Keystone News

With consolidation rampant throughout the U.S. economy, the RV industry’s aftermarket parts and accessories companies – suppliers, dealers and distributors alike – are now taking their turn. The driver in this case is LKQ Corp. (Nasdaq: LKQ), a Fortune 500 company that in less than two years has acquired the nation’s top three distributors – Keystone Automotive Operations Inc.’s NTP Distribution Inc., Atlanta-based Stag-Parkway Inc. and, most recently, The Coast Distribution System Inc. The fact that all three companies are now operating under the same corporate umbrella managed by Keystone – one dominant player — has generated plenty of industry buzz on several levels. So, Bill Rogers, vice president and general manager of Keystone/NTP-STAG, agreed to address some of those concerns in this, a new weekly e-feature called, ah, “The Buzz.”

RVB: Some in the marketplace right now are concerned at how all this consolidation may potentially limit options for suppliers and dealers and result in higher prices. How would you respond to that criticism as it relates to the NTP, STAG and Coast rollup?

Rogers: We know there’s a concern out there. We know it because we are in constant contact with our suppliers and dealers as we work through our integration plan and because we are listening and making strategic decisions to ensure that those concerns are addressed up front.

From a suppliers perspective I think the benefits of consolidation are sometimes lost in the debate. If you consider the cost of selling to three competitors – the cost of training, supporting catalogs, trade shows, discounts and promotions – it is considerable. Not just from a financial perspective, but from a time perspective as well. Essentially it takes three times the effort. Take this a step further and consider the effort that was required to fill orders for more than 20 warehouse locations. That’s 20 P.O.’s, 20 AR records that have to be managed, 20 picks and 20 shipments. Consolidation cuts the amount of work to service the accounts from an administrative perspective by two-thirds.

The other benefit that comes along with having a larger presence in the market is coverage. This is a critical and often overlooked benefit when suppliers are considering their distribution strategy. Here’s an example of what I’m referring to: Imagine getting complete market coverage – U.S. and Canada — on a key product launch. When you can leverage an organization like ours, the sheer size brings an inertia and energy to the initiative that translates into improved business. It’s a lot harder to get that kind of penetration and collaborative results working with several different companies or businesses that don’t understand the market.

RVB: Is your approach to the RV industry any different than it is for your automotive clients?

We have made considerable changes to how Keystone fundamentally operates to insure the “automotive” model doesn’t override the requirements to serve our RV customers. We have unique order entry requirements for RV and automotive. We have separate sales teams for both. Most of our product management and marketing functions are unique to the market. Most important, we have exceptional people who came to us through our acquisitions and have been in the industry for years and years. These folks know more than we could ever learn if we had to develop the know-how organically.

With those changes and experience come significant benefits to our dealer customers as well. We have the largest inventory of parts and accessories in the market, so dealers shouldn’t have to hunt around for the part they’re looking for. We also have unique marketing, education, merchandising and trade show offerings that the individual competitive companies would have had difficulty delivering. So, you see, consolidation has benefits for dealers, too.

RVB: What about pricing – a delicate topic that logically emerges when one company, in this case Keystone, gains such a dominant edge?

You know, we’ve made it a priority to try and keep our pricing aligned with what customers were getting from their prior distributor. It hasn’t been easy. In some instances we found that dealers were buying below our costs, which needed to be corrected. In some instances we found that we mismanaged the data during integration and inadvertently changed a price – which, by the way, we corrected once we discovered our error.

In some instances we actually lowered the price. We are not consciously going out and raising prices to our customers. We are however, mindful of maintaining reasonable margins so that we can continue to support the market for the long haul.

At the end of the day, consolidation brings about an emotional response from folks. We get that. What we are trying to do is stay focused on the task at hand – maintaining our service levels through integration – while building an organization that earns the trust of our customers. We honestly don’t mind being held to a high standard because we believe as the leader we should set the pace and tone for the type of experience customers deserve. Our hope is this standard is applied equally across the market as suppliers and dealers consider their options.

1) Have a plan! You’re there to see some great vehicles, but you’re also there to develop and expand your business. Take advantage of the opportunity; get on the website and make sure you identify where and who you have to connect with. And always make sure you spend a few hours for the new products section, which is a must for all attendees.

2) Set your appointments so you’re in one hall for as long as possible. If you don’t then you will lose precious time walking back and forth between North, South and Central.

3) Swipe your card and have the manufacturers send you catalogs – carrying all those books could slow you down.

4) Spend time at the OE manufacturers’ booths to see what platforms they are focusing on so you know what’s in store for your businesses’ future

5) The show does not end at 5PM – SEMA and hundreds of participating manufacturers promote their own events and attending those events will help you create meaningful contacts and connections for your business in the future.

