Digital Customers

Software Takes Self-Service Inventory Worldwide



Self-service facilities are a common business model in the auto recycling industry. There are an estimated 500 to 700 of these yards across North America. These facilities - with their one million vehicles in inventory - drain fluids, but store the vehicle whole and allow customers to pull their own parts. They typically cater to the local public, or anyone who can walk in through the door, unlike full-service yards which sell their parts nationwide via Internet-based parts locating systems and eBay; that is until now.

ROW52 is a self-service parts locating system based on a social commerce model. It allows virtually anyone to shop and buy parts from yards across the United States. It digitally connects part seekers with parts pullers. That means someone from Texas can go to http://row52.com, find a part from a self-service facility in California and a local parts puller will pull and ship it to them.

“Our experience as consumers and as automotive hobbyists was that self-service yards are a great source for quality OE parts, but due to the nature of the business model, the parts are inaccessible to most people. Unless you live near a self-service yard and have time / know-how to pull your own part, you otherwise have no ability to get these parts,” said Chirag Asaravala, who launched the company in March 2013 with Jon Mikelonis.

Asaravala and Mikelonis were involved in an online automotive publication prior to starting the business. They understood the self-service business from the consumer end, but the product benefits auto recyclers as well. Asaravala said they studied self-service yards and found that 70 percent of a vehicle’s parts go unsold. And, eBay sells those parts for as much as 100-times the self-service price because of the supply and demand disconnect.

“We know that self-service yards do not want to change their operations and pull, inventory, ship parts,” Asaravala explained. “We felt that we could solve these problems by giving consumers more ‘virtual’ access to the vehicles that are in the yards - by making that inventory available through the web, apps, inventory alerts, images, etc.”

They also wanted to give self-service facilities an easy way to take advantage of this technology. They created the ROW52 Yard Manager. It is a free, web-based tool that allows self-service facilities to display parts, one-by-one, on ROW52’s web and mobile platforms. Operators can either claim their yard from ROW52’s prepopulated directory of North American self-service yards, or add their yard to the directory themselves. A yard operator can edit their business and yard profile and add vehicles one at a time with just a VIN. Images of the vehicles can also be uploaded.

But, for a fee, ROW52 also offers an automated integration feature that syncs with inventory management systems such as Hollander and CRUSH, or even an excel file. The inventory is updated each night. There are 85 yards currently doing it this way. This automated feature costs $99 per month or $139 if the yard has more than 1,500 vehicles.

Once inventory is added to ROW52, it becomes available to users via ROW52’s search and alert features on ROW52.com and the ROW52 Search Junkyards apps for iOS and Android.

“ROW52.com and the ROW52 apps give our participating yards the ability to give their customers the latest and greatest tools for the just $99 a month,” Asaravala stated. “Also, participating yards get the huge marketing benefits by being on ROW52. Now all of a sudden their inventory is being viewed by parts seekers all over the world, not just in their local market. We bring them more eyeballs and more customers.”

The parts pullers that help make this operation work are independent agents that sign up on ROW52. They create a profile, set their own fees and conditions and receive requests from through ROW52 from parts seekers.

“It’s a social-commerce concept we launched just six months ago that is taking off really well,” Asaravala admitted. “We’ve had parts pullers send parts on a barge to Alaska, via freight to Europe and South America, as well as through standard post and UPS all over the United States. This is the ultimate benefit to the self-service yard operator - the ability to generate more parts sales through ROW52 without having to change their operations one bit.”

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