Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the July 2023 issue of THE SHOP magazine. It is the second in a two-part article highlighting trends and sales techniques related to aftermarket bumpers. Part I appeared in the May 2023 issue of THE SHOP.
When selling aftermarket bumpers, the approach is simple—the products work better, look better and offer a touch of personalization over stock options.
Available for the front and rear of a wide variety of off-road, 4×4 and daily-driver trucks and SUVs, aftermarket bumpers can be further customized with winches, LEDs, shackles and other accessories to keep drivers safe and secure at the jobsite or on the trail.
Aftermarket bumpers are currently very popular, as shown by the number of manufacturers found in the market. Appearance and function are key differentiators.
“This category continues to be overpopulated, so we do our best to combat this by emphasizing key competitive advantages through style, winch and recovery point locations, and built-in accessory mounts,” says Fred Brayton, sales manager for ICON Impact Armor.
Competition has resulted in “better designs with more complex curves,” says Howard Fullerton, category manager for Quadratec, adding that “every bumper now comes pretty standard with recovery points included.”
They are also created to work with today’s new vehicle designs and systems, says Ryan Wood, director of marketing for Warrior Products.
“Manufacturers have had to use their expertise to customize and adapt additional modifications to the bumpers to accept the OE sensors,” he explains.
Today’s products are ready for the latest factory offerings, agrees Mike Stickney, director of sales and marketing for Westin Automotive.
“The addition of sensors, cameras and radar systems has made it increasingly harder to produce bumpers for new vehicles, but staying up to date on the current technologies has made it possible for us to achieve our goal to provide the best bumpers that not only look great but function great as well.”
Dave Williams, sales director for Go Rhino, believes the bumper market has made big leaps in the last decade, both in function and design.
“In the beginning, the bulky ‘Mad Max’ look was the popular style, but those did not work with some OE features, meaning you’d lose functions such as parking sensors,” he says.
The trend is now toward more streamlined models that complement the vehicle’s bodylines.
“Adding more light mount options; our patented Rhino Hook shackles, as well as incorporating the use of OE sensors and lights was the natural evolution for us,” Williams continues. “Now, consumers shouldn’t lose any of the features they received with their new truck or Jeep, and they get more functions in a custom-looking package versus OE offerings.”
The latest models check all the boxes, agrees Moea Theroux, marketing manager for ARB 4×4 Accessories.
“There’s no doubt that sensor technology changed the game and, beyond such advancements, styling integration that makes bumpers fit seamlessly into OE designs has become prevalent.”
Versatility is an attractive feature of today’s aftermarket bumper designs, notes Jonathon Matranga, copywriter for Ranch Hand, citing the company’s Midnight series bumper as an example.
“There have been numerous changes in the aftermarket bumper world in the last decade, from an increase in customization options to improved manufacturing processes and technology,” he says. “For this reason, we’ve increased the customization options on our bumpers to meet the demands of what our customers are requesting, and we’ve also improved our manufacturing processes.”
Sometimes shops and staff can be hesitant about offering higher-line products for fear of causing customers sticker shock. However, most buyers do their research in advance and understand the value of getting a product with the features they seek.
“A common mistake is being too focused on price,” says Brayton. “A lot of customers have already done their homework and know what they want. Providing product options while speaking to the competitive advantages will help make the sale.”
Matranga reveals a common mistake he sees is shops selling bumpers that don’t fit the customer’s needs.
“Providing excellent customer service and helping the customer through the process—from choosing a bumper to installing it—is the most important part,” he says. “A bumper is an investment, and you want the customer to be pleased with their purchase.”
But, before you can fit their needs, you must fit their vehicle first, Stickney notes.
“The most common mistake shops make is confirming whether the vehicle has factory sensors or not,” he says. “However, we always like to stress double- and triple-checking the make and model of the vehicle receiving the bumper before presenting the product to the customer to ensure it will fit and function properly once installed.”
It’s a matter of delivering what’s required for the specific application, agrees Wood.
“Consult with the customer to make sure it meets or exceeds their expectations and is a solution for their bumper inquiry,” he says.
Options include accessorization opportunities, adds Fullerton.
“Winches and recovery gear are common add-on sales,” he notes.
And time on the trail will bring its own necessities, says Theroux.
“Upgrades to protection equipment should go hand in hand with improving suspension,” she recommends. “Focus the discussion on the intended vehicle use and take the time to talk through options, making provisions for future accessories such as lighting or a winch.”
Back at the shop, understanding the unique installation requirements of individual bumper models can keep work flowing smoothly, Williams says.
“Labor costs are not cheap and a little homework before you throw a new product at an installer could avoid rebellion and unrest in your shop,” he reports, noting suppliers are usually available to offer support in different forms. “Many manufacturers have their installation instructions online, so if you know a customer is set on a certain brand of bumper, go to the website and download the installation instructions ahead of time for a dry run. You could save some time on the initial install.”
TALK IT UP
Aftermarket bumpers are fun, in-demand products that change a vehicle’s appearance and functionality. Be sure to convey that message as part of every sale.
“Learn the products’ features and benefits and share them with your consumers,” suggests ICON’s Brayton. “If a salesperson doesn’t know why it’s great, then how will the customer? Inspiring confidence in a purchase will help close the deal.”
The latest models really do offer practical benefits, says Theroux from ARB 4×4.
“Make sure customers understand that investing in a bumper not only assures occupant safety but prolongs the life of the vehicle itself,” she says.
When it comes to promoting the products, nothing beats showroom visibility, says Matranga from Ranch Hand.
“Be sure to put a display in your storefront in clear sight. This lets the customer know that you are a reputable dealer and a source of knowledge. By having a display with helpful pamphlets and information, the customer can get information and then ask you questions when they have them, putting you in the position to help,” he says. “If you sell Ranch Hand bumpers, it’s also good to have information on your website and social media accounts.”
Don’t forget available accessories as part of that information transfer, says Warrior’s Wood.
“Include the possibility of additional related products that can be added and mounted to bumpers, such as lights, brackets, winches and other recovery equipment.”
There’s proven power in combining in-demand products in a single transaction, agrees Quadratec’s Fullerton.
“Sell packages with winches, lights, recovery gear, etc.,” he says.
And if you have questions, seek out suppliers with answers, Stickney advises.
“Lean on quality brands like Westin that will be there throughout the customer experience,” he says. “In addition, it’s a good practice to make the customer aware of the accessories and other products that are available to them, no matter what vehicle they have.”
Building a strong reputation requires consistently meeting customers’ individual needs, advises Go Rhino’s Williams.
“Quality and integrity equal great word of mouth. Truck and Jeep owners talk, post and share online in clubs, reviews, forums, videos and more,” he says. “Sell them a good product at a great price and they will bring you more business from family, friends and other club cats and rats they hang with.”
He also suggests having products on display for popular off-road models.
“It may seem like a big investment at first, but when word gets out that a shop is educated on a product line and has samples in-house to see and feel, that investment will pay off time and time again.”