Industry Insights & Trends

Auto Repair: Parts vs. Service

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Customer Journey — Consumers Doing Own Automotive Repairs

Consumers who purchase parts/accessories to repair their vehicles themselves are doing so via online platforms. According to Digital Commerce 360, online auto parts and accessories sales are projected to grow by 29.9% this year. Most of these sales are taking place on mobile devices.

Mobile Devices

  • According to Hedges & Co., more than 65% of total traffic on auto parts and accessories websites come from mobile devices. The analysis continues to report that “it’s common for a shopper to visit a website multiple times over several days or weeks, using multiple devices: maybe it’s a computer during the day at work and a phone at home in the evening. When a buying decision is reached, a shopper’s mobile phone is often the last device used to check out and buy a product.”

Auto Parts/accessories Consumer Search Patterns

  • Consumers looking for auto parts/accessories follow six search patterns. These patterns are; part type search, part numbers, information search, symptom, brand search, and part function search.

Consumer Search Patterns

Part Type Search

  • Consumers looking for auto parts/accessories to repair their vehicles focus mostly on the part type when conducting their search. This search varies from general parts/accessories such as mufflers, pistons, fender flares, and complex modified auto parts searches such as the vehicle make, model, year of manufacture, and transmission type.
  • Part Numbers Search
  • Since consumers looking for auto parts/accessories to repair their vehicles themselves are well informed, part numbers search is crucial when shopping. Part numbers reduce the chances of ordering the wrong auto parts/accessories while providing alternatives for similar parts.

Information Search

Symptom Search

  • Consumers looking for auto parts/accessories to repair their vehicles look for information to diagnose problems and symptoms. This search is more complex and typically entails looking for parts by vehicle fitment. Consumers do these searches based on specific car models, make, or year of manufacture.

Brand Search

Part Function Search

  • Consumers servicing their vehicles look for functionality information of the various parts/accessories they intend to buy. However, these searches are less specific than the part type searches and get modified by vehicle fitment.

Auto Parts/accessories Purchase Influencers.

  • Various influencers compel consumers of auto parts/accessories who make purchases to repair their vehicles by themselves. Some influencers include online coupons and emails that offer discounts.
  • According to a survey conducted by UPS and comScore, most shoppers (63%) for auto parts/accessories use online coupons, while 52% are likely to shop online for auto parts/accessories if they receive emails offering them discounts.
  • While shopping online, upgrade customers look for product reviews and details, while replacement parts shoppers search for availability and the best price. Both of these shoppers may choose one store over the other based on various factors, with 52% of the shoppers looking for the best price, 45% for product availability, and 37% for selection.
  • The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant influence on auto parts/accessories’ purchasing behaviors by consumers who purchase them to repair their vehicles. From March 2020, there has been a 33% increase in automotive eCommerce.
  • More consumers are making online purchases following the coronavirus pandemic as they avoid human contact. According to Hedges & Co., “a lot of people are practicing social distancing in their garages,”

Customer Journey — Consumers Seeking Professional Automotive Repairs

  • The majority of vehicle owners do not have the necessary skills to repair their vehicles by themselves. As a result, they seek help from qualified personnel for most of their vehicle needs. These consumers still vary in their choices, as some prefer authorized workshops while others go for independent workshops. Regardless of the options, there are five elements involved; “insight for a proactive relationship, transparency and booking, service experience, anticipating and managing the out-of-the-ordinary, and after-aftersales.”

Insight for a Proactive Relationship

  • The first phase in the aftersales journey for consumers seeking professional help for their car repairs is receiving a notification. This notification is either through a specific time clocked, the number of miles covered, or when a service expert or onboard software indicates that a particular service need to be undertaken.
  • At this stage, 4 out of 10 (39%) of vehicle owners compare different service providers before making a workshop appointment. Price-conscious and younger customers are more likely to compare prices from various workshops before booking an appointment. The majority of vehicle owners (67%) looking for professional repairs prefer direct email alerts of any offers. Many customers (70%) will likely make a booking with a workshop that offers personalized services for their vehicles.

Booking Transparency

  • Based on a survey conducted by BearingPoint Institute, 71% of the correspondents say that they would prefer having a detailed cost estimate before booking a service at a workshop. The repair experts would achieve these cost estimates by first determining the kind of repairs that are most likely to be carried out, an estimate of the duration of stay by the vehicle in the workshop, and the extent of wear and tear on parts.

The Service Experience

  • After booking an appointment with the desired workshop, customers expect to have a positive service delivery experience. More than half of vehicle owners who seek professional service for auto repair say that their choice is based on service experience. More than 63% of the correspondents say that a well-informed service adviser who welcomes them and accesses their details is the “most important part of the experience.” The customers expect the workshop to make parking reservations before their visit, while the service adviser should be armed with the right information.

Anticipating and Handling the Exceptional Services

  • When customers visit a workshop for vehicle repairs, they expect the experts to go beyond ordinary maintenance and diagnosis. Repair experts can offer free consultation informing the customer of an impending service that could be crucial based on their judgment or vehicle software.
  • Additionally, customers need repair experts who can offer remote support in case of a breakdown. By drawing on real-time diagnostics, customer data, and recent workshop visits, repair experts can provide the correct spare parts/accessories. They can also “provide valuable information to roadside assistance to help them take the right parts to the damaged vehicle (which is, for example, provided through Jaguar Land Rover’s breakdown call button).”

