DIAMOND BAR, Calif. (March 4, 2010) — According to data gathered by the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) at its annual trade show in Las Vegas last year, at least three-quarters of car enthusiasts in eight different categories use the Internet to research and inform their parts and accessories purchases.
The statistics—based on data from car and truck enthusiasts in the categories of compact performance, off-road, passenger car, racing, restoration, street performance, street rod/custom, and truck/SUV—should be a prime motivation for companies to revamp, enhance or develop their business' Web site, the association said.
SEMA reported the number of enthusiasts using the Internet jumps to 80 percent when social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are factored in. The Diamond Bar-based trade group also found that fellow enthusiast sites are the most popular venues for gathering information, followed by queries made through traditional search engines such as Google and Yahoo. It noted that magazines, catalogs, car shows and manufacturer Web sites still contribute to enthusiast research, as well.
Depending on market segment, between 52 percent and 78 percent of enthusiasts still rely on magazines, for example, to inform their buying decisions, SEMA said. Street-rod enthusiasts in particular prefer ink and paper (78 percent), almost as much as they do enthusiast Web site research (80 percent).
“Compact-performance fans are the most receptive to doing their homework on the Internet, with 85 percent saying they turn to enthusiast sites for answers,” according to SEMA. Off-roaders and street-performance enthusiasts (81 percent) follow closely behind.
“Does all of that time in front of the screen convert to action? Absolutely,” SEMA noted, pointing out that an average of 72 percent of parts hunters in all eight categories said they'd purchased from Internet retailers. “Not surprisingly, compact-performance enthusiasts were most likely to buy from an Internet retailer, while those in the restoration scene—just 66 percent—were among the least likely.”
SEMA said generally about 54 percent of enthusiasts in all segments reported they'd purchased from an independent retailer. The association's research indicated street performance fans are most likely to buy from an independent (55 percent), while truck and SUV owners at just 46 percent are the least loyal.
In an effort to better analyze the tastes and preferences of auto enthusiasts, SEMA said it worked with Ford Motor Co. at the 2009 SEMA Show to launch the Enthusiast Opinion Leader Research Program.
The program invited 527 enthusiasts—selected through what SEMA deemed “a rigorous application process” —to the second day of the trade show and “tasked them with using social media, including Twitter and Facebook, to broadcast their personal product and trend highlights of the show.”
Participants in the program were mostly male (96 percent), with 52 percent between 25 and 44 years old. Most were married (96 percent), with 67 percent having household incomes between $50,000 to in excess of $75,000, the association said.