E-Commerce Blazes a Trail in the U.S. Automotive Aftermarket

by | May 14, 2018 | 0 comments

The automotive aftermarket’s reputation for being stalled on the onramp to the information superhighway may be at risk According to global information company The NPD Group, 14 percent of buyers in the automotive aftermarket today make purchases online.

While this industry ranks as one of the lowest for online penetration compared to other industries tracked by NPD, as it is relatively new to this space, consumer engagement is positive; e-commerce’s share of aftermarket sales has doubled in the last three calendar years.*

“E-commerce is the hottest topic in the aftermarket today, and the most frequent thing I get asked about,” said Nathan Shipley, executive director and automotive industry analyst, The NPD Group. “Looking forward over the next three to five years, I expect its penetration to grow to about 25 percent. Observing industries that have gone down the e-commerce path long before automotive aftermarket, 25 to 30 percent is the maturation point we are seeing.”

The Hottest Categories

As the aftermarket carves out its place in the e-commerce space, it is taking on a character different than that of its brick-and-mortar counterpart. According to NPD’s Checkout E-commerce Tracking,** which is based on information collected from more than three million consumers through data provided by our partner Slice Intelligence, the top three categories purchased online in 2017 were Automotive Lighting, Interior Accessories, and Exterior Accessories, with their share of online dollars at 18 percent, 13 percent, and 11 percent, respectively. This is contrary to in-store, where the top three categories purchased, based on NPD’s Retail Tracking Service, were Batteries, Motor Oil, and Performance Chemicals.

Gauging Generational Temperatures

Consumers ages 35 and older represent the highest population of heavy online buyers in the market (5+ purchases annually), while the majority of Millennials tend to be light buyers (1 purchase annually).** This in line with NPD’s findings in its 2018 Consumer Outlook Survey, in which a high percentage of younger (43 percent) and older (51 percent) Millennials reported having no plans to purchase automotive products online in 2018.*** With Millennials both entering their peak driving years and being fluent in online researching and purchasing, this demographic is an important factor in the aftermarket’s online strategy.

Taking the Pulse on How Consumers Shop

While consumers were split in terms of reporting whether or not they would purchase automotive products online in 2018, their opinions shifted in favor of the idea when presented with the option to buy online and pick up in store.*** Based on purchase frequency, consumers are most attracted to “click and mortar,” or traditional retailers with an online presence, which allows them to buy online and pick up in store. This is a popular option, as it captures 40 percent share of e-commerce sales.**

“Immediate need gives physical stores the upper hand because timing is everything for the automotive consumer who often purchases products to fix something that is broken, not save for future use. However, having the right parts, at the right time, and at the right store poses a challenge for auto parts retailers,” saidShipley. “For these reasons, it’s important for both shopping channels to coexist, and for retailers and manufacturers to avoid putting all their eggs in one basket. E-commerce presents an invaluable opportunity to enhance the shopping experience and ultimately drive foot traffic to the store.”

* Source: The NPD Group / Car Care Track, January-December 2017

** Source: The NPD Group / Checkout E-Commerce Tracking, January-December 2017

*** Source: The NPD Group / 2018 Consumer Outlook Survey

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