66 aftermarket trends and factsThere’s a lot of competition in the automotive aftermarket—retail stores have to compete with online retailers and specialty parts catalogs, and the seemingly endless selection that both provide. So what advantages do retail stores have that can keep them ahead of the competition?

1). Customer service: When customers enter an automotive parts store, they aren’t just looking for a part, many need help. Parts stores have an advantage over non-retail entities in the fact that their employees can actively provide help in a personal environment. Employees are able to explain benefits of certain products, ask open-ended questions about the problem to ensure that they are looking for the right part and explain the installation of new parts. In short, the retail store’s ability to provide quality help to its customers is a large advantage.

2). Knowledgeable employees: This goes hand-in-hand with customer service, but is more about strategic planning. Customers expect to get good advice from retail employees, so stores should make sure they are able to provide it consistently. Retail stores should be sure that their employees are not only product-knowledgeable, but that they also know their way around a car. Of course, not everyone can be an expert, so try to schedule employees who compliment each others’ strengths and weaknesses while keeping a full-time expert in the store during peak hours. Also consider using a service like CatalogRack.com to help less-experienced employees find parts for customers.

3). An accurate and well-stocked inventory: Availability means a lot to enthusiasts. Our research we addressed in a recent blog suggests that they will return to their trusted store after positive experiences, but if another store or an online provider can get the part to them quicker they won’t hesitate to take advantage. There is usually a short time between a consumer’s decision to buy, and the actual purchase. Many manufacturers list on their websites whether or not their local stores stock a part; this is very helpful to consumers and should be managed to ensure accuracy. Having a part on the shelf, or available from a WD within a day can counteract “showrooming” which is a topic we covered in an earlier blog post. Remember, too, that local search is growing rapidly and potential customers want to know if an item is in-stock before they drive to the store.

Tune in tomorrow for New Vehicles at the 2012 SEMA Show.

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