SEMA Market Report Summary

SEMA 2020 Market Report in 15 minutes (as it relates to automotive eCommerce)

The 90 page report was packed to the brim with incredible insights but we realize given the current state of the world, you may not have had time for such light reading. So, we’ve taken some time to extract and analyze some of the most relevant findings from SEMA’s most recent work of art.

The good news is that demand for aftermarket products isn’t going anywhere. In fact, if you own an off road shop, you’re probably praying for a solid tech to come out of the woodwork so you can speed up your backlog of projects. Other niches like racing haven’t been so fortunate the whole duration of COVID-19, but are beginning to make a comeback.

This blog article is for anyone who is interested in the impact of COVID on aftermarket automotive eCommerce. We really tried to weed out the stuff that you probably already knew (like 2019 was a year of growth for the industry and that COVID shakes things up).

Spoiler alert - you’re going to have to make some adjustments to your strategy and pay more attention to messaging, but all-in-all this market report bodes well for us all. Let’s dig in.


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Where do People Like to Buy Aftermarket Products?

About 60% of 2019’s retail sales came by way of brick and mortar locations. Most of which belonged to chain stores (NAPA, AutoZone, etc.) because that’s where consumers look for disposables like wax and cleaning products.

Between physical store and online sales combined, specialty shops actually accounted for the second largest total percentage (20%) of 2019 sales. The online channels are popular for researching “easy-to-install” and cheaper products, but consumers continue to seek out in-person expert advice when tackling more complex projects.

Consumers are also more likely to buy from a local store over Amazon because they don’t have to wait and they have a source to go back to if the part is defective or they have trouble with installation.

If you are a specialty shop, then you’re likely showing up in searches for expert advice and part availability, are you taking advantage of that?

Consumer Purchase by Vehicle Segment

Pickups accounted for the vast majority of 2019 sales (31%) and Mid Range, SUV, and CUV are also heavily modded at 15%, 14%, 13% respectively. Is it any wonder that off road shops are drowning in work and their phones are ringing off the hook? If your phones are ringing off the hook, I’d challenge you to ask yourself the following questions:

1. Are these phone calls converting into sales?
2. Could any of these phone calls be automated by having a better online presence?

Even if you don’t read the full report, it’s worth investigating your niche and taking a look at metrics like % shipped to home vs. In-store pickup/install. If you have an online store, cross reference the SEMA data with your own (if you have it) and if it’s off, try to understand what’s out of place.

Maybe your offering isn’t clear, maybe you aren’t showing up in search for a given product due to sub-par data, or maybe you just aren’t offering the right products. If you’d like a second opinion, reach out to us directly.

Consumer Profile

Understanding how your target market searches for information is half the battle, here. The SEMA market report busts a common myth here: Millennials don’t accessorize or work on their vehicles.

If you still believe that’s the case, then you must not be on social media. The younger generation is in fact more likely to accessorize their vehicles. What’s more, they are also twice as likely to own other recreational vehicles (ATV, UTV, RV, Boat) etc which means if you can capture their loyalty for one vehicle, you can capture it for the others.

The caveat is they’re more likely to do research online while still buying in-person so it’s trickier to track metrics like attribution. None-the-less, your catalogue needs to be searchable from any mobile device because if it’s not, they’ll find somewhere else and stick there.

How the Vehicle is Used

In 2019, most accessorized vehicles were still daily drivers. There isn’t a whole lot of reason to think that will drastically change (assuming things return to normal at some point) but it’s worth considering maybe people will separate recreational vehicles from daily drivers.

Where Consumers Look for Parts Information

People ask their friends and family while also searching online. The online searches are generally through search engines and also directly through the manufacturer sites.

If you are a manufacturer, especially with SEMA cancelled, you should ask yourself if people are able to find the information they seek on your website. Even if you aren’t selling direct, your catalogue should be easy enough to sort through from a computer or mobile device.

Another very relevant point here is data quality. Are your retailers able to represent the quality of your products through complete, shoppable/searchable product data?

If you’re a retailer, this means you need solid product data, otherwise you’ll get lost in the shuffle to massive players like Rock Auto and Summit Racing (or smaller retailers who just have better data).


Even with the sh*t storm of a year 2020 has been, the demand for aftermarket parts is here to stay.

Events have traditionally accounted for a fair amount of sales and an untraceable portion of brand presence but we have to prepare for a scenario in which they are not going to resume in the near future.

Online channels were already a major source of information for consumers but as we are forced to shift to a more digital landscape brands may find themselves forced to adapt. For manufacturers that might mean digitizing their catalogue and becoming more searchable online, or creating a space for dealers to order online (due to high call volume), or participating in data repositories like DCi, SDC and/or ASAP.

For retailers it means you’ll have to really hone in on what your niche is and how you can appear in search results as “the expert”. They’ll want to consult your team in person and maybe even ship to install.

The importance of quality product data is going to be magnified as more and more shops make the shift to eCommerce. The market is there, you just have to be strategic about your offering.

Now’s the time to re-think your technology, automate processes, and focus on your online presence in the market.

Check out our mini ebook "How to Accelerate Your Brand Value with eCommerce Success" for more actionable insights from the premier automotive eCommerce platform.


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BEDSLIDE - Client Testimonial

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