2013 SEMA Marketing Report Shows Online Retailers Need Better Content

If you’re in the business of selling parts and accessories, a SEMA membership is probably a worthwhile investment. Not only does membership entitle you to attend the world’s greatest car show, but it also gets you some awesome market research info like the 2013 SEMA annual report.

Free for SEMA members, you can download the report yourself here.

Without disclosing anything proprietary (or at least without intending to disclose proprietary info), here are the highlights from our perspective as a company that helps companies retail parts and accessories online.

There’s still a lot of room for growth. SEMA’s report leads with the fact that the automotive parts and accessories market had sales over $31 billion in 2012, a nice increase from 2011. While this number is excellent, it’s far short of the peak sales figure from 2007 (which was about $38 billion).

All things being equal, this means that retail sales from 2012 can be expected to grow another 20%.

Online parts sales (as a percentage of total sales) have room to grow. If you look at how consumers buy auto parts and accessories, online sales are 20-25% of the marketplace (depending on the type of vehicle).

While this percentage is excellent compared to the national average of 5.5% (meaning that 5.5% of all retail transactions are online), it’s low considering the fact that nearly all consumers surveyed by SEMA used the internet to find information about parts and accessories.

The vast majority of auto parts and accessories consumers are going online to learn about whatever it is they want to buy. From SEMA 2013 Market Report.

The SEMA report also shows pretty clearly that a good percentage of part and accessory consumers (40-60%, depending on vehicle type) are installing whatever parts and accessories they buy themselves.

Bottom Line: By our reckoning, the discrepancy between the consumers looking for info online and the consumers buying parts online is explained (at least partially) by a lack of quality website content. If, for example, every part or accessory came with clear DIY install instructions (video or otherwise), it would be much easier for online retailers to “close” the sale online.

As things stand, it looks like a lot of auto parts consumers are using retailer’s websites to learn, but buying elsewhere. While undeniably frustrating to ecommerce website owners, this information represents a tremendous opportunity.