In today’s Parts Insider Interview, we’re talking with Chris Leebelt, CEO & CIO of EBIZPLATFORM. EBIZPLATFORM is a Unified Commerce Platform for Manufacturers and Suppliers of complex products (like auto parts).
It offers businesses a way to simplify the data management process and enable ecommerce with an available API that offers almost limitless capabilities.
Here’s our interview with Chris, where we talk about what EBIZPLATFORM does, and where Chris sees the future of data management going.
How would you describe your offering to someone who knows nothing about it?
Describing EBIZPLATFORM is a difficult challenge, says Leebelt, “Honestly, explaining what it is that we do to someone who doesn’t know our industry is never easy.” While not easy, it is valuable. Here’s an overview:
- All auto parts manufacturers have a lot of data to manage – information like part numbers, pictures, production descriptions, cross-reference numbers, and fitment data
- Lots of companies use the data like wholesale suppliers, retailers, and installers.
- Sharing all of this data is difficult and time consuming
- With EBIZPLATFORM, all of this can data can live in one centralized repository. Even better, we fuse it with a powerful B2B ecommerce platform as well as tools to help your resellers sell products without the need to constantly chase new data updates.
Managing data is easier with EBIZPLATFORM. It acts as a central data repository, allowing any authorized party to grab data they need with a simple bit of programming. This is a huge asset to those in the B2B selling pipeline.
What’s your standard elevator pitch for your company?
“We shorten the sales cycle by removing the middleman and delay in getting new automotive accessories and parts to market,” says Leebelt. “Even better, we enable your partners and sales reps to place orders and create quotes in the same platform.”
How long has your company been working in the auto parts and accessories industry?
“Going back as far as 1999, we’ve been working with manufacturers in the automotive parts and accessories industry,” says Leebelt. “We realized early on that the biggest obstacle to sales was the product data. Too often, the manufacturer did not have a system or a process for keeping data updated.”
Once Leebelt realized that old data was hurting product sales – that retailers weren’t selling products because of missing catalog data, or that installers weren’t buying parts because of missing fitment data – EBIZPLATFORM was born.
“When we merged product data management with ecommerce, we watched our client’s sales skyrocket. Keeping all the data in one central repository – and then leveraging that data in the ecommerce process – was huge. Based on that experience, we created an all-in-one-platform to leverage updated product data and to drive sales,” says Leebelt.
“Basically, good product data enables us to provide the turnkey solutions to help the manufacturer sell in B2B agreements and to help their resellers to sell directly.”
What is your favorite part of your job?
While Leebelt is admittedly a bit of a data nerd, he says that he most enjoys helping new clients identify holes in their data.
“When we take on a new customer and bring their data to market, we immediately start to gather analytics from direct consumer interactions. Using that data, we can then advise our customer about what the market is looking for. It could be missing fitment data or products in general. When we plug the holes in the data, we see sales rise. It’s pretty remarkable.”
Are there any common misconceptions that people have about EBIZPLATFORM?
“The short answer is that people don’t think it’s possible to have an all-in-one solution to their product data problems,” says Leebelt. “Based on how the auto industry has adopted technology in chunks over the years, parts manufacturers and suppliers are used to incomplete solutions to data problems.” However, because EBIZPLATFORM is a unified commerce tool, it combines product data management with other departments:
- Integration with other systems – like an ecommerce platform, an accounting system, an inventory system and so on is easy by way of the EBIZPLATFORM API.
- Existing data management tools can be integrated too. EBIZPLATFORM can be configured to export or import data, so existing systems don’t have to completely change overnight
“Too often, manufacturers are resigned to the fact that a solution to data problems will be too expensive or too high tech to be useful. Our platform makes it easy,” says Leebelt.
What are the three most important things you want anyone considering EBIZPLATFORM to know?
First, says Leebelt “While our product works for many industries, we understand the parts and accessories market. We have more than 20 years of experience in the market, in fact.” Second, “We get your products to market faster without middlemen, over-engineered formats, or costly delays. We give you, the B2B seller, control.”
Third, “We extend your product data into ecommerce for both your sales reps and your reseller partners,” says Leebelt. “Our platform isn’t a ‘walled garden.’ It’s a tool that all your partners can use to grow sales.”
How do you see the market for data management platforms changing over the next five years?
While Leebelt notes that the rapid growth of online parts sales will continue to force parts manufacturers and wholesale suppliers to re-evaluate their data management processes, he sees the biggest change at the business-to-business level. “I think we’ll see key ecommerce partners demand better access to product data and better paths to integration as a condition of doing business,” says Leebelt. “The manufacturers and suppliers that embrace the data challenge with a tool like ours are going to be in a great position if a key player in the online space demands that everyone conduct business online. Because our system is ‘headless,’ we can plug it into just about anything. The same can’t be said for most other systems,” says Leebelt.
As Chris Leebelt points out, product data management is a major pain point for every auto parts and accessories business. Between missing or incomplete catalog data, incorrect fitment data, and issues with discontinued parts, backorders, etc., nearly everyone in the industry has first-hand experience with a data problem.
By leveraging API technology, EBIZPLATFORM is an intriguing parts data management option for the auto parts and accessories industry. APIs allow any business partner – from an individual retailer all the way up to a major national wholesale distributor – to grab data and run with it. If, for example, a part manufacturer had its own data API:
- Retailers could grab catalog data (e.g., pictures, descriptions, installation instructions, etc.) as they needed it, with no worries about data being out of date or incorrect
- Wholesale suppliers could grab up-to-date pricing and inventory information
- All partners can be buying and selling a manufacturer’s products in near real time and new products come to market.
These are just the basic benefits of an API-centric data management platform. Conceivably, APIs could exist for shipping data (where the API provides exact weight and dimension for exact shipping quotes), data error submission (where retailers could tell manufacturers about a fitment data error or inconsistency), consumer rating data (where retailers could share consumer ratings with manufacturers for individual SKUs, allowing manufacturers to identify quality issues)…and the list goes on and on.