My first job was delivering parts for a jobber in Toronto’s west end when I was just 16. Back then (the mid-’70s), gas was 50 cents a gallon and eight-track tapes were all the rage. I remember driving down obscure side streets and unnamed back alleyways in downtown Toronto to drop off parts to auto repair shops and bodyshops while listening to bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival and Grand Funk Railroad.
Finding a lot of these shops was a real treat, as many of them didn’t have an address, other than “turn right at the alley behind the A & P, go past the third dumpster and ask for Tony.”
I used to wonder how the heck these shops stayed in business. There was no Internet. They weren’t in the Yellow Pages since they didn’t have an address; they simply relied on word of mouth. Back then, it was your reputation that sustained your business.
Well, times have changed a bit since then. Eight-tracks no longer exist, gas prices are in the double digits, and OEMs are in a race to meet CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) requirements by 2025.
The aftermarket has experienced a great deal of change since the ’70s, and it’s about to experience a great deal more change in the coming decade – not only from parts proliferation, as OEMs revamp complete platforms and spew out new SKUs like popcorn. Jobbers also have to deal with the increasing use of telematics, and the growing influence of social media on consumer purchasing patterns. It’s going to take a lot of savvy to learn and embrace these new ways of doing business and remain at the top of your game.
For example, e-tailing is now the fastest growing retail sector in the automotive aftermarket, and becoming a significant revenue stream for auto parts sales, according to any e-tailing study you happen to get your hands on. And, as we all know, Amazon is very interested in the automotive aftermarket business. The company recently revamped its business model for B2B sales and is introducing a feature called Live Expert for technical questions answered real-time direct from the manufacturer, and detailed product content including technical specs, CAD drawings, hi-res images, and how-to videos.
Any jobber that doesn’t have an online presence and isn’t actively utilizing social media (the newest form of “word of mouth”) to promote his/her business, is literally going to be left behind. Oh and by the way, your online site should be mobile-friendly, since half of your customers (technicians included) now prefer to shop with their mobile devices. These customers prefer the convenience and immediacy of searching for products, mapping a store location, and shopping for services from the palm of their hand.
In upcoming issues of Jobber News we will be reporting on these and other topics.
Some of the features you can expect to see include Understanding The Value Of E-tailing; How To Build Sales Through Social Media; How Telematics Will Affect The Way You Do Business; and How To Capitalize On The Buying Patterns Of Millennials (those discerning 25- to 35-year-olds who are replacing the easy-spending baby boomer generation). We will also take an in-depth look at Succession Planning, and encourage more industry dialogue by having Q & A sessions with jobbers from across the country on these emerging issues that are, and will be, affecting the aftermarket.
Even though the aftermarket business is getting an awful lot more complicated, when you drill down though it all, one thing that hasn’t changed is your reputation for giving good service. If you’re really good at what you do – like Tony who worked out of a little shop in a back alley with no address – customers will seek you out. They just have more ways to find you and your competition now.
— Steve Pawlett, Editor,
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