After After-sales

  • After a successful visit to the repairs, vehicle owners still prefer follow-up communication from the auto experts. More than half (51%) of the customers who visit a workshop for auto repairs consider the opportunity to give feedback through follow-up communication crucial. Customers also prefer workshops that offer a “customized maintenance plan that combines driver-profile information with maintenance and workshop data, creating additional value and customer loyalty.” This plan can be adjusted depending on a vehicle’s use.

Demographic Analysis

DIY Auto Repair Consumers

Demographics such as race, generation, age, location, and economic status have influenced DIY auto repair services in the US.

Race

  • Studies indicate that 44.8% of Hispanic DIY auto repair consumers are more likely to be first-time purchasers, while 37.4% of this demographic is likely to purchase parts online. More so, 86.5% of Hispanic car owners are likely to research before purchasing a part. An estimated 50.6% of Hispanic DIY consumers are more likely to prioritize brand than 43.2% of non-Hispanic DIY customers. Hispanic DIY consumers are likely to perform repairs such as computer emissions, braking systems, ignition engines, routine maintenance, temperature control, steering, and suspension.

Generation

  • A store-level study conducted in more than 18,000 US-based auto part stores indicates that a high percentage of DIY Millennial demographic flocked into these stores, forming 11% in the hard parts section than any other department. The study further indicates that high cluster stores performed better in addition to hard parts than light application categories such as filters and spark plugs. The analysis, which relied on the retail outlet, led to the conclusion that Millennials are invested in higher levels of DIY activity compared to any other demographic. The study also revealed that Millennials were responsible for higher sales of hand cleaners and hand tools in auto repair stores.

Age and Gender

  • Gen Z males and females are on the same level when it comes to DIY auto repair services. The younger generation has continued to show enthusiasm in basic car repair and maintenance, regardless of gender. Younger generation females learn about DIY auto repair from their parents than their male counterparts by 10%. This is a new trend that has proven to be a drastic switch from older generations. More studies reveal that 42% of males aged between 25 and 45 learned essential car maintenance from a parent, while 38.0% of females within the same age group did. On average, 51.8% of Gen X males (aged between 45 and 65) learned essential car maintenance from a parent, while 41.2% of Gen X females did. Baby Boomer (aged 65 years and above) comprises 52% and 24.5% of males and females, respectively, that learned necessary DIY auto repairs from their parents.

Location

  • More studies indicate that DIY auto repair has grown tremendously during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in New York. Categories such as body repair, paint, appearance accessories, chemicals, and light-duty shop equipment were ranked among the topmost bought items. More auto consumers continue to undertake home projects such as detailing and washing. Recreational vehicles, ATVs, and motorcycles are responsible for the rise in demand for products such as ATV and motorcycle oil by 22% and 21%, respectively.

Economic and Education Background

  • Economic status or income has continued to influence more auto owners to DIY. Studies reveal that 70% of DIY auto enthusiasts have some college education level, while 24% hold a master’s degree. More so, 9% of auto owners who opt for DIY are doing it for financial reasons, such as saving money. More so, 94% of DIY car auto owners improved their financial situations after their maintenance work. At least 33% of DIY enthusiasts report that doing their own maintenance saves them more than $1,000 annually.

Consumers Who Seek Professional Services for Auto Repair

Demographics such as generation, gender, and economic status have influenced consumers’ statistics who seek professional services for auto repair in the US.

Generation

  • Studies show that Americans have spent $1,986 on vehicle repairs and maintenance in the past five years. Millennials and Generation Z paid an average of $2,334 for auto maintenance and repairs, a significantly higher financial burden than Baby Boomers. In the same time frame, Gen X spent $1,654, on average.
  • More reports indicate that Millennials are not interested in DIY auto repairs and will seek professional services even for basic repairs. For instance, 45% of Millennials cannot carry out basic car maintenance or auto repair and instead involve professional services. The 45% is 12.5% higher than any other generation of Americans who use a professional’s services. Also, 3 out of 4 Millennials will seek professional help when replacing a headlight or taillight, while nearly 7 out of 10 Millennials will seek professional services to change a windshield wiper.

Gender

  • According to a survey, 9 out of 10 women seek professional services for auto repair even though they are treated differently from their male counterparts, according to the survey. Nearly 9 out of 10 women that seek professional auto services admitted that they are overcharged or tricked into spending more than they should at auto repair shops. While professional auto repairers seem to have an attitude based on a client’s knowledge on auto repair regardless the gender, women tend to be less informed on auto repair prices, thus easy to exploit or scam. Therefore, more women are seeking to equip themselves with auto knowledge to counter these gender-based stereotypes and attitudes from shop auto shop owners.

Economic Stability

  • Almost half of middle-class Americans are said to be in a position to handle expenses such as emergency professional car repairs of up to $1,000. On average, 37% of Americans would use a credit card, take a personal loan, or seek financial aid from family to handle unexpected expenses such as professional car repair. On the other hand, nearly 61% of Americans said they would only afford to pay $400 of unexpected expenses such as professional car repairs with cash, savings, or credit card.
  • More studies indicate that at least 28% of Americans take on debt to seek professional auto services of up to $500, especially in 39% Black households. Nearly 6 out of 10 (58%) Americans need to use professional auto services but cannot afford it, including 71% of millennials. About 35% of Americans that were furloughed due to the coronavirus pandemic have taken a debt to have their cars fixed professionally and are struggling to pay these debts, while 30% of those who got a pay cut are struggling with the same issue. Nearly 16% of Americans would miss work if their car broke down and couldn’t afford to take their cars for professional service.
GLENN TREVOR
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at Simple Manifestation with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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