before working with your ACES provider and new in 2017 even provide you an ACES file itself! Sometimes this is a quick and painless process while other times it requires substantial effort, but either way it has saved every one of our clients time and money while dodging immeasurable frustration trying to handle it themselves, in-house, if not giving up entirely.
Learn more about how WiseAutoData can help you in your ACES development by contacting us today.
What is PIES?
PIES = Product Information Exchange Standard.
Simply, PIES is all of the product information about your auto parts, aside from the application and fitment information that resides in ACES. Everything from product descriptions, package dimensions, UPC codes, pricing, attached digital media and images, and so much more. While PIES too is an XML file by strict definition, this area is far more forgiving if your final version comes in a well organized Excel file or AWDA PIES format.
Images in eCommerce.
Regardless of the type of auto part, without a picture to represent your product consumers will always have some level of doubt or concern. No automotive catalog is at its best without at least one proper image to go with each part number. The use of a generic image to represent an entire product group is often debated as there are pros and cons, but the argument is irrelevant compared to having no image at all or when aiming to provide the best image for each individual part.
In e-retail, website speed is critical and images pay a large role here. Website speed is dependant on the amount of data being transferred for the page to load. Therefore, the byte size of the image is also critical. Again, there are conflicting arguments here as well because some organizations calls for large, high resolution images to be the standard while others recommend scaled down, JPG images. Actually, they're both right, but there's only one that's going to make it to a retailer's website; fact.
Replacement Auto Parts Product Descriptions.
The common conundrum about replacement parts, other wise known as hard parts, is that you don't often have much to say about most of the parts because its just a common replacement auto part with no real bells or whistles. It's just a tie rod end. It's just an alternator. It's just a bushing. But when the manufacturer leaves these descriptions up to the retailers to fill in, they are always just as bland and boring and often matching every other "boring" replacement auto part in their catalog, including your competitors.
No auto part manufacturer or supplier should let their catalog go without providing their own part descriptions because they miss their opportunity to make their products stand out, whether it's by providing unique product copy with a competitive edge or capitalizing on a marketing opportunity.
Performance Auto Parts Product Descriptions.
When it comes to the performance auto parts and auto part accessories side of the industry - or what I like to call the SEMA side of the industry - the competition can get fierce and the need to provide features and benefits, as well as any competitive edge attainable in marketing, is all the more critical.
Most of the manufacturers here have done plenty of work in putting forth all the right information in this regard, but just because it's on their website or in their glossy paper catalogs doesn't mean the e-retailer is going to go look for it and find it. It should be part of your e-commerce deliverables.