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AASA Vision: E-Tailing Beyond The Pandemic


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Photo caption: Eric Lough, VP, business development, FCP Euro (left) and Brent Berman, vice president, repair products, First Brands Group.

By now we’re all well-aware of how the pandemic turbocharged the adoption of online shopping.

According to the Auto Care Association and the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), e-commerce adoption in the automotive aftermarket grew from 6.5% in 2018 to 12.1% in 2021, representing a nearly 100% increase.

At the AASA Vision Conference in Dearborn, Michigan, a panel was set to debate whether the level of pandemic-induced e-commerce growth is sustainable in the future.

As it turns out, there wasn’t much of a debate.

“We’ve set an expectation during the pandemic with e-commerce that I don’t think we go back from there,” asserted Eric Lough, VP, business development, for FCP Euro. “I think we only go forward. I believe that our customers not only want to be served that way online, but they now expect to be served that way online.”

Brent Berman, vice president, repair products, for First Brands Group, agreed, adding that e-commerce has become a legitimate sales channel that the aftermarket needs to take seriously.

“We all remember when the independent aftermarket expanded into the retail segment … and we had to manage those channels. We had to create those mechanisms in our four walls to manage those channels,” Berman said. “And I think we all have to look at [the online] channel. We expect continued growth; I think everyone sees it. We have to manage the content, the people – it’s different people. It’s not the same as the salesperson driving around in Texas; it’s a different engagement. I think we have to assess those teams and build those teams out if we want to participate in the channel properly.”

With Hedges & Co. forecasting that online sales of auto parts in the United States could hit $38 billion in 2022 (a 9.7% year-over-year increase), the online channel certainly can’t be ignored. Still, simply having an online presence isn’t enough, the panelists asserted.

“I think the days being transactional online – that doesn’t work anymore, Lough said. “We can’t be there just to sell auto parts to our customers and say we’ve done a good job. We need to be there to solve their problems. Selling parts is just one piece, or just a sliver, literally, of that entire experience for our customers.

“So I think where we go from here is creating solutions for our customers online, with automotive parts being just one piece of the puzzle.”

When we talk about the aggressive adoption of online shopping over the past two years, the image of the pandemic DIYer – stuck at home with nothing but time and cash on their hands – immediately comes to mind. But Chris Gardner, senior vice president of operations for AASA, noted that there seems to be “growing appetite” for online ordering on the DIFM side as well.

Berman agreed, adding that “the habits are already there – maybe more than we think.”

A big reason for the growth of e-commerce adoption on the DIFM side is the “generational shift” that’s been taking place in recent years, Lough asserted. Shop owners are retiring and handing over their businesses to their sons and daughters, who have grown up in the age of smartphones and Amazon.

“I think the generational shift, the [pandemic-driven] forcing function of buying online and the technology have all got to the point where we’re seeing this perfect storm where shops are finding it advantageous to buy online and to service their customers and gain that efficiency,” Lough said. “Because how does the shop make money? Well, it’s throughput. Every minute that that lift isn’t used, that’s an opportunity cost. So I think we’re really seeing shops be more in tune and amenable to buying online.”

For parts sellers and suppliers, one of the key challenges in this increasingly digital marketplace is preserving the brand equity they’ve worked so hard to build through decades of doing business. As e-commerce sales continued to grow, ow can aftermarket players avoid being commoditized?

“I think what’s going to happen is that e-tailer or that brick-and-mortar – or click-and-mortar – kind of [parts] store will win, just like in any retail business, with the service, with the smile on their face, with the dependability, the reliability and things like that,” Berman added. “That’s kind of the way I think about that. And the technicians and the shop owners will tell us over the course of the next few years who’s doing a job good.”

 Lough believes it’s all about partnerships.

“When you’re dealing with a pandemic, supply chain shortages, price increases, it’s very easy to start pointing figures and getting frustrated, instead of leaning in and saying, ‘Look, I know you’re having a tough time. We’re having a tough time too. How do we have a tough time together for our customer and really grow a partnership here so that I’m bringing value to you, you’re bringing value to me, so we can both bring value to our customers?’

“I think that’s how you kind of differentiate your brand and add value to it. I don’t think you do it in a silo. I think you do it as a partnership with your manufacturers and with your vendors.”

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DIY like a pro! Shop from over 1,000,000 Repair Manuals at eManualOnline.com! As low as $14.99 per manual. Shop now.


DIY like a pro! Shop from over 1,000,000 Repair Manuals at eManualOnline.com! As low as $14.99 per manual. Shop now.


DIY like a pro! Shop from over 1,000,000 Repair Manuals at eManualOnline.com! As low as $14.99 per manual. Shop now.

