9 Fast & Furious Insights about Auto Supply Retailers
Some things get better with age.
You know, like wine or cheese. Or maybe like the aftermarket automotive industry, which sells vehicular parts and accessories to consumers and, in many cases, professional automotive mechanics.
Specialty retailers like Advance Auto, AutoZone, and O’Reilly Auto—and other retailers with strong automotive offerings (e.g., Walmart)—can take heart these days in several market trends, including:
- The record number of automobiles cruising U.S. highways and byways, in the neighborhood of 250 million by one estimate. As these cars and trucks age, the aftermarket auto industry should clean up.
- The industry’s relatively stable position vis-à-vis ecommerce competitors. Compared to other industries, auto supply retailers have proven less vulnerable to the likes of Amazon.
With such tailwinds blowing in their favor, the aftermarket automotive industry may be getting ready to put the pedal to the metal.
What are Shoppers’ Attitudes, Behaviors Toward Aftermarket Automotive Retailers?
To answer this question, this weekend Field Agent put 500 shoppers in the driver’s seat and asked them to share their thoughts on the aftermarket auto supply industry, particularly specialty retailers like Advance Auto, AutoZone, and O’Reilly Auto. The sample, split evenly between men and women, consisted exclusively of licensed drivers who currently own a vehicle.
As you can see from the photos and videos below, Field Agent also deployed 100 Agents to various auto supply retailers across the country, including 20 apiece to Advance Auto, AutoZone, O’Reilly Auto, and Walmart. There, these Agents conducted price checks of five different automotive goods and even collected a little mystery shopping data (see the video).
So give it some gas, because below we answer 9 important questions about the aftermarket automotive industry:
1. Which retailers are most popular with drivers for aftermarket auto supply purchases?
Our sample of 500 vehicle-owners was asked, “From which of these retailers do you at least occasionally purchase auto supplies?” We defined “auto supplies” as anything from motor oil to car soap, antifreeze to air fresheners.
Of 17 choices, Walmart (75%) fared best with shoppers, followed by AutoZone (64%), Advance Auto (48%), O’Reilly Auto (40%), Target (35%), and Amazon (31%). There was also an option for “a website other than Amazon,” which garnered 12%.
2. But which would shoppers say is their single “most preferred” auto supply retailer?
The previous question asked drivers where they purchase auto supplies. But we also wondered who would come out on top if we asked participants to identify their one “most preferred” auto supply retailer.
Again, Walmart eclipsed its rivals, but just barely. In our survey, 28% said the mass merchandiser is their single, most preferred auto supply retailer. Rounding out the top 6 were AutoZone (26%), Advance Auto (16%), and O’Reilly Auto (12%), while Target and Amazon tied for fifth, each with 5%.
Although Walmart was tops with men (29%), AutoZone (29%) outperformed the titan of Bentonville by one point among women.
3. How loyal are shoppers to their most preferred auto supply retailer?
Drivers were asked, “On a scale from 0-10, where 10 is completely loyal and 0 not at all loyal, how loyal are you to your most preferred retailer?” We described "loyal" as a condition where the shopper purchases auto supplies consistently from a single store.
The average loyalty rating across all participants and retailers came to 5.6.
Parity was most evident in cross-retailer comparisons, where O’Reilly Auto just eked out a first place finish with a loyalty rating of 6, followed by AutoZone (5.9), Amazon (5.7), Advance Auto (5.6), Walmart (5.3), and Target (4.7).
4. And what do drivers like best about their most preferred auto supply retailer?
We took this line of questioning one step further, asking survey respondents what one thing they like best about their most preferred auto supply retailer.
For specialty auto chains Advance, AutoZone, and O’Reilly, it was the same thing shoppers most liked: store location (an average of 26% across all three retailers). Indeed, store location received more favor than even regular prices, sales/price promotions, customer service/employees, availability of information, quality of merchandise, or selection/assortment of merchandise.
As for Walmart, 55% said it’s the regular, “everyday” prices that really rev their engines, easily the fan favorite among Agents who cited Walmart as their most preferred auto supply retailer.
Finally, 52% of Target auto supply shoppers said they prefer the retailer for its “ease of shopping/convenience,” likewise among those who identified Amazon (33%) as their favorite auto supply retailer.
5. How often do drivers shop at specialty auto supply chains like Advance Auto, AutoZone, and O’Reilly?
In our survey of 500 drivers, only 2% said they always (i.e., only) purchase auto supplies from specialty auto chains. Yet 30% do so often, and another 46% do so sometimes. Only 3% indicated they never make purchases from stores like Advance Auto, AutoZone, or O’Reilly Auto.
6. What do shoppers buy from specialty auto supply chains?
We asked, and the table to the right displays the top 8 purchases from specialty auto supply stores, as revealed by our survey. At 52% and 51% respectively, auto parts (for repairs) and windshield wipers were most prevalent among shoppers.
7. What do shoppers particularly dislike about specialty auto supply chains?
Of 11 possible choices, shoppers said they’re least enthused—by a long shot—about the regular, "everyday" prices (44%) at specialty auto supply stores. Then, after a 27-point drop, shoppers pinpointed “lack of or size of sales/price promotions” (17%) as their next biggest gripe, just in front of “customer service/employees” (14%), and “location of stores/inconvenient to shop there” (12%).
8. So what are prices like among specialty auto supply stores, compared to a mass merchandiser like Walmart?
We sent 100 Agents to price check a basket of five goods inside several auto supply chains, including Advance Auto, AutoZone, O’Reilly, and Walmart. See the table for full results. Note: The prices below reflect modes, or the most common price of each product.
The cost of the basket of goods across all three specialty retail chains—Advance, AutoZone, and O’Reilly—averaged out to $99.88. Consequently, for this basic price check of five goods, a shopper would save $24.91 by purchasing the merchandise from Walmart. And while the sample sizes are insufficient to draw firm conclusions about which retailers do or do not have the lowest prices, this rudimentary exercise does lend some credibility to shoppers’ chief complaint (see above) about specialty auto supply chains.
9. Are drivers eager for specialty auto supply chains to adopt or improve their digital services?
It’s an omnichannel world.
But are shoppers eager for specialty auto supply chains to add more (or better) digital, omnichannel services?
We asked, “Which digital services would you particularly like for specialty auto supply stores to add or improve?” In all, 69% said they’d like a smartphone app that lets them shop for merchandise, download coupons/store ads, and/or locate stores.
Another 53% would welcome in-store pickup options (i.e., BOPUS), and 36% same-day, in-town delivery.
Need Insights from the Auto Supply Aisle?
What location-specific information do you need to take your automotive brand or business—or another category for that matter—to the next level? Price checks? Display compliance? OOS/OSA audits? Competitive information? In-store or at-home shopper insights?
Mobile Audits and Research offer a direct line of sight into stores, homes, or anywhere else, including the auto supply aisle or department of stores across the country. They provide fast, affordable answers to vexing business questions.
Download the infographic, “Bridging the Knowledge Gap,” to see how Mobile Audits and Research work.