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AutoZone: In an Omnichannel World, Most Customers Still Come to Store for ‘Trustworthy Advice’

Brick-and-mortar stores continue to be the primary touchpoint for AutoZone customers.

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If you’re selling or distributing aftermarket parts, you’ve probably been hearing the term “omnichannel” more and more lately.

The goal of omnichannel sales and marketing is to create a seamless, integrated experience for customers as they research and buy products via all of the platforms and devices they use to interact with your business. Those platforms can include brick-and-mortar stores, websites – accessed via desktop computers or mobile devices – the telephone and social media.

“With omnichannel, it’s all about making the customer’s life as easy as possible,” explains Aaron Agius in a HubSpot article.

While it might seem like just another buzzword, creating a seamless omnichannel experience is very much on the radar of AutoZone and other parts retailers.

“We continue to invest in our strategy to enhance the customer’s shopping experience in an omnichannel world,” AutoZone Chairman and CEO Bill Rhodes said during the company’s Dec. 4 conference call. “We have initiatives in place to improve our in-store systems and websites – AutoZone.com, AutoZonePro, mobile and ALLDATA. In fact, we are investing more capital than ever before this fiscal year in improving these systems.”

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In September, AutoZone announced it will offer next-day delivery for online orders in most U.S. markets. The program “allows customers in 85 percent of U.S. markets to order as late as 10 p.m. and receive their products at their home the very next day,” Rhodes explained.

The company made approximately 100,000 SKUs available for next-day delivery, according to Rhodes, and expanded the program to more than 95 markets during its fiscal 2019 first quarter, which ended Nov. 17.

“We are also working diligently to further enhance our digital capabilities with our commercial customers to ensure that they have a great, seamless, intuitive no-hassle way to interact with us digitally,” Rhodes added.

Overall, AutoZone has seen growth in its website traffic, and more customers buying online – whether they specify the ship-to-home or pick-up-in-store option. But brick-and-mortar stores continue to be the primary touchpoint for its customers, Rhodes noted.

“ … We continue to see customers primarily doing lots of research online and then coming into the store in order to receive trustworthy advice, Fix Finder, Loan-A-Tool and a host of other services that simply cannot be duplicated online prior to making the sale,” he said.

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Still, AutoZone will be investing heavily in its online channels.

“We will continue to make our omnichannel selling efforts a key focus for 2019,” Rhodes said. “ … While our online sales are small – substantially less than 5 percent of our total sales – the omnichannel experience is very important for the customer experience.”

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