By the time you read this editorial, AAPEX/SEMA will be a little less than a month away. As with every AAPEX/SEMA show there is a lot of anticipation as to what new products will be shown. I'm more interested in what is going to be discussed at...
By the time you read this editorial, AAPEX/SEMA will be a little less than a month away. As with every AAPEX/SEMA show there is a lot of anticipation as to what new products will be shown. I’m more interested in what is going to be discussed at the various forums, as those programs often give one a glimpse of the challenges and issues the aftermarket is struggling with.
This year’s sessions cover a range of issues, from new lubricant specifications to Web-based services that shops can use to keep customers happy. The majority of the sessions focus on better customer communications and growing one’s business, from improving customer service to effective communications and marketing strategies.
What this tells me is there is a lot of anxiety in the aftermarket right now about finding and keeping customers. This is not surprising. The recession has taken a toll on many independents and keeping customers coming back is a challenge. Two programs did catch my attention: using social media to reach customers and connecting with Generation Y.
I know some shop owners and managers will likely skip these programs, more interested in the nuts-and-bolts seminars on new shop technologies and customer service. This would be a mistake. There is a demographic shift happening right now in the aftermarket service industry, with a new generation of young people buying or looking to buy vehicles. This generation is more technically savvy than their parents with a different set of values around communications and business loyalty.
This generation is one of the toughest to market too. Because of this generation’s use of technology and social media, many traditional sales and marketing strategies fail to reach them; and if those strategies do manage to break through to them, the campaigns fail miserably. Why? The most obvious is the reliance on traditional methods of marketing: print, radio, flyers etc. Generation Y views these as one might an Edison Kinetoscope and Brion Gysin’s Dreamachine. Traditional marketing campaigns treat the buying process as something dull, even off-putting. Generation Y wants that process to be interactive, even fun.
Life for many in Generation Y revolves around social media and instant communications, with immediate feedback through direct interaction between persons and businesses. There is no clear line between work and fun, between personal and business communications. Life and work co-exist and blur on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and instant communications through the Blackberry, iPhone, iPad and other portable Internet-ready devices. The result is loyalty that is fluid, shifting from one provider to another. What matters is meeting Generation Y’s expectation of transparency, instant communications and choice.
If a shop fails to meet those expectations, they will fail to not only to get business from Generation Y, but to earn their loyalty.