Back in the old days (more than 15 years ago), the only way to attract more customers to a vehicle repair shop was through traditional advertisement, or “word of mouth” customer recommendations. The shop could pay a lot for the former, but had no control over the latter. Today, the digital revolution is changing the way everyone does business — from how customers find and support their favorite mechanics to how DIY enthusiasts perform vehicle maintenance.
Digital media, including social media, offers a chance to engage, inform, and attract customers, all for little time or cash investment, if it is done properly. The best approach is to remember that online interactions are more personal than the professional in-person interactions. A Facebook page for a shop should be fun and interactive, with “snack size” pieces of content for their customers to engage with. This can be as simple as a fun pop quiz, or interesting bits of the industry. Also, make it more interesting than just car repair, by offering info on everything automotive, from traffic to tech.
While most shop owners realize they are part of a community, take some time to emphasize that point online by supporting local causes like a scout troop or cancer relay. This is the online version of sponsoring the tee ball team of old, and it has the same desired effect of showing the shop cares, promoting goodwill, and keeping the shop name in the mind of potential customers. Successfully engaging these groups online will lead to more interactions, as they will thank and promote the shop, in-turn generating more views, awareness, and more customers and profits.
For Do It Yourselfers
For the home mechanic that wants to do everything for themselves, digital media opens up a ton of know-how and opportunities. Previously, DIYers had to get hands-on training or advice from someone that knew the process, or trudge through repair books that offered only general advice. Now, it’s possible for the DIY enthusiast to see a complete repair on their exact vehicle before they go out and pop the hood.
Many auto parts stores have online electrical wiring diagrams or exploded diagrams free on their websites. Automotive manuals like Chilton’s are offered in digital versions, delivering all the convenience of a full paper manual, in an easy to search and view format ready made for your tablet. There are also online technical message boards, for real time advice and answers from a pro.
The Future is Digital
The future looks to be even more collaborative, and Microsoft recently showed their HoloLens, an augmented reality headset that allows real-time collaboration or 3D projections onto real surfaces. This would allow users to take step-by-step instructions from a master mechanic watching their every move, or a digital manual that projects CGI arrows onto the exact real-world bolts they need to remove for their project.
Just as modern fuel injection systems did not mean the end of automotive repair shops and DIY enthusiasts, the same can be said for the digital revolution changing car repair. Shops, customers, and enthusiasts will have new tools to get the job done faster and better than before.