It is Time to Teach Category Managers to Think Critically

Critical thinking skills allow aftermarket category managers to solve product inventory problems.

Posted in Parts & Components


 When you are preparing inventory levels for the coming months, it always is best to look at year over year data. This information is one of the best ways to see what product you need more of, which you should move to other locations for better shipping or when to discuss buybacks with your manufacturer partners.

But what about the unexplainable? Sometimes buying patterns appear seemingly out of nowhere. While this happens often on the retail side of the automotive distribution chain, wholesale customers also experience this with consumers requesting specific product or what appears to be a sudden shift in the type of work being performed.

There are ways your aftermarket parts distribution business’ category managers can improve their critical thinking skills to better address these shifts in buying patterns. Sue Nicholls, president of The Category Management Knowledge Group, lays out in four steps how category managers can solve these inventory mysteries. Alan Segal, an industry consultant, recently helped share these steps with the automotive aftermarket.

First, ask questions and gather data. There is an old adage that you cannot learn without asking questions, and that surely is true in these cases. Ask for information on as many data points as possible, such as customer traffic, closure rates, etc. to establish as clear of a picture as possible.

You can work with your customers, such as Spanesi SpA, which provides information customized solutions for customers to have the right product in the right place for the right use. Master-Sport Automobiltechnik (MS) is another example of a company working to make sure its online search and ordering systems are up-to-par and provide all of the information necessary to make the right decision.

Second, organize the findings. Keep an open mind while reading through the data and see what other information is available. Then you can move to the third step, which is to evaluate the information. Write down possible findings to consider and work through any possibilities that come to mind. Ask others involved in the sales area their thoughts and find any information you can that is not drawn from a spreadsheet. Finally, draw your conclusions and back them with the proper data.

This is where companies like KCS Consulting excel. KCS is a forerunner in providing dealership management solutions, automotive leasing solutions, interactive business intelligence dashboards, mobile based solutions and much more. The dashboards alone can provide the insight category mangers and others within the business need to evaluate the information and gather the data needed to back decisions.

As Segal and Nicholls share, being able to think critically like this is an increasingly important skill category managers need to have. More and more data is being compiled in our digital world, one filled with a growing number of competitors from various channels. Having the capabilities to process buying patterns and associated information and make the right moves to better a business can position your aftermarket parts distribution company as the first call for many shop customers.

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