This week, the RV Industry Association released its 2018 Aftermarket Parts and Accessories Customer Survey, the first of its kind, revealing key buying habits of RVers and underlining what is most important to RV owners when shopping for parts and accessories in stores and online. The outcome? It’s the newest and younger RV owners who are shaking up the RV aftermarket shopping arena.  

The survey, conducted by Cairn Consulting, showcases how these newer and younger owners made about a dozen purchases to the average owner’s six over the last two years. Cairn questioned 800 RVers who had traveled in an RV within the past year; and were heavily involved in decision-making about where to purchase aftermarket parts and accessories.

Sellers take note: when these buyers look for new items, they prize sales and want their items to be available immediately, especially when they shop at the same location they bought their RVs. They want what they want when they want it, and they are ready to spend more, too. They not only buy more parts over a year but are more likely to spend more time and money - both in stores and online. The survey concludes that half of all RVers want parts right away, so they can get back on the road, with the impact even greater among new RV purchasers and those under 45 years old.

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The survey also compares in-store buyers to those who shop online. Close to half of online purchasers intend to buy more aftermarket parts and accessories, compared to about one-fourth of purchasers who intend to shop more in stores. Two-thirds of those in-store buyers are attracted by promotional ads, yet when they go into the stores, some feel let down by the lack of certain parts. Online shoppers are happier. They feel the sites they choose have more of what they are looking for - fully half of them find greater selection and can get just what they want. Not surprisingly, free shipping appears to impact the frequency of online shopping (83%) as well.

Of the in-store buyers, two-thirds are drawn into the store by promotional ads and have a generally favorable view of technical assistance and quality of items in a specific store.  However, some do feel they do not always get the parts they are looking for, where fully half of online shoppers surveyed indicate that parts availability is better when compared to stores. There is somewhat of a gap in the availability of technical assistance online though, with 3-in-10 online shoppers rating this area as only good, fair or poor.

Another interesting finding in the survey is that even those who shop online also like to visit those sites’ brick-and-mortar stores. They like to get out there and physically interact with salespeople and merchandise.

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But what do those in-store shoppers look for once they walk into a location? They want availability, of course, but they also want someone there to give them more information on a product they like, and perhaps some in-depth technical guidance. Online sites satisfy the availability requirement, but lack that one-to-one personal interaction with tech experts, so according to the survey, in-store buyers have a more favorable view of immediate technical assistance.

And here’s an additional surprising find: younger and newer RV owners are twice as likely as older purchasers to say they would rather shop at brick-and-mortar locations than make the actual purchases online. Instead of the image we might have of younger RVers sitting at a computer and ordering parts, these buyers are much more likely to get up and go out into the marketplace to look for sale pricing, immediate availability or straightforward price points.

All in all, the survey points to the fact that all aftermarket store owners should pay close attention to some factors that influence both in-store and online shopping. They include availability, of course, but also a fair return policy, how clean a brick-and-mortar store is, and the ease of shopping. Less important over all are seasonal promotions and standard price points.

Whether RVers shop online or make the trip into their RV dealers to look for parts and accessories, availability is at the top of their wish lists. Have the items on hand and the purchases will follow!

Members may access the full report and the executive summary.