Winning the Battle for Automotive Accessories Sales

The amount and variety of vehicle accessories available in today’s new cars is extraordinary. From the inside to the outside, the only thing limiting how consumers can accessorize their cars is their imagination. Everything from performance, safety, and style to connectivity, comfort and just about anything else you can think of can be enhanced with accessories. With so many options consumers have spoken with their pocketbooks to the tune or $31 billion. The question for the auto dealerships out there is not how can they convince customers to buy accessories, but how they can convince those customers to buy those accessories from them.

Carrying the right accessories.

The first step to selling more accessories is to know which types customers in your area want. Are you in the Northeast, where remote starts are a godsend on freezing cold mornings or are you in the South, where the sun makes window tinting the most popular item with new car customers. According to a study from February of 2013 by AddOnAuto1 the most popular accessories by region are:

Mid Atlantic:

Factory Exterior; Floor Mats; Alarms, Remote Starts, and Recovery; Hitch and Accessories; Factory Interior

Midwest:

Floor Mats; Paint Protection; Alarms, Remote Starts, and Recovery; Factory Exterior; Body Side Moldings

Northeast:

Alarms, Remote Starts, and Recovery; Floor Mats; Body Side Moldings; Factory Exterior; Paint Protection

South:

Window Tint; Factory Exterior; Body Side Moldings; Floor Mats; Paint Protection

West:

Floor Mats; Factory Exterior; Factory Interior; Body Side Moldings; Window Tint

We can see from this list that no matter where you are in the country your dealership should stock floor mats, if you’re in the South or West, you need to carry window tinting. The most important thing, however, is that your dealership carries accessories in the first place, because whether the customer buys them from your dealership, another dealership, or an aftermarket shop, they are going to buy them. In fact according to Forester Research, 44 percent of all buyers spend at least $250 on accessorizing their vehicle and many spend much more.

Dealerships have the advantage.

Right now, aftermarket shops take a significant portion of aftermarket accessories sales, but dealerships that focus on selling accessories have several advantages over the independents.

The first big advantage that dealers have is financing. Aftermarket shops don’t finance; their customers have to pay cash or break out their credit cards, which often means paying a high, interest rate. A dealership, on the other hand, has the option of including accessories in the vehicle financing, saving the customer money and hassle.

The second bit advantage dealerships have is the fact that they sell quality OEM parts, not aftermarket parts made by third-party manufacturers. Make sure that customers know the difference and remind them of issues that can arise with aftermarket parts not made by the OEM.


 

Selling accessories in the dealership.

Having accessories available at your dealership is essential to grabbing your slice of the accessories sales pie, but just having them is not enough; you need to market and sell them too. Unfortunately, Forester Research found that only 39 percent of salespeople made the effort to sell accessories, but this is not surprising when you consider that the same survey found that less than 50 percent of dealerships had accessorized vehicles on display. Dealerships need to make accessories sales part of their culture. To make selling accessories a part of your dealership culture, you need to have a process in place showing salespeople when and how to present accessories to the customer. This requires buy-in from management and ownership, as well as the sales staff. If management doesn’t find accessories sales important enough to display on their vehicles, how can you expect salespeople to focus on it? Once everyone is on board, it’s time to start selling accessories. The best time to do this is after the customer has decided to purchase a vehicle, but is still waiting for the F&I department. At this point the customer is excited about their new car, but probably getting bored with waiting around to take delivery. This is the ideal time to present accessories to the customer. Their excitement is still high and there is still time to fold any purchases into the price of the vehicle *(check your state regulations for including accessories with financed purchases). Customers are worried about price, so be sure to ease their mind by showing them the monthly payment as well as the purchase price, so they can see that their purchase won’t take too big a bite out of their monthly budget. When it comes to presenting accessories, the right moment is essential, but presentation is important too. Don’t just give the customer a list of available accessories and ask what they’re interested in: show them. You can show them with technology, such as one of the accessories presentation programs available that allow them to pick different accessories and see how they would look on the vehicle, or you can show them with an accessorized vehicle you have in your showroom. Either way can be effective, it depends on your customers and your dealership style, but what’s important is that you excite the customer about what they can do with their new car by showing them visually. We are visual creatures and a list of text just can’t have the impact of a visual presentation, whether it’s on a tablet or on a car.  

Selling accessories online.

Another trend in aftermarket accessories industry is the increase in online sales. We all know that today’s consumer starts the buying process online, long before they step foot in the dealership. They research different vehicles and they visit different dealership websites to see what inventory is available. It shouldn’t surprise us that according to a study from Google2 73 percent of accessories consumers researched their purchase online and “the average conversion rate for online research to offline sales for the accessory category is 40 percent.” Dealerships have the advantage here, because the customer is already on their site searching the inventory. All the dealership needs to do is provide a way for the customer to enhance their vehicle online. If the customer can find out what accessories are available for the car they’re interested in and then see it on the vehicle, it is a powerful sales tool that not only interests them in accessories, but keeps them from leaving your website to search for them. Unfortunately, despite their built in advantages, dealerships only account for 12 percent of sales from online accessories customers. This is obviously way below where we would like it to be, but the upside is that there is a lot of room for growth. Seventy-four percent of online customers use search to find the accessories they’re looking for, so use the skills you’ve gained doing SEO for your website and optimize your site for accessories search. The customers are already searching, you just need to make it easy for them to find you.  


The bottom line.

The bottom line is that despite an increase in auto sales from the dismal years of the great recession, car sales are still well below where they were just a few years ago and they’re not likely to climb to pre-recession levels for quite some time. Consumers are keeping their vehicles longer, service intervals are getting longer, and warranty work is slowing down, all of which means your dealership needs to find ways to increase its profits. Accessories present a great opportunity to bring back some of those lost profits. Customers are already buying them, you just need to make sure they buy from you.

Let us know what you think.

What are your thoughts on accessories sales? Have you had experience, good or bad, selling accessories at your dealership? If so, we’d love to hear about it. Just go to www.DealerMarketing.com/forum and tell us about your experience.

1 www.izmocars.com/aoa-trend-report/AOA-Trend-Report-2013.pdf

2 www.google.com/think/research-studies/automotive-aftermarket-study-2010.html

Michael Bowen

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