Bucking an industry trend, Advance Auto Parts said its growth in DIY sales outpaced professional sales for existing stores in the fourth quarter.
Advance President and CEO Tom Greco pointed to several strategies that have buoyed DIY sales, including the company’s recent advertising campaign – “Think Ahead. Think Advance.” – and its investments in omnichannel initiatives, which “continue to strengthen our customer value proposition for DIYers.”
“I think that we’re executing better in the stores,” Greco said during the company’s Feb. 19 conference call. “I think the advertising helped. The awareness numbers went up nicely. They’re still way too low in our view, but the awareness numbers did go up behind the new advertising. Our execution on ‘buy online/pick up in store’ is improving. All of those things are factors.”
Making further inroads with DIY customers will be “an omnichannel effort.” Advance has been investing heavily in its e-commerce capabilities, and Greco noted the company is “seeing strong growth in our e-commerce business.” Investments have focused on improving the quality of the Advance website, boosting page-load speed and streamlining search capabilities, among other things.
“About 70 percent of the transactions – whether they’re DIY, online or retail – start on a mobile device now,” Greco said during the call. “So you really have to be there for the customer when they’re doing their initial searches and investigating what they need to do for the job.
Cutting-edge technology is playing a key role in Advance’s DIY strategy. The company is using artificial intelligence and machine learning “to improve our online attachment selling as well as product assortment,” according to Greco.
“The significant investments we’re making in our website are enabling improved customer confidence that they’re getting the right part for the job,” he said. “If they buy online and pick up in store, our knowledgeable team members are available to provide trusted advice to our customers and ensure they have the complete and correct parts to get the job done.”
Still, “from an industry standpoint,” Greco said it’s likely professional sales will outperform DIY sales. This year, there will be more vehicles in the aftermarket’s sweet spot – the six- to 11-year-old population – “and that tends to benefit the professional side a little bit more,” he noted. The ever-increasing complexity of vehicles also favors the professional side.
Greco said Advance estimates its professional business will grow 4 to 5 percent, while its DIY business will grow “in the low-single-digit range.” He added: “On a macro level, we would expect professional to outperform DIY over time, and that’s how we’ve modeled our own business as well.”