Google is the world’s most used search engine and 84% of the searches are discovery searches. Car dealerships get the highest number of calls and visits from their Google My Business page, has dozens of features to help dealerships sell cars, promote Fixed Ops (parts and service), highlights positive customer experiences and shows 5-star reviews.
Fixed Ops or parts/service is an important part of every dealership since it can represent as much as half of a dealer’s revenue. While selling new and pre-owned cars is important, bringing those car buyers back to your service bays for service, parts, and body repairs is also crucial to a healthy and profitable dealership.
Lissette Gole, Google’s head of automotive retail, shared current trends in fixed ops consumer behavior in a recent Digital Air Strike-hosted webinar. Gole provides information on how both parts and service customers are open to changing where they buy parts and get their vehicle serviced. She also shows how parts and service customers research online to find information and online videos.
“Today’s disruptions in the auto industry call for a greater emphasis on fixed ops,” Gole said. “The chip shortage is inflating prices for new and used cars, and the average age of vehicles on the road is now over 12 years old. While some people put off repairs during the lockdown, customer maintenance ranks high in dealership loyalty, so the time is now to reach these customers.”
Parts and Service Customer Trends
According to a recent survey of people who recently purchased parts and service, over half of those surveyed purchased parts at retail locations. The study, completed in Q1 2021, shows that over a quarter of those surveyed purchased their parts online, with Amazon as the No. 1 retail spot for auto parts, followed by Auto Zone, Walmart.com, and eBay. Dealers accounted for 10% of those parts purchases, she said.
“Dealers can focus on letting customers know they can fill those parts needs and the value of OEM parts vs. generic parts,” Gole said. “Dealers are afterthoughts when it comes to parts purchases, which is a big opportunity for dealerships.”
Digital Air Strike’s COO Erica Sietsma said she’s seen dealerships be very successful at selling parts online.
“It can certainly be lucrative and be another way to build up the brand,” said Sietsma, who joined Gole on the webinar. “This sets dealers up to be that subject matter expert that Amazon can’t be. There’s definitely an opportunity here. And, of course, Digital Air Strike can help those dealers who want to get more involved in parts.”
When it comes to service, over half of customers surveyed said they stick to the one location to get their car worked on, with most saying they take their vehicle to the dealership where they bought it. However, Gole said 37% of these people are open to switching to a non-dealer service center.
“Growing this customer service baseline is key to profitability,” Gole said. “Dealers need to be the trusted advisor. Whether it’s in warranty or out of warranty, it doesn’t matter to the customer. Your customers want convenience.”
“I’ve seen really creative dealerships get into after-hours service business, especially with concierge, which became a must-have during the pandemic and lockdown,” Sietsma said. “My dealership texts me when it’s time for an oil change and then comes to pick it up from my office. I use this dealership because they do pick-up and drop-off. This is a huge opportunity for dealers.”
Do-it-yourself customers are more likely to want service because they’re responding to an unforeseen issue or failure, and many show openness to switching to do-it-for-me.
“4 out of 10 of these DIYers are willing to take their car to a service department because they can’t do it on their own or don’t want to,” Gole said. “Dealers should build awareness of their brand through Google search, local search, Google maps and videos on YouTube, so you’re top of mind to customers. The relationship starts before the DIYer needs you. What you do today impacts your business tomorrow.”
Car enthusiasts who regularly work with after-sales modifications and want to enhance their vehicle, style, or performance are not against investing in vehicles beyond regular maintenance.
“Enthusiasts want to upscale their vehicle, and search engines such as Google and YouTube (the 2nd most popular search engine) are the top resources they use when researching modifications, followed by family, friends, or colleague’s recommendations,” Gole said. “When reaching out to enthusiasts, YouTube videos are the best way to reach this group. If you have a robust parts department, it’s best to let enthusiasts know. It’s all about relationship building here.”
Once you gain the loyalty of an enthusiast, they will likely continue to call you because they’re always going to have a project, Sietsma said.
“It’s a great opportunity at the time of sale because they can finance larger customizations and modifications,” she said. “Dealers should absolutely have search marketing on their GMB profile for people who want to go down that path. Advertise about it on your website. Let the local market know you offer that. The aftermarket business is huge.”
Make sure consumers looking for the parts and services your dealership offers can find you online including Google My Business – – and like what they read. Request a free Intel Report, which is a comprehensive analysis of your online presence including your Google My Business profile, YouTube and other top review sites, here.