And digital activity will influence just over $148 billion in U.S. auto parts and accessory sales this year.

U.S. online sales of new auto parts and accessories will grow about 16% and reach $12.3 billion this year, according to an analysis conducted by Hedges & Co., an automotive digital marketing agency. Most of those sales will happen on smartphones.

Of that total, sales of automotive parts and accessories on mobile phones will exceed $7.4 billion—about 60.2% of the total—in 2019. That mobile sales total would be an increase of 27.6% from $5.8 billion in 2018. That percentage of sales coincides with web traffic for auto parts and accessory retail websites, which now get more than 60% of total traffic on mobile devices, Hedges & Co. says. Mobile auto parts ecommerce will grow at an average annual rate of  25% through 2022, Hedges & Co. projects.

Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 1000, is expected to sell $6.3 billion worth of auto parts, accessories and car care products in 2019, plus $1.6 billion in replacement parts made by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), bringing its total to almost $8 billion, Hedges & Co. says.

“The [automotive] aftermarket is catching up to the rest of the world,” says Jon Hedges, president of Hedges & Co.

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Digital, activity will influence just over $148 billion in U.S. auto parts and accessory sales this year, the analysis says. Those “digitally influenced” sales include goods bought online and those researched or discovered online before being purchased in a store. By 2022, U.S. online sales of auto parts and accessories will reach $19 billion, and digitally influenced sales will grow to $162.4 billion, Hedges & Co. projects.

Online sales and digital influence in the sector are growing because consumers are becoming more comfortable buying auto parts online and auto parts retailers are getting better at ecommerce, offering a better online experience than in past years, Hedges says.

Also, a growing number of auto parts and accessories manufacturers now sell directly to consumers on their websites. Those include well-known brands such as Edelbrock LLC, Flowmaster Mufflers, Holley Performance ProductsWeatherTech Direct LLC (No. 940 in the Top 1000) and Westin Automotive Inc. That makes a lot of sense because auto parts shoppers are going to manufacturers’ sites anyway, Hedges says.

“Consumers in the automotive aftermarket tend to be research-obsessed,” he says. That’s because a consumer repairing or restoring a car must know for sure that a part will fit. Otherwise, the purchase represents wasted time, even if the buyer can return the product for a refund. To gain the certainty they need, the majority of consumers go to the manufacturer’s website to get detailed information about the part they want to buy. An even larger number use the websites of parts retailers.

Roughly nine out of 10 consumers do some form of research online before they purchase an auto part or accessory, says Hedges & Co. Consumers conduct online research even when they eventually buy at a store. The most popular research sources for consumers are online search engines (74% of all consumers), auto parts retailer websites (73%), manufacturer websites (57%) and automotive forums (47%), according to Hedges & Co. data.

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Online sales of auto parts and accessories sales will be about $2.9 billion in Canada and $700 million in Mexico, bringing the North American market to about $15.9 billion in 2019, Hedges & Co. says.

The report is based on a mix of proprietary research, data from the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, third-party data with statistical modeling and interviews of industry leaders and influencers, Hedges & Co. says. The company’s annual forecasts count only online sales of new and re-manufactured auto parts. The totals do not include third-party sales through Amazon.com, sales from online auctions, such as eBay Motors, or other third-party marketplaces.

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