5 Minutes

Are You Too Late For The Digital Aftermarket Race?

Written By

Sean Martin & Max Scarlatelli

Do you feel like David fighting Goliath when you compete with O’Reilly, Autozone, RepairSmith or While the Goliaths are appealing to the new generation of digital consumers with the digital sophistication of 2021, do you still use coupons, hand-out flyers, and waste hours driving to different cold appointments with little return? Do you enjoy throwing stones at giants?  

More importantly - do you remember what Netflix did to Blockbuster?  

As a business owner in the automotive aftermarket, picture yourself standing on a beach with your feet in the water. You notice some competitors swimming in the water, but you see no need to dive in as your business is doing fine on the shore. But as you watch the water recede, you notice there is a massive tidal wave forming in the distance. At this point, it’s your choice, do you want to dive in deep and learn how to swim with your competitors and try to get through the wave, or let it crash into you on the land?  

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In business, those who keep with the times survive these tidal waves and those who refuse to innovate fade away or drown (cough*Blockbuster*cough)

Now, having read that little teaser, do you have 5 minutes to spare?  

Good - I was hoping so.  

Go ahead and invest those 5 minutes into this quick read about how the automotive aftermarket needs to prepare for the digital revolution. Learn how you can prepare for the title wave so you’re the shark in the water your competitors are afraid of. 

The Automotive Aftermarket Post COVID-19

Before the quarantine, eCommerce was already starting to take over all types of shopping, sneaking into the automotive aftermarket. The lockdown has exacerbated this trend. eCommerce has been growing steadily over the past 10 years, but last year’s growth was astronomical.

In 2020, the U.S. eCommerce market grew to a whopping $794.5 billion in sales, a whole 32.5% increase from the prior year.

Consumer trust was probably the greatest barrier for eCommerce, which leveled the playing field for the retailers who were losing the convenience game.

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But as eCommerce has grown more reliable, that distrust is gone. So, what’s next?  Will you commit to upgrade your digital footprint to become a viable player in today’s digital shopping era, or will you become the next Blockbuster?  It’s your choice. And from my point of view, the choice is clear:

Global Market Insights even estimated that the automotive aftermarket eCommerce industry would grow to be valued at $135 billion by 2026 (over half the market)! 

Can you afford to ignore over half the market in the next 5 years?

The biggest players aren’t restricted to market mainstays like Autozone, Goodyear or O’Reilly’s.  Now they are competing against even larger players like Amazon and eBay Motors.

According to Mckinsey, more than a third of automotive aftermarket customers are using digital channels to get a clearer picture of the quality and cost of parts and services.

So, what’s your opportunity among these Goliaths?  

It’s your time to jump in and make your statement while the market is still growing and the dust hasn’t settled. The fight is young, and now’s your chance

Today’s Shifting Aftermarket Culture

In 2020, the world saw more than 150 million people shop online for the first time in their lives.

These are people who now know the simple convenience of shopping from the comfort of their own homes. They’ve tasted the proverbial forbidden fruit of the digital age, and it’s unlikely that they would ever go back.

Does this apply to the automotive aftermarket?  

Surprisingly, the answer is NO.  

In fact, according to McKinsey, today’s auto repair facilities and installers almost exclusively buy aftermarket parts through non-digital means, with upwards of 80% of their purchases going through physical channels.  

The inevitable problem is that digital ordering will, of course, grow as the aftermarket adapts to the online market. 

The question is - will you grow with it? 

Doing It Your Dad’s Way

Think about your father’s generation and how they dealt with their automotive repair needs. 

Back then, they knew their local mechanics. They knew how to diagnose most of their own cars’ issues, and half the time taking the car in for a repair was to enjoy shop-talk more than to rely on the expert hands of their fellow gearhead.

Caring for your vehicle meant more to people back then.  Knowing how to care for and repair your car (+ where to get it done right) was a source of machismo and expertise.

Nowadays, most shoppers spend less time comparing prices of their local repair shops, let alone searching for new ones. The usual Google Search associated with automotive repair these days is “repair shop near me.”  From which, the most highly clicked link is often the repair shop within the closest distance to the searcher. Price is even a much less important consideration in today’s age of convenience and expedience.

It’s no surprise that mobile app repair units like the RepairSmiths are taking the market by storm. In a generation of consumers hooked up to a steady IV drip of Netflix and UberEats, why not add automotive care to the list of automated, app-solution chores of modern life?

What matters isn’t that the good-ol-days of the car enthusiast are gone, but that the mobile-oriented-consumers are here.  Which means that you need to make a commitment to tailor your business and marketing methods to reach these new digitally versed, mobilized consumers.

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The last thing you want is to start collecting rust like the old VW bug you haven’t had the time to restore because you’ve been too busy working harder, not smarter, trying to keep up with this younger shopping generation.

Oh. . . awkward . . .

Luckily for you, this transition in consumer generations simply means the beginning of a new frontier for you to conquer.

Your Opportunity Is Here

After a couple of decades of baby boomers being the stars of the economy, the baton is now being passed to the next generation - millennials.

A millennial is defined as someone who was born between 1982 and 1999, and as of 2020, there are 82.22 million millennials in the United States alone.

It’s estimated that almost the entire millennial population - 85.9% of them - is now buying digitally.  For millennials, self-managed car maintenance is something out of the past and is being replaced by an increasing dependence on car repair services.

According to, half of the people from the ages 55-65 learned basic car maintenance from their parents, but in the next generations, people from ages 45 and less, we’ve seen a 5% decrease in people learning these skills from their parents.  And even less from the “digital generation” Gen Z, with only 33% of them ever learning from their parents how to maintain a car.

Younger people know less and less about car maintenance. This is a real and undeniable trend. This is also a huge opportunity for you.  It’s time to capitalize on this generation’s reluctance to dedicate any personal attention to vehicle maintenance. Step up as the experts you are and step into the digital aftermarket ready to help. 

Are You Ready?

So, how will you attract this new market?

How can you be seen providing a real value to this younger, digital consumer base?

And how can you create loyalty in this new market without selling out?

Just like you can benefit from a coach to perfect your golf swing, you can benefit from a coach to improve your digital presence as well. That’s right - it’s time to look for a digital consulting agency that can help you grow efficiently and effectively

Find one who will engage users at their most valuable conversion points across multiple channels and devices. Ideally, work with an agency that can integrate these new strategies with your existing systems in order to organically optimize your business without disrupting your current workflows. Let them train you and coach you as you fine-tune your website and expand your digital footprint.

Learn about how Xspekt can optimize your business without rocking you out of the boat. Get your Free Proposal today.

x-act by xspekt

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