Successful Marketing and the Younger Auto Service Shopper

The complexities behind customer loyalty and the service center selection process are numerous, but more and more noticeably, they seem to pivot around age.

Dealer and independent providers will have to adapt their communications and marketing programs to capture this younger wave of shoppers. If they become complacent and do not take steps to mitigate the loss of aging loyalists (those 75 years and up who are a profitable consumer segment for them) as they begin to exit the marketplace, it could represent a loss of $310 million1 if they are not replaced.

As the chart below shows, the market reality is simply that dealers must shed the stigma of being a “senior center” and attract younger, mainly aftermarket-leaning shoppers, as they move into their prime spending years.

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Our recent white papers, “The Changing Service Loyalty Landscape” (released in February and available at and “Marketing Success in a Changing Loyalty Landscape” (released in March and available at analyze loyalty and industry share-of-wallet realities in today’s competitive marketplace. These reports provide a framework for understanding the value of the various loyalty types and it represents one of the most comprehensive windows into the $215 billion U.S. auto service market to date. Both studies are based on a recent DMEautomotive survey of 4,000 U.S. vehicle owners.

While “The Changing Service Loyalty Landscape” outlines the conditions of the battlefield for customer-pay service dollars, the second white paper in the series, “Marketing Success in a Changing Loyalty Landscape,” provides successful marketing strategies for winning the battle.

The one-size-fits-all, service marketing approach just doesn’t work. What motivates shoppers to choose a store, and how they want to be communicated with, can vary dramatically by age and loyalist type. Sending the right message, to the right customer, via the right channel—and effectively reaching younger, more demanding, tech-savvy shoppers—means targeting demographic and loyalty segments separately.
We live in the era of personalized, information-based marketing, and sending out sporadic, cookie-cutter maintenance reminders is no longer a viable service marketing strategy.

Consumer communications preferences, by frequency and platform, vary for each service outlet type and you must consider specific age related needs of customers, as it can be a contributing factor to and have a significant impact on loyalty.
It is essential that dealerships, independent stores, and aftermarket chains know these basic, foundational data points and those best practices for effective communications strategies in order to drive more revenue, not only from the profitable (minority) loyalist base, but from even higher-opportunity “swing” and “dis-loyalist” customers.

Consider this:

  • Most consumers (60 to 70+ percent) want to hear from their service provider(s), and most loyalty segments expect, communication at least once every three months.
  • Younger, aftermarket loyalists turn to company websites, social networking sites, and review sites. They also prefer emerging digital communications like email and mobile app notifications much more than any service shopper.
  • The younger, wired auto service shopper is price and convenience driven and most receptive to dealer loyalty programs.
  • Implementing an automotive loyalty program is critical to protecting loyalist customers and converting younger, swing, and dis-loyalist shoppers.
  • Over 30 percent of dealer and aftermarket chain loyalists would likely join a loyalty program, and nearly that same percentage of dealer swing loyalists would participate. (See the chart below.)
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With the service business of 77 percent of customers now in play3, those service providers that adopt a more nuanced marketing mindset, and reach beyond traditional mass-market and direct marketing tactics, will take market share.

  1. The Changing Service Loyalty Landscape, DMEautomotive White Paper, March 2012
  2. Conducted 2011. All respondents were responsible for service decisions on their primary vehicles, and purchased auto service within the last year.
  3. The Changing Service Loyalty Landscape, DMEautomotive White Paper, March 2012

Doug Van Sach is vice president of Strategy and Analytics at DMEautomotive. He joined the DMEautomotive team in 2008 as director for the strategy and analytics division, and has extensive experience developing and implementing direct marketing and digital strategies at OEMs, automotive dealer groups, and aftermarket chains.

Cody Larson


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