Mercantile Group is one of the Nordic’s largest distributors of automotive spare parts and accessories. Throughout their 116-year old history, one of the key strategies of Mercantile Group has been to focus on their customers’ and market needs and, by helping their business customers to grow and succeed with new solutions, ensure also their own success. When Mercantile Group recognized the big shift in the end-customer service expectation, and the challenges and opportunities digital transformation creates for the maintenance and repair businesses, that is exactly what they did.
Helping Small Workshops To Compete
We are living in the era of services and mobile-first customers. For workshops to remain competitive in the environment of continuously decreasing customer loyalty and ever-increasing competition, they need to provide the digital-savvy customers a convenient and seamless customer experience, not just to replace the parts at the workshop like before (a sure-fire way to competition on price). While difficult even for the largest automotive businesses, for the small independent workshops this digital transformation – implementing own applications, mobile clients, and online tools – is an insurmountable task. Mercantile Group recognized that for their customers to remain competitive also in the digital era they need to have access to ready-made applications which enable them to provide new service experience to their customers and increase their business efficiency.
What Mercantile Group decided to implement was a shared smart maintenance and fleet management platform. While sharing the platform with multiple workshops, it gives each business their own ‘light-branded’ application and the ability to provide better services to their customers, for example
- Online and Mobile Applications
With the shared platform the independent businesses can offer their personalised services to online and mobile-first customers with “Your Home Workshop” branding on all the applications
- Advanced Booking Calendar
With the booking calendar the workshops can not only offer their customers a convenient booking on online and mobile apps but also accurate parts cost and labour estimates at the time of booking
- Automatic Maintenance Invites
The workshops can monitor their customers’ vehicle maintenance needs and, by proactive maintenance invites, provide better services and optimise their own utilisation
- Vehicle Dashboard and History
With the platform dashboard the workshop customers can monitor their vehicle use, costs, maintenance needs and history. They also have the vehicle detailed history and health-record always at their fingertips assisting them not just maintaining their vehicles but also in getting a higher resell value
- Real-Time Monitoring and Assistance
With the advanced features the workshop can have a real-time view into the vehicle status and error codes, remotely analyse the vehicle health and reset errors, assist their customers over the phone and, when needed, even send road-side assistance.
- Useful Customer Features For Private Vehicle Owners
By offering the private vehicle users also additional useful features, like driving style analysis, automatic tax reporting, and vehicle locator, the workshops can further increase their relevance to the customers.
- Advanced Fleet Management Features
With the advanced fleet management features (especially when combined with the maintenance views), the independent workshops can become an invaluable partner for their business customers.
Increasing Revenues At The Price of Cup of Coffee
For the workshops to be able to adopt new solutions, the technology needs to be cost efficient and, as the shops have very limited IT-capabilities, simple to adopt and use. Mercantile Group achieved this by adopting a Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) model and a modular platform structure. With the implementation approach the workshops can be offered a comprehensive suite of applications at the price of few cups of coffee per month (tens of dollars) and the workshops’ costs increase only when also their revenues increase. For example, when they offer advanced fleet management features to their customers. The model provides a rapid Return-On-Investment also for the Mercantile Group themselves as it requires only a minimal upfront investment and scales almost linearly with the number of business users and features.
Winning Together With Service Level and Quality
By enabling the workshops to offer improved services to their customers, Mercantile Group is successfully implementing their strategy of growing with the customers: As the workshops are more successful, serving more vehicles more frequently, they are also using more parts from Mercantile Group. By being a partner to their customers and not just a parts distributor, Mercantile Group also creates customer preference for their products and increases the loyalty of their franchisee and workshop network. A testimony to this strategy are the excellent results achieved in the workshop sales and productivity using the digital channels. The impact of the digital transformation is also reflected in the customer perception of the service quality with some Mercantile Group brands like Autoasi (a franchisee maintenance chain with close to 300 workshops) almost attaining the ‘dealer service’ status.