I receive a fair number of questions from people asking about what it takes to run BenzForce, what my margins are, how I source products, etc. It almost seems like people call looking for me to just hand over the keys to the kingdom at times but in most cases, I think it is just a general curiosity. I wanted to peel back the layers of the new website to explain why it took so long to get set up and also to explain what still needs to be done.
To establish a baseline, I have several parts suppliers and a number of contract manufacturers I use. Of these suppliers, two are some of the largest aftermarket part suppliers in the USA. Another is an import replacement part supplier, then I have my Holset suppliers, Dieselmeken and NPR which is technically a manufacturer that is also a supplier. Contract manufacturers really aren’t needed for the discussion since those products are under the BenzForce label.
When creating the new site, the decision was made to expand to include parts for newer chassis models. One supplier has over 300,000 part numbers so manual investigation of parts was near impossible so I took data from both suppliers, loaded it in an Oracle database and filtered down products that contained Mercedes in the description. I then added products I previously sold such as gauges, Turbosmart, and a few other items. The volume was still pretty crazy with well over 3000 SKUs, so departments (menu headings) and categories (sub-menus) were filtered down to areas of interest.
Suppliers provide no detailed description or images. I would love to have used the SEMA data co-op but from past experience, there was little benefit to do so and manufacturers take a long time to approve access to their data. Therefore, image and description information was entered locally and bulk uploaded into the store via custom data feeds I created. This was the creation of our initial offering.
Next, I had to worry about inventory levels and pricing. Therefore, I created services to download product updates, inventory, and pricing 3 times a day from the aftermarket suppliers. Another task runs to identify the lowest price the part can be offered while complying with the manufacturer’s minimum advertised price. After that, a final task will run to update the eCommerce site with the new pricing and inventory levels. Price calculations can get pretty complex based on dropship fees, jobber, retail, map and cost pricing variances between suppliers but it appears to be working as expected. Throughout the day, these custom processes send status updates via text so it can run in a hands-off fashion and I know the health of the system at all times.
Future updates to the site will revolve around promotions, product selection, and tagging products for easier identification. Everyone loves a discount! I hope to make regular promotions a thing on the site. In addition, the forced induction category needs to be built out with BorgWarner, Garretts and other categories. I would also like to offer more on the engine rebuild parts and electronics. Finding parts may initially be a challenge for shoppers; therefore, I hope to get all model specific parts tagged with a chassis model. That way if someone with a w210 wants a big brake kit, they can just search “w210 brake” and see the relevant content. This will be a major undertaking and but will be in the works soon.
Now you know what happened while we went offline!