The evolution of Parts Town’s relationship with Astound Commerce underscores the value of reassessing a client’s ecommerce needs—and changing course accordingly
In 2007, when we began working with Parts Town, a US-based distributor of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, the B2B industry’s foodservice corner was heavily manual. Print catalogs detailed the thousands of parts carried, and orders were taken by phone and fax. Over the ensuing years, we have partnered with Parts Town to modernize its operations, leverage new technologies, and transform its business model. These actions have led Parts Town to become the largest and most comprehensive OEM parts supplier in the industry.
Bolstered by our efforts, Parts Town has enjoyed 20 percent year-over-year growth for more than a decade. As the company grew, it became consumed by a new set of technical challenges, including a greater volume of site traffic and a desire to expand into international markets; it also wanted to leverage the data and web properties of its largest competitor, Heritage Foodservice Group, which it purchased in fall 2019. Additionally, Parts Town sought to build an in-house service team that would oversee some of its sites’ functionality, a divergence from the full-service model we had provided since the start.
At the beginning of our partnership with Parts Town, we built the company a first-of-its-kind site that automated ordering. In the ensuing years, we augmented that site with innovative technologies such as PartSPIN 360-degree imaging, PartsIQ real-time analytics, interactive Smart Manuals, and search functions based on serial number, manufacturer, and model—resources that stoked customer loyalty and drove market share. However, as Parts Town’s strategic goals shifted to competitor acquisition and international expansion, we needed to refocus our technical work on integration and scalability. This pivot needed to include a more robust and flexible ecommerce platform that would accommodate multiple websites. It also needed to allow the repackaging of Heritage’s digital properties to bring them under the Parts Town umbrella, and the data from its newly acquired and existing websites needed to be combined. Plus, to support Parts Town’s goal of greater control over its ecommerce properties, we needed to find a new working model in which we could collaborate side by side with Parts Town’s technical team, providing mission-critical partnership as their team grew into their roles.
To address Parts Town’s larger size and technical complexity, we moved the brand’s ecommerce functions to SAP Hybris. The platform would handle the increased site volume and more sophisticated user requirements effortlessly while affording Parts Town the flexibility to quickly customize new digital destinations, such as Canadian and Mexican versions of its site (which Astound launched in 2017 and 2020, respectively). It also allowed Parts Town to migrate their newly acquired American and Canadian web properties––formerly owned by Heritage––to its platform, laying the groundwork for a unified database that would be leveraged for marketing and sales purposes. While retooling the UX and visual design of these new properties, we also optimized their content, adding resources that aligned them more closely to the Parts Town brand. We built the Parts Town database in 2019 to expand its distribution network and allow for local pickup of items. Additionally, our team changed its project management approach to a SCRUM-based model in which Parts Town would control the project’s scope and delivery dates. We also implemented daily “sync meetings” with Parts Town, working in two-week sprints to achieve the agreed-upon goals.
By investing in and continually evolving its digital ecommerce ecosystem, Parts Town has become a market leader with lucrative, long-lasting customer relationships. We provided the company with the technical tools and framework to support operational efficiency, slash delivery times, and expand into new domestic and international markets. Our work with Parts Town to consolidate its brand and multiple streams of user data has accelerated its marketing efforts, decreased acquisition costs, and optimized the customer experience. An agile approach to the project’s management has deepened our collaborative partnership with Parts Town, reaffirming that their evolving needs will guide how our brands work together.