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UPS Study
A UPS study shows younger buyers purchase more auto parts online.

2017 Preview: How Do Buyers Get Parts?


Jef White is the executive editor of Performance & Hotrod Business magazine.

Editor’s Note: The following excerpt was taken from an article previewing 2017 trends in the January issue of THE SHOP magazine.

Consumer car parts buyers continue flocking to the internet, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down.

An automotive parts online shopper study conducted by UPS (see THE SHOP magazine, September 2016, page 80) revealed that in 2015, younger buyers—a group that has grown up with all things digital—preferred comparing and ordering aftermarket products electronically instead of stepping into a parts store.

That means shops offering retail parts sales must meet customers in the cyber world. They must have online ordering on their websites. Those ordering systems must be smartphone-friendly. And a positive social media presence is considered extremely helpful.

But that doesn’t reduce the importance of retail locations, which help immerse customers in the automotive culture, provide service and installation, accommodate returns and serve as mini-warehouses to expedite shipping times.

“Good companies can do one or the other well, but great companies will find a way to do both,” says Darryl Barber, segment manager, corporate marketing, industrial and automotive, at UPS, which has developed a strong presence in the automotive aftermarket business.

The technology and logistics company—which has a unique perspective on the market because of dealings in the distribution, business-to-business and business-to-consumer channels—is becoming “more invested each year” in the space, Barber notes, adding that UPS has exhibited at the SEMA Show for the last five years.

The automotive aftermarket contains many small- and medium-size businesses “trying to scale up,” he explains. “The biggest change, however, has been a trend toward smaller shipments. It used to be cases and not eaches. Now, it’s the other way around.”

These smaller shipments are traveling shorter distances and more often ending up at residences, he adds, completing the online ordering circle.

The market, which already offers steady growth of 3-1/2 to 4 percent annually, should remain stable following the presidential election, he predicts, and the modular, high-tech nature of today’s automobiles will have the greatest impact on the market in years to come.

Meanwhile, the entrance of the electronics industry and companies such as Samsung and LG into the automotive arena highlight changes ahead.

“As cars become more of a technology component in the future, working on them may be more of a software fix,” Barber says.

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