Improving heavy-duty truck parts sales with promotions

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When consumer retail stores have sales, more often than not it’s to create a sense of urgency and get customers filling their shopping carts. However, running promotions on heavy-duty truck parts and products can help aftermarket distributors and dealers in several ways.

In addition to the aforementioned urgency to generate immediate sales, promotions inform customers of what parts providers carry and enable customers to get ready for certain seasons.

“You get some immediate sales from [promotions],” says Daryle Settles, vice president, Weldon Parts. “Long term, it’s a customer building thing where hopefully they’ll remember we have that product so when they’re ready to buy, they think about us instead of somebody else.”

However, not all subscribe to the strategy of putting parts on sale — either they don’t believe in it or it hasn’t worked for them (see sidebar). Ultimately, it’s up to each distributor and dealer to decide if it’s right for their business.

Strategic specials

Aftermarket distributors and dealers typically run three kinds of specials: short-term, long-term and seasonal. All three types promote parts and products in different ways.

The short-term promotion generates immediate sales and is generally spurred by new or improved products or price reductions from suppliers, Settles says.

Regarding price reductions from suppliers, he cites as one example when the cost of LED headlights dramatically decreased.

Weldon Parts store

Short-term promotions generate immediate sales and are generally spurred by new or improved products or price reductions from suppliers, says Weldon Parts’ Daryle Settles.

“They were so expensive for so long and then vendors figured out how to cut the price so we reacted to that by putting together a promotion on that particular product because the price was more appealing,” Settles says.

He adds several new products released lately relate to connectivity between cab and trailer — such as three-way cables and connectors — and are ripe for special promotions.

“We saw that opportunity as something unique to put out there and somebody might think, ‘Wow, that’s kind of neat, I’ve been needing that,” Settle says.

With the long-term strategy, “We’re trying to plant a seed so when customers do need this product, they’ll remember we’d either talked about it or produced a flyer about it,” says Settles. “We’re trying to keep a product or vendor in front of the customer for an extended period of time; it wouldn’t be something people would necessarily buy on an impulse.”

Weldon Parts also runs a seasonal promotion for three months during winter, offering products such as antifreeze and fuel additives, he says.

Director of Parts Sales John Meuwissen says Allstate Peterbilt Group will put generic lines of parts on special that fit Peterbilt, Kenworth, Freightliner, Volvo and International. “We look at our history and pick out the fastest moving parts,” he says.

Like Weldon Parts, Allstate Peterbilt also promotes parts and products the dealer doesn’t expect to sell many of but wants its customers to know it’s something it offers. For example, Allstate Peterbilt recently started carrying Vanair compressor/generator/welder units.

The systems are pricey and the dealer doesn’t expect to sell many, but by promoting them, “it lets people know we carry them,” Meuwissen says, adding promotions can be about providing information as much as they can be about selling.

Allstate Peterbilt is planning a winter promotion to run from September through October to help its customers prepare for winter. The promotion will include air dryers, tire chains, fuel treatment, heater hoses, engine block and tank heaters, “anything that has to do with getting ready for winter,” says Sales Manager Roger Gibney.

Brad Williamson, director of marketing, Alliance Parts and Detroit Reman, says many factors go into determining what parts and products to put on special.

“Seasonality, availability, competitive pressure, product changes and advancement — this is a complicated equation our teams work on daily to understand the market and provide the right solution for the customer at the right time,” Williamson says. Alliance Parts will run specials on parts and products because they’re popular items as well as to move excess stock, he adds.

“For DTNA Parts, most of the products we run specials are on value offerings from Alliance and premier offerings from our supplier partners, which include a wide variety of products from wheel end to lubrication and from suspension to chassis,” he says.

Pricing considerations

Pricing a part to sell can be determined myriad ways and each distributor or dealer might have its own way of handling a promotion.

DTNA's Excelerator Parts site screen cap.

Alliance Parts uses the Excelerator e-commerce solution as its main way of promoting specials to its customers.

“Many of the promotions are similar but often have unique parameters,” says Williamson. “The offerings vary by part, product line and partner.”

Weldon Parts will determine how much gross profit it wants to make and price accordingly, though Settles acknowledges this can be difficult because of Weldon Parts’ 17 locations across five states.

“In some cases, because we’re so geographically spread, we’ll allow the store manager to pick his own selling price based on what he thinks the current market price is but, generally, we have this threshold of how low we’re willing to go,” Settles says.

At Allstate Peterbilt, Gibney says there’s no set margin or discount and pricing is determined based on years of experience.

What’s more, Gibney adds suppliers, such as Paccar, have loyalty programs that determine sale pricing. “That’s a discount we extend to our customers and then we go back to Paccar for reimbursement from them,” he says.

Meuwissen says the sale price is the same for all 21 Allstate Peterbilt Group locations. “Sometimes we’re cheaper than we need to be [in certain locations] but it tells our customers that no matter what location they buy from, they always pay the same price,” he says.

Allstate Peterbilt sales flyer

Allstate Peterbilt’s marketing department produces its flyers, and the dealer will have print runs between 2,500 and 3,000.

Promoting your promotions

What good is a promotion if customers don’t know about it? Promoting select parts and products will help distributors and dealers with what they are trying to achieve, whether it’s immediate or seasonal sales, stock awareness or an opportunity to have discussions with customers.

In addition to social media, traditional advertising and retail displays, Alliance Parts uses the Excelerator e-commerce solution as its principal way of promoting specials to its customers, Williamson says. Last May, Daimler Trucks North America launched Excelerator as its next-generation e-commerce platform to streamline the parts ordering process.

“Dealers publish their Alliance price out of their DMS, but we can push promotions through Inner Circle Rewards. That’s the extent of our retail reach right now, but that’s going to change,” says John Richardson, DTNA manager of digital marketing, aftermarket.

Weldon Parts produces a flyer it keeps on the parts counters at each of its locations and sales staff are given flyers to deliver and discuss the offerings with customers, Settles says.

Allstate Peterbilt’s in-house marketing department produces weekly, monthly and winter flyers and the dealer will have print runs between 2,500 and 3,000. The flyers are displayed in its parts departments, emailed as a PDF and given to its 35 outside sales representatives to distribute to customers.

The monthly trifold flyer features five panels of parts, with one panel featuring certain trucks for sale. The winter flyer is 10 pages full of what customers will need to get through winter. The weekly flyer is one or two discounted items.

“We’ve been very successful [with our flyers] and our reps love walking in with something to talk about. I’ve seen some of our guys spend 15 minutes walking through the flyer with a customer, answering his questions,” Meuwissen says.

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