Report: Americans born after 1980 (‘Digital Natives’) are reshaping the aftermarket

“Digital Natives (Americans born during the age of digital technology) differ significantly from earlier generations of Americans in terms how they seek information and make decisions concerning vehicle repair.”

“Born after 1980, Digital Natives span the Y (Millennials) and Z Generations. They differ significantly in key aftermarket attitudes from Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, who are Digital Immigrants born between 1946 and 1980. ”

— Jim Lang, publisher, Lang Aftermarket iReport

Digital Natives & Digital Immigrants

While Digital Natives have grown up with personal computers, the Internet and all the other trappings of the digital age, Digital Immigrants have had to acquire digital knowledge after their formative years.

Digital Natives are much more inclined than Digital Immigrants to use the Internet to make buying decisions. Digital Immigrants, in contrast, generally are more comfortable with face-to-face, in-store relationships and using the telephone to acquire product and purchase information.

Aftermarket Impact

Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants differ in three major ways that affect their aftermarket behavior: use of the Internet as the primary source of aftermarket information, preference for online transactions as opposed to face-to-face purchases, and the growth of platform buying.

The Internet is usually the first stop for Digital Natives to discover what is wrong with their vehicles, the cost of repairs, where to purchase parts (Do-It-Yourselfers) and how to install them, or where to have repair performed (DIFM).

Digital Immigrants (particularly Baby Boomers) are much more likely than Digital Natives to seek vehicle information directly from a repair outlet or parts store, through direct contact or by telephone.

In-Store Shopping versus Quick-to-Buy (Online)

While Digital Immigrants often see distinct differences between in-store shopping and Quick-to-Purchase (online) buying, the difference between these two experiences is less likely to exist among Digital Natives.

Digital Natives often perceive little difference between Quick-to-Purchase (online) buying and in-store buying. The other advantages offered by in-store buying tend to not offset the advantages of the Quick-to-Purchase experience for Digital Natives, which include speed of transaction, variety of purchase alternatives, and (in many cases) lower prices.

In a similar fashion, Digital Natives are much less likely than Digital Immigrants to see an advantage in dealing face-to-face with parts stores or repair shops when making decisions about what is wrong with the vehicle, what repairs might cost and where to buy products or have repairs performed.

Shift to Platform Buying

Platform buying is a hot-button for Millennials with its speed of use, wide range of buying opportunities, generally lower prices, and one-stop shopping. In searching for vehicle service, electronic platforms provide consumers with access to many different repair outlets and parts choices, which, in turn, can provide different pricing and other consumer benefits.

Some platforms are specific to vehicle repair (e.g., Openbay, RepairPal, etc.), and other platforms such as Amazon offer access to a wide array of products and services.

Amazon as an Aftermarket Platform & Search Engine

Millennials love and trust Amazon. It has become a powerful search engine that provides buyers with a wide array of automotive products and a growing selection of automotive repairs.

Amazon, as an aftermarket electronic platform, can provide a level of trust for consumers that they likely could not individually develop with specific repair outlets or parts outlets from which they might make an aftermarket purchase.

o2o Growth

The growth of online-to-offline purchases (o2o) reflects the increased use by consumers of the Internet, especially platforms, to make a wide range of buying decisions.

It is inevitable that Digital Natives, driven by their values and purchase preferences, will continue to increase their use of digital platforms (such as Amazon) to research and purchase vehicle parts and services in the future.

Six Major Takeaways

  • Digital Natives span two generations born after 1980 (Generations Y and Z). Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives differ from each other in three major ways that affect their aftermarket behavior.
  • Platform buying has become a hot-button for Millennials by offering speed of use, a wide range of buying opportunities, generally lower prices, and one-stop shopping.
  • Millennials are in love with Amazon. They trust it as a transaction platform, and they also appreciate the wide variety of purchase options Amazon provides.
  • Platforms, especially Amazon, have become search engines, offering buyers a wide selection of products and services.
  • Amazon, as an electronic platform, can provide consumers with a level of trust that they likely could not establish individually with specific repair outlets or parts outlets from which they might make an aftermarket purchase.
  • The growth of online-to-offline purchases (o2o) reflects the consumers’ increased use of platforms to make a wide range of buying decisions. See the soon-to-be-released 2022 Lang Aftermarket Annual for an analyses of consumer generational differences that are shaping eCommerce, o2o Auto Repair, Mobile Repair, and other key aftermarket areas.

Copyright 2021 by Lang Marketing Resources, Inc.

NOTESpecial thanks to publisher Jim Lang for granting us permission to publish the Lang Aftermarket iReport.