E-commerce Blazes a Trail in Automotive Aftermarket, NPD Group Finds

A new study by The NPD Group has found 14 percent of buyers in the automotive aftermarket 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.

npd logo.png

“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.”

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, 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 purchasedwere Batteries, Motor Oil, and Performance Chemicals.

Consumers ages 35 and older represent the highest population of heavy online buyers in the market (more than 5 percent in purchases annually), while the majority of Millennials tend to be light buyers (one 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. 

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,” said Shipley. “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.”

(For more information visit https://www.npd.com).