In this article