There are three new factors coming into play when a shop decides from which distributor they’re buying parts: Technical information, customer acquisition and parts on hand.
These are being added to the traditional competitive factors that already exist, according to Lang Marketing: Ordering systems, product availability, product pricing and timely parts delivery.
Ensuring the three new areas are meeting demands “can provide significant competitive advantages to distributors who supply parts,” Lang said in its Aftermarket iReport New Competitive Dynamics Change DIFM Supply.
The reason for the increased importance placed on technical information is thanks to the growing complexity of vehicles making such critical to ensure rapid vehicle diagnostics and repair.
“Most automotive technical information originates from carmakers and parts manufacturers,” the report said. “As the installer’s needs for this information increases, distributors can seize the opportunity to partner with carmakers and parts manufacturers to promote the use of their products and brands.”
So a store providing the information could be “a powerful advantage” when compared to the jobber down the street that doesn’t do the same.
On customer acquisition, Lang observed this is the biggest challenge shops face. Vehicle complexity and growing dealer strength have led consumers to believe that it is indeed the dealers that are better equipped to repair their vehicles.
“By helping installers to attract service bay customers, distributors can provide added value to DIFM (commercial) outlets beyond the services commonly offered by competitors,” the report said.
For example, banner programs and online-to-offline (o2o) transactions can be helpful here.
“Banner programs enable installers to attract customers and reinforce relationships between distributors and installers by helping to expand the business of installers and, therefore, the volume of parts they purchase from distributors,” Lang observed.
With o2o, distributors can enable consumers to buy parts online and schedule their repair from an authorized network of outlets. So far, e-commerce platforms have worked well for battery and tire sales.
“However, brick-and-mortar distributors can develop ways to use o2o strategies to boost their customers’ bay activity,” Lang explained. “This will become increasingly important for B&M distributors as e-commerce platforms expand their o2o auto repair presence and disrupt auto repair sales and the distribution of parts for those repairs.”
Finally, having parts on hand is important because acquiring the necessary part is perhaps the biggest problem technicians face when performing repairs and ensuring customer satisfaction. The report suggested shops keep commonly needed parts on hand themselves, reducing the need to wait for a delivery.
And o2o helps here as well, the report noted.
“Distributors can allow customers to order repair parts they wish to have installed. Distributors can then deliver the required parts to installers before the vehicle arrives at the repair outlet,” Lang said.