6) Don’t get comfortable – take the time to look at things that you don’t normally sell. You never know what you might see that can diversify your business!

Recent Articles

Are You Tripping Up Your Customers on Their Path to Purchase?

It is no secret that a consumer’s journey to making a purchase is convoluted. The advent of online shopping, social networking and the availability of more information than ever before has created better informed and somewhat hard to predict buyers. In an October 2016 Thinking with Google article—titled 7 ways to win consumers on their path to purchase—the author states that the path to purchase is rarely linear and more akin to a scavenger hunt. To be successful today, a business must find ways to make sure they are found and captured in that hunt.

To get into the game you have to be ready to play and there are hundreds of books, articles, blog entries and white papers that provide insight into content, page design, search engine optimization, customer engagement, advertising and transaction management strategies that can help lay a foundation for your ecommerce initiatives. Not getting these things right will definitely hamper your success rate.

Oddly enough, however, those fundamentals are not what trips up consumers when they are making purchases online. Steven Noble, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, stated that a consumer passes through four lifecycle phases on their path to purchase: Discover, Explore, Buy and Engage. Historically, online and instore experiences—Discover and Explore—are positive and helpful in steering consumers to a buying decision.

It is at the Buy phase that eCommerce and instore purchases stall. In-store a consumer may fail to pull the trigger on a purchase because of price, experience with sales person, product availability and host of other reasons. Online that failure to commit is recorded as an abandoned cart and it is a significant problem for ecommerce stores. In his January 2019 article on Barilliance.com, Stephan Serrano states that the average online store loses over 75 percent of their sales to cart abandonment.

Why are we able to get them to the gate but trip them up at the finish?

The reasons are plenty but center on transparency. Research by Statista and Baymard cite shipping and other unexpected costs along with the need to set up a user account as the primary motivators for not completing transactions. In the Barymard study of 1,799 U.S. adults in 2017, 60 percent of the respondents said they abandoned a cart because the extra costs associated with shipping, tax and fees were too high.

Imagine if you could claw back some of that 60 percent, not to mention the other 22 percent we leave at the alter because we want them to set up user accounts. Seamless, painless and easy to execute transactions can close more business. Buy-as-a-guest is a popular solution and offering free shipping can certainly help. However, tight profit margins can make free shipping services unaffordable for some businesses.

Keystone Automotive’s Parts Via sales network provides an innovative solution that tackles these issues head on. Parts Via connects brick and mortar retailers to supplier sites and the consumers looking to buy online. A simple Buy Now button inserted on the supplier’s site allows the consumer to purchase at the peak of their exploration process and choose to have their product shipped-to-home or shipped-to-store. Whatever shipping option is selected the retailer and the supplier benefit from the transaction.

The simplicity of the transaction process—no user account required—keeps consumers engaged and the free shipping, ship-to-store option delivers two distinct benefits. It gives the consumer what they are looking for (free shipping) and it provides traffic to the brick and mortar business allowing them to add to the original purchase and offer installation and other services. The Parts Via Network currently supports multiple supplier partners and 2,000-plus dealer members and many additional partners and dealers are coming online daily.

Keystone recently previewed its new consumer website partsvia.com during its annual BIG show in Dallas, as part of the program’s Phase II rollout. The site will complement the Buy Now functionality on supplier sites and have the added benefit of hosting all the Parts Via supplier’s products in one location. The new site will include a robust parts look-up tool, fresh content and ship-to-store and ship-to-home options. A new appointment scheduling feature, allowing Parts Via dealers to promote available installation times, will be added soon.

Keystone has also launched its Parts Via Amazon Marketplace store. This storefront will sell products under the Parts Via banner and generate similar benefits for the member Network Dealers, where every transaction, a portion of the sale is shared with a Parts Via Network Dealer. The storefront’s current 2,661 SKUS are made up of high-volume MAP brands that help maintain margins throughout the supply chain.

A new loyalty program is also available to Parts Via network members. The new loyalty program employs a tiered approach to participation that makes getting involved easy and scalable for future growth regardless of a business’s size, focus or markets served. As a Parts Via Network Dealer’s participation and engagement with Keystone grows so to do the benefits of being in the Parts Via Loyalty Program.

 

Keystone Automotive Announces 2019 RAM Project: The TerraRAM

Exeter, PA – Keystone Automotive Operations announced during its BIG Show at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, TX, plans to build a customized 2019 RAM 1500 show vehicle – the TerraRAM.  Modeled to be the Ultimate Overland Adventure Vehicle, the TerraRam will be a fully self-contained, on- and off-road explorer that combines rugged good looks with the latest technology and performance improvement products available in the aftermarket.

