By Behzad Rassuli, senior vice president, Strategic Development, Auto Care Association
The way we operate as human beings has changed thanks to the pandemic. From basic things like changes to your sleep schedule and daily routine, to how much time you spend with your family, to what your new typical day-to-day looks like at work, it’s all changed in some way, shape or form.
If you sit and think about some of those changes, it can be powerful to observe the domino effect the pandemic has had on both our personal and professional lives. But some of these changes were already happening. Maybe we thought they were fads, or far off gradual shifts, but the economy changed over night, and if you think it’s going back to the way it was, you might be wrong.
I’ll give you an example.
Weekend warriors are familiar with this routine: Wake up early on a Saturday morning, head to your local hardware store and spend the day working on a project to enhance your home. Fun, right? Well, COVID changed my Saturday mornings. From what once was an experience that I looked forward to, turned into driving in traffic (Traffic? How?) to reach a crowded parking lot at the store. A queue of people lined up outside, waiting for their turn to get in as I walk towards the back of the lengthy centipede. After clumsily navigating the isles of the store, (walk forward, turn around, look up, down, left, right, bend down, look up again, walk to the next isle) I learn that the other neighborhood moms and dads had the same idea as me, resulting in the product I was seeking to be completely sold out. “Well, that was a waste of time,” I told myself as I went home empty handed and disappointed. “Probably a temporary thing.” Guess what? Several months pass, and I’m often faced with the same experience today.
How did I respond to this?
I changed my habits.
Now, I never leave the house without checking to see if the item is in stock and in store online (if I even leave the house now). The online marketplace also has reviews and videos on how to install the product, so I can determine if I should buy it rather than trying to figure it out in-store. I also check to see if the product is available at the store just a half-mile away from my preferred store. If it’s available at the “other” store? You bet my loyalty is out the door because when I need an item, I need it. And if I’m busy that day? I choose the store that offers free pick-up or fast delivery. If it makes my life convenient and easier, I’m there.
But what does this have to do with the automotive aftermarket?
Trends that don’t affect you, affect you.
The trend I’m describing above is happening in every industry imaginable. From brick-and-mortar retail to grocery and food service, to banks and now even car buying – businesses are pivoting to meet the needs of their customer and make their transactions seamless. Sure, it’s a shift. But the businesses that are shifting alongside the trends are winning. Pay attention to the buzzwords:
Online. App. One click. Instant. Free Delivery. Same Day. At Home. Hassle free. 15-minute guarantee.
Companies that are doing any of the above for customers, and that have a competitor that isn’t doing these things, is disrupting their sector.
Call for a price. Out of stock. 48-hour response time. Automated reply. Ship to store.
What comes to mind when you hear the above words when working with a business? Does that satisfy you as a customer?
Are you the disruptor, or the disrupted?
Avoiding disruption can sometimes be as simple as paying attention to the world around you and applying those trends to your business. What are the buying experiences that you prefer? What are the buying experiences of your friends and family that they can’t stop talking about, or constantly recommend? What is it about their experiences that make them open their wallet for a brand? Would customers appreciate this experience from your company?
Sure, shifts take time. They take investment and they take expertise. But what’s stopping you?
Are you worried that one of these shifts might actually be a fad? Look at some of the fastest growing businesses in our economy. Look at the businesses gaining share. Look at the increasing number of packages on your doorstep.
Don’t want to be seen as imitating a competitor? Rather than trying to match what they’re doing, have you thought about providing an even better experience?
Don’t have the resources to make a change? Sometimes, the smallest things can make a difference. Implement business changes that directly reply to the needs of the customer, step by step. You don’t have to do it alone: hire a consultant or leverage the gig economy. The barrier to change and innovate is much, much lower than it used to be.
Don’t be your limiting factor.
Evolve with your customer, provide amazing experiences.
Invest in your customer satisfaction experience and let them lead your business to understand the shifts that you need. A business undergoing rapid expansion profiled in the Wall Street Journal this month said that “better software platforms, more competitive dynamics and … a more demanding consumer who expects a degree of relevance,” are factors fueling his company’s responses to customer needs. He’s right.
Ecommerce is here to stay and isn’t the only disruptor to pay attention to. How else can you capitalize on convenience for your customers? Cost-savings? The world, and consumers will continue to shift. Following the trends of the people who lead your business growth is key to gaining ground in the marketplace.
And, if you’re planning on joining us at AAPEX this fall, your time will serve as your own professional tune-up, providing insights on the latest products and changing demands to help you navigate these shifts. Take these three days to invest in your future and stay competitive. Sign up to be notified when registration opens in May.