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    • By Counterman
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      link hidden, please login to view, the study looks at the current and future states of the automotive aftermarket. One of the most alarming conclusions from the study is that aftermarket suppliers aren’t ready to deal with nine high-impact trends: BEV (battery-electric-vehicle) penetration; e-commerce and o2o (online-to-offline); consolidation; labor shortages; supply chain disruption; data access; autonomous driving; supply chain footprint; and sustainability. Barry Neal, senior partner at Roland Berger, and Neury Freitas, principal at Roland Berger, presented an overview of the study findings at the AASA Vision Conference. Here are some of the highlights.
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      “Our call to action is we need aftermarket alternatives,” Fish said. “We need parts that can do this. … And then standardized processes are going to increase aftermarket adoption.”
      2. Low Shop Competency
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      The researchers asserted that more training for technicians is needed to bring shops’ ADAS competency up to speed.
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      The researchers recommend a combination of consumer education/information; regulations to ensure that ADAS features are being used as they were designed to be used; and verification.
      Fish argued that ADAS is on a trajectory that’s similar to the aftermarket’s gradual adoption of the SAE J2534 standard for reprogramming vehicle ECUs. Fifteen years ago, most ECU reprogramming was being sent to a dealership. Today, 80% of mechanical shops with six or more bays are performing their own J2534 reprogramming.
      “We have a long way to go, but we’re not going to get there unless we do something about it,” Fish said. “And no one company is going to solve this. It’s just not going to move the needle. We really need all of us together.”
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    • DIY like a pro! Shop from over 1,000,000 Repair Manuals at eManualOnline.com! As low as $14.99 per manual. Shop now.


      DIY like a pro! Shop from over 1,000,000 Repair Manuals at eManualOnline.com! As low as $14.99 per manual. Shop now.


      DIY like a pro! Shop from over 1,000,000 Repair Manuals at eManualOnline.com! As low as $14.99 per manual. Shop now.

    • By Counterman
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      According to CEO Donnie Carr, the company’s goal is to have 350 shops by 2025. And between 2020 and 2025, Christian Brothers wants to donate $25 million to charities.
      Carr’s father, Mark, co-founded Christian Brothers in 1982. During the “Voice of the End Customer” session at the AASA Vision Conference in Dearborn, Michigan, Carr provided a glimpse into the company’s people-first philosophy, which is anchored in “the desire to love our neighbor as ourself.”
      “Automotive is not what gets me up in the morning,” Carr declared. “It’s not the thing that I’m most excited about, but I’m proud to be a part of it. The thing that gets me most excited is the opportunity to grow and develop people.
      “And so at Christian Brothers Automotive, our passion, our desire, is that no matter how long you spend with the brand – whether it’s three days, three weeks, three years or three decades – that you leave better off than you came. We want you to be the best version of yourself. And that’s not just as a franchisee, a technician, a service writer. It’s as a parent, it’s as a spouse, it’s as a community member.”
      With that as a backdrop, Carr shared his six keys to success in life. Carr said he shares these six principles twice a month during training sessions for service writers and technicians.  
      He also shared: “I fail at these things on a regular basis. And one of the things that I love is talking about it, because it’s great accountability for me to attempt to do these things.”
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      Carr offered a couple great examples. One came from a documentary he saw about golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player practicing on the driving range in the wee morning hours prior to the start of the 2020 Masters Tournament. Nicklaus and Player were the honorary starters, meaning they each hit one tee shot to begin the tournament.
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      3. Always look for the opportunity in a situation.
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      4. Own your financials.
      “When you own your finances, you make the decisions and they don’t,” Carr said. “When your payments make your decisions, you’re going to make bad decisions.”
      Carr also talked about the power of compound interest, asserting that “one of the greatest multipliers of wealth is time.” If you save $200 a month for 20 years, and earn a 10% annual return on that investment, you have $96,000, he explained. If you save the same amount for 40 years, and earn a 10% annual return, you have more than $1 million to show for it.
      5. Surround yourself with amazing people.
      “One of my favorite Proverbs is Proverbs 13:20: Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. If you can surround yourself with fantastic people – people who are going to hold you accountable, speak truth and love to you – you are going to be that much more successful.”
      6. Being intentional.
      In life, your attitude and your time are among the few things “that you have close to 100% control over,” according to Carr.
      “I don’t think we realize often enough the impact in life that we can have with a great attitude. I don’t think we realize that person sitting next to us or that random interaction that we had, if we can do that with grace and love and with a great attitude, we will be that much more successful in life.”
      Regarding time, Carr has jettisoned the phrase “I didn’t have time” from his vocabulary. In its place, he says, “I didn’t make time.”
      “When I look at my son, Hank, and I missed his basketball game, and I say, ‘Hey buddy, I didn’t have time for that,’ it’s an easy conversation. But what I say now is, ‘I didn’t make time for that,’ because I own my time. And when I have to have that same conversation with my 6-year-old son and I have to look him in the eyes and say, ‘Hey Hank, I missed your basketball game because I didn’t make time for that,’ that’s a different conversation.”
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