 

“We wanted this project to be a collaborative one where we have a chance to showcase the products and brands going into the build along with our customers that will be instrumental in putting the whole thing together,” says Larry Montante, VP of Category Management. Playing off the BIG Show theme, “The Ultimate Road Trip”, TerraRAM will be taken on a year-long odyssey that will feature Keystone customers contributing to the build along the way. Larry adds, “We think it will be a terrific way to build a community around the project and shine a bright light on the suppliers and installers that help make it happen.”

 

Shrouded under a cover on the exhibit hall floor during BIG Show, the TerraRAM drew a lot of attention and questions from attendees and exhibitors. “The show is a great platform to create some excitement for the project. We have a clear vision about the features we want to build into the truck and look forward to flushing out the finer details over the next 30 days as we sift through the proposals we received from suppliers that want to be part of the project,” says Larry. “Suffice it to say, the TerraRAM will embody the spirit of travel wherever the road leads.”

 

Plans for the TerraRAM include featuring the latest in solar and satellite technology to improve off-grid connectivity. Additionally, extensive suspension improvements, exterior and interior upgrades, performance enhancements and a few surprises from Keystone’s RV supplier partners will help make the vehicle a home on the road. The company’s goal is to deliver a comfortable, self-sustained earth traveler that can thrive in the most remote locations and harshest conditions. 

 

The truck will be equipped for boondocking, rock-hopping and interstate travel (but only as a last resort) and have an extensive array of technology and performance products provided by the distributor’s supplier partners. “Through terraRAM we hope to illustrate the value aftermarket products have in helping enthusiasts realize their vision for how they want their vehicles to look and be used,” commented Harneet Kaur, Directory of Marketing at Keystone.

 

According to Kaur, this TerraRAM is more than a typical truck build project. “While our intention is to create a vehicle capable of far reaching journeys, we also intend to follow the journey that makes it capable,” she says.  By documenting the build and following the vehicle across the country as it goes from stock to the TerraRAM, the company hopes the product and installer profiles they produce and promote on social media and other select media outlets, creates awareness and interest for the sponsors’ products and the vehicle itself.

 

Keystone invites the industry and enthusiasts everywhere to take part in the TerraRAM’s journey in 2019 by following the project on Keystone Social Media Channels, TheEngineBlock.com and selected media outlets.  

 

Keystone is the leading distributor and marketer of automotive aftermarket products and services, uniquely positioned to offer customers and suppliers substantial scale, the most comprehensive inventory selection in the industry, high levels of customer service, and innovative marketing support. Keystone is committed to expanding its offerings to meet the ever-growing needs of its customer base, providing them what they need, when they need it.


70 New Suppliers to Exhibit at BIG Show

EXETER, PA – Keystone Automotive Operations’ BIG Show is adding a lot of new features… and exhibitors to its event March 8-9 at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas.  In addition to a Warn sponsored keynote by Ken Schmidt, a double-header concert featuring Tim Montana and Karen Waldrup and casino night presented by WeatherGard, the BIG show is attracting new suppliers as exhibitors like never before.

“We have more than 70 suppliers exhibiting this year that weren’t at our 2018 event,” says John Spaulding, Director of Events for Keystone Automotive Operations. “The interest in BIG Show as a way for suppliers to connect with jobbers, dealers, installers and retailers continues to grow. Our show platform is becoming the premier destination for introducing new products, selling to new customers and engaging with the market in ways that most of us can’t in our day-to-day roles. It’s a vital part of our business and we know our customers and suppliers look forward to it every year.”

New items are essential to the aftermarket and its more than just model year changeover that’s driving new product development. Innovative solutions for improving vehicle performance, whether it’s suspension, exhaust, engine, tires and wheels or accessories that enhance the overall functionality, are creating sales opportunities for aftermarket product resellers and installers. Events like BIG Show play a pivotal role in showcasing these opportunities and connecting all the supply chain players in an effort to grow sales for everyone.

“The show experience has been designed to focus on new products,” says Spaulding. “We have a New Products Showcase with more than 180 new items on display. In addition, 36 companies are exhibiting new Point-of-Purchase tools that give our attendees ideas about how to merchandise and sell new products in their stores.” New suppliers will be highlighted on the BIG Show floor map and will be prominently featured throughout the event.

Brand new suppliers to Keystone will be showcased in a special sales promotion at BIG Show. Golden tickets representing extra bonus discounts will be given to every attendee. The tickets can be used for purchases from the 40 exhibitors at the event that are new to Keystone.

