February 1, 2023
Like many next-gen trailblazers in the distribution space, Zac Jones, founder and CEO of PartsClub, grew up in the family business, surrounded by its potential and pain points. But rather than keep his success in-house, he’s now offering an e-commerce platform for all, helping buyers and sellers connect virtually over quotes and orders without revenue-costing delays. Jason caught up with Zac to learn more about how this transformative marketplace solution leverages the power of often insurmountable SKU data to enhance a distributor’s reach and foster genuine customer interaction.
“There’s nothing worse than having somebody from Silicon Valley marching into a vertical and building very expensive software that nobody wants.” Zac’s assessment is spot-on. Big tech disappointments litter the distribution landscape: e-com platforms that are too ponderous to roll out effectively or too flimsy to absorb complex buying relationships. The real issue, says Zac, isn’t with a particular platform’s coding but rather its connection to the vertical it’s supposed to support. “It's really important that you have that humility and empathy for the problems people face.”
PartsClub was born out of familiar––and familial––frustration. After an extended time away from the family supply business, Zac returned to the fold and, in 2014, began digitizing the company’s inventory. He estimated the project would take three to four grueling months to get products weighed, photographed, counted, and described. “It actually took three to four years,” he laughs. While the gains didn’t come overnight, Zac points out that the extended effort eventually paid off. The company saw a 50 to 60% increase via online sales “We started out doing zero [online], and when I left, we were doing about $100K a month.”
Today, PartsClub empowers distributors to realize impressive gains without the arduous up-front labor of putting an entire warehouse online. “We say, why don't we get [verified buyers] to request that information from you first,” Zac explains. Once a quote is requested, the seller decides if they want to engage, and only then do they fill in a product’s digital details. The platform propels suppliers into the online arena in 15 minutes instead of three or four years. “[PartsClub] is about visibility, ease of use, keeping costs down for the buyers, and keeping things simplified,” says Zac.
Finally, a homegrown, data-driven solution.
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“One of the magic things that I think is underrated when it comes to distributors and e-commerce is the value of that SKU number [ ] because of how long and unique it tends to be. You tend to get free Google ads essentially because it's such a low-friction search.”
“If we know it's a supply side problem and we know we need to unlock that supply side, we know the inventory counting and uploading is the problem, let's bypass it. Let's not fix it; let's bypass it.”
“We focus on three words: connection, collaboration, and commerce.”
“What we actually said was, no, no, no, no, no! We don't wanna own the customer relationship. We want to enhance your customer relationship. We want to digitize it.”
“The core thing is really about helping businesses expand beyond their local market.”
“The buyer is really driving the demand of this platform as well. It's not just the supply side, although there is a supply constraint. It really comes down to what information does the buyer have––and this is an enormous part of the e-commerce conversation.”
“You don't have to go to China. You don't have to go to Taiwan. You don't have to go to Vietnam to get a great price product. You just have to get visibility on who has it and who can do it.”
“My goal is just to help those thousands of smaller businesses [ ] get online and take advantage of that opportunity. I saw how important it was for my father's business and others like them, and I just want to see them get that extra 10 or 15% into their business that would allow them to step up into that next level that they're looking to do.”
Distribution Talk is produced by The Distribution Team, a consulting services firm dedicated to helping wholesale distribution clients remove barriers to profitability, generate wealth and achieve personal goals.
This episode was edited & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios.
Special thanks to our sponsor for this episode: INxSQL Distribution Software, integrated distribution ERP software designed for the wholesale and distribution industry.