Blue car

The symbiotic relationship between the radio and automotive industries is arguably best demonstrated in the auto parts vertical where category leaders O'Reilly Auto Parts and rival AutoZone are frequently among broadcast radio’s top auto advertisers. New research from MARU/Matchbox helps explain why. Heavy AM/FM radio listeners visit more retailers in the category, make more shopping trips and spend 26% more than the average.

The third annual study of the auto aftermarket category, commissioned by Cumulus Media and Westwood One, identifies three key consumer segments that outspend the typical auto parts shopper. Do-it-yourselfers make up 12% of the category but spend 31% more than the average. Mega milers clock 200+ miles in their vehicles a week and spend 33% more on auto parts than the average. And ultra-heavy auto parts consumers comprise 14% of category shoppers and represent 37% of all category shopping trips. They also spend almost twice as much as the average. (A little less than a third of ultra-heavy auto parts shoppers say they repair and maintain cars for a living.)

Do-it-yourselfers and ultra-heavy auto parts shoppers are far more likely to be heavy AM/FM radio listeners. Twice as many ultra-heavies are heavy AM/FM radio listeners. And the do-it-yourselfers segment is 25% more likely to be heavy AM/FM radio listeners.

The study also found a correlation between brand perception and radio advertising. Fourteen different brand attributes were measured, such as “has the most convenient locations,” and consumers were asked to name the retailer that first came to mind for the attribute. Averaging these fourteen retailer associations together creates the average brand perception. In the overall shopper category, AutoZone’s average brand perception was found to be nearly twice the nearest brand.

AutoZone happened to be radio’s No. 15 advertiser in 2019 and its highest ranking automotive account. AutoZone has nearly one-third who say they shop most at the retailer, more than double that of No. 2 Walmart (15%). Next was Advance Auto Parts (13%) and O'Reilly Auto Parts at 11%. O'Reilly was radio’s 22nd largest advertiser in 2019, based on spot volume. Amazon.com, measured for the first time, earned a 10% share for “shopped most often in the past year.”

Averaging a series of 14 different category perceptions, Amazon placed second among do-it-yourselfers and the ultra-heavy auto part shopper segments.

When it comes to brand equity, AutoZone leads, the study found. It is followed by Advance Auto Parts, Walmart, Amazon, O’Reilly Auto Parts, and NAPA Auto Parts.

Justin Thomas, a Research Analyst at Westwood One, says online retailers are making inroads. Three online auto parts retailers (PartsGeek.com, RockAuto.com, and Amazon) have a combined 19% average brand image among the ultra-heavy auto parts shoppers, he notes in a blog post summarizing the results.

The study uncovers a brand opportunity in the competitive category: over a quarter of auto parts shoppers are unable to name a retailer for an average of the fourteen brand attributes. “Historically, the auto aftermarket sector heavily marketed vendor oil special offers,” Thomas says. “It is hard to tell one retailer from the other when so much of the creative is dedicated to touting specials and the latest deal.”

That’s one reason why he says the ideal mix of marketing investments for auto aftermarket retailers should be 40% sales activation and 60% brand building.

In another finding, heavy auto parts shoppers are more likely to purchase online. Eight out of ten ultra-heavy auto parts shoppers have purchased online in the last year, compared to infrequent shoppers who are far less likely to have purchased online.