In the "bad old days" of shopping for auto parts, they were purchased at local dealers with limited inventory. Customers dealt with a person sitting behind a counter sifting through huge stacks of catalogs. Items were sometimes available, but often they were out-of-stock or on back order. Or, in an even more worrisome situation, much-needed parts were ordered by your local mechanic with a “trust me” wink about the cost, just as he was about to tear apart your car.
As with so many other parts of retail, e-Commerce has made big changes to this not-so-customer-friendly model, and consumers are voting with clicks and taps.
AAA: Auto Parts + Amazon = Acceleration
A recent study by Hedges & Company found that while sales through auto parts stores showed less than 1% growth from 2014 to 2015, online sales of aftermarket auto parts experienced a 16% growth rate from 2015 to 2016, when they are expected to reach $7.4 billion. A large part of this growth has been generated by Amazon, which has become this market's single largest online retailer, offering nearly eight million auto parts.
In fact, it appears the e-Commerce cylinders are just starting to fire up, as Hedges & Company forecasts tremendous annual auto parts sales growth, including:
- 12% to 16% annual increases over the next four years;
- $1 billion increases in sales during each of the next four years;
- 2017 online sales projected to hit $8.4 billion; and
- Online sales to break the $10 billion mark in 2019.
Consumers are now purchasing more parts online and either completing installations themselves or, at the very least, arming themselves with a lot more knowledge about their mechanics’costs. The Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) Joint Channel Forecast Model projects conventional retail do-it-yourself (DIY) sales to grow 3.5% in 2016, according to Hedges & Company.
The Road To Omnichannel Success: Data Insight
How can auto parts retailers take advantage of these trends? Successfully leveraging an e-Commerce channel and the acquisition and retention of shoppers comes down to providing a differentiating customer experience. That can be helped along with smart use of consumer data. With today’s almost unlimited stacks of data inherent in e-Commerce, the answers to any consumer questions auto part dealers seek may be easier to access than a catalytic converter on a ’77 Dodge.