Last updated: RV aftermarket industry: The potential of home away from home

RV aftermarket industry: The potential of home away from home

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Hitting the road in a recreational vehicle – an RV – is becoming more popular than ever. According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), “RV ownership in the U.S. has reached record levels,” with more than nine million households owning one, which is the highest level ever recorded. It represents a 16% increase over 2001 and a 64% gain since 1980.

The demographics of RV ownership range from aging baby boomers to younger buyers in their mid-thirties. Similar numbers apply in other economies such as Europe and Australia.

Whether the RV in question is a motorhome or a towed trailer, improvements in manufacturing have made these vehicles far more luxurious, spacious, and durable than their predecessors. In the U.S., many of the most well-known manufacturers work out of the same location, Elkhart, Indiana.

The RV industry is a classic example of the potential power of the IM&C aftermarket being missed.

For consumers, purchasing an RV is just the beginning. It is a lifestyle that demands constant reinvestment in tools, supplies, and enhancements to make the trips even more enjoyable.

RV aftermarket industry: Strategies to boost your aftermarket revenue

Naturally, some third-party organizations have pounced on the fertility of the aftermarket with vigor, providing customers with a sophisticated level of e-commerce service, using social media and personalized emails to make tailored offers, and affiliating with the nation’s largest recreational organizations.

Their online catalog provides every part, toy, and enhancement a traveler might need, from tires and barbecue accessories to satellite TV dishes and specialty GPS devices. The largest retailer, Camping World, even offers new and used RVs for sale, thus completing the circle in reverse.

RV manufacturers, by contrast, have not followed suit. In most cases, their websites display the RV models for sale and provide links to the nearest authorized dealers. Their aftermarket strategy consists of catalogs of replacement parts such as air filters and tire valves, presented in a wholly B2B, unglamorous fashion.

This hints to the manufacturers’ preference or mandate to deal directly with field techs and garages who order and install the parts needed to keep the vehicles on the road, and also hints that they’d rather not engage with their actual customers.

Although some authorized RV dealers have a retail store on site, the lion’s share of RV aftermarket sales belongs to the third party online retailers.

These RV manufacturers would be ideally placed to take full advantage of the needs and the spending abilities of millions of RV owners who have chosen to use their disposable income for leisure travel.

These customers will already have supplied crucial data about themselves, and in purchasing an RV they have expressed interest and loyalty to a brand. They are eager to buy aftermarket items from the comfort of their Wi-Fi-enabled RV, and many will gladly pay for speedy delivery to their current location.

In addition to the robust data that this demographic willingly makes available, RVers tend to be a community-minded group, eager to meet fellow travelers and discuss their good or bad experiences with particular brands.

The aftermarket is new territory for manufacturers in a wide range of industries, not just RVs. It represents billions of dollars in additional revenue and continuous monetization opportunities. At this point, however, the junction between RV manufacturers and full exploitation of the B2C aftermarket remains somewhere down the road.

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