“Our sales initiatives and on-the-floor activity are all about helping our customers grow their business,” states Vice President of Sales for Keystone Automotive Operations, Fred Petrivelli. “We know that these new product and new lines can have an incredible impact on their sales and profits and want to make sure they are aware of the opportunities so they can make informed decisions about the best way to serve their customers and their businesses in the future,” he adds.

The Keystone BIG Show is the industry’s largest distributor event in North America drawing thousands of attendees from Canada and the United States. Host to more than 200 exhibiting companies, nearly 100 show vehicles and an agenda packed with special events and networking opportunities, the BIG Show is the place to be March 8-9 in Grapevine, TX.

Keystone is the leading distributor and marketer of automotive aftermarket products and services, uniquely positioned to offer customers and suppliers substantial scale, the most comprehensive inventory selection in the industry, high levels of customer service, and innovative marketing support. Keystone is committed to expanding its offerings to meet the ever-growing needs of its customer base, providing them what they need, when they need it most.

Keystone’s Parts Via Program to add Broader e-Commerce Reach and Loyalty Benefits for Its Members

Exeter, PA - In 2017, Keystone Automotive Operations launched Parts Via, an innovative sales network that linked organic site traffic at its brand  partner’s websites to local brick and mortar business via a “Buy Now” button. The profits from the online transactions are shared among the participating supplier partners and dealers while the free, ship-to-store delivery option served as a catalyst for driving consumer traffic to the local business. This new, incremental business stimulated add-on sales, installation revenue and service opportunities, furthering the value of the Parts Via Program to its membership.

The company announced that it is launching Phase II of Parts Via to the automotive aftermarket during its annual BIG Show March 8-9, 2019 at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, TX. This phase includes program enhancements that expand e-commerce reach through a consumer facing website and marketplace store. In addition, Parts Via members will be part of a new customer Parts Via loyalty program.

“Our development roadmap for Parts Via has always included growing the network though enhanced tools and participation,” stated Bill Rogers, President of Keystone. “We recognized early on that a consumer’s path to purchase is one with many forks and the decisions made by them along their journey impact where the final purchase is made. We wanted to build a program that put our partners in the best competitive position to capture the sale regardless of where and when a consumer chooses to buy something, whether it is in a store or online.” He concludes.

Keystone will be previewing its new consumer website www.partsvia.com during the BIG Show as part of the Phase II rollout. The site will complement the “Buy Now” functionality on partner sites and have the added benefit of hosting all the Parts Via partner products in one location. The new site will include a robust parts look-up tool, fresh content and ship-to-store / ship-to-home options. “This will further expand the opportunity for our brick and mortar Network Dealers to participate in an on-line sale that may have otherwise gone around them.”  Also, a new appointment scheduling feature that will allow Parts Via Network Dealers to promote available installation times will be added soon.

Understanding the sheer volume of business generated through online marketplaces that brick and mortar businesses are not participating in, prompted the company to look for a solution that allows their customers to claw back some of that lost revenue. Keystone has launched its Parts Via Amazon Marketplace store. This storefront will sell products under the Parts Via banner and generate similar benefits for the member Network Dealers. The storefront’s current 2,661 SKUS are made up of high-volume MAP brands that help maintain margins throughout the supply chain.

“As we thought about the introduction of Parts Via Phase II, we wanted to leverage some of the unique capabilities we are providing our customers and wrap them into a loyalty program,” said Larry Montante, VP Category Management. “We are introducing the Parts Via Loyalty program in conjunction with the Phase II launch.” The new loyalty program employs a tiered approach to participation that makes getting involved easy and scalable for future growth regardless of a business’s size, focus or markets served. As a Parts Via Network Dealer’s participation and engagement with Keystone grows so to do the benefits of being in the Parts Via Loyalty Program.

The dealer’s benefits will be determined by their status within the Silver, Gold and Platinum levels of the program. Some examples of the benefits include dealer web locator placement and positioning, Parts Via profit share, installation network inclusion, marketing support, BIG Show benefits, preferred product access, exclusive promotional opportunities, unique travel and event incentives, and Keystone services incentives.

“Just like airline mileage programs, we intend to award points and member benefits based on sales and other goals,” says Montante. He adds, “We will be using an online rewards tracking program that will allow our customers to monitor their status in real time and redeem their points on a variety of member rewards.” The availability of these new tools and services will allow Keystone to expand the Parts Via value proposition to its Brand Partners and Network Dealers driving more business back into local businesses.   

Keystone is the leading distributor and marketer of automotive aftermarket products and services, uniquely positioned to offer customers and suppliers substantial scale, the most comprehensive inventory selection in the industry, high levels of customer service, and innovative marketing support. Keystone is committed to expanding its offerings to meet the ever-growing needs of its customer base, providing them what they need, when they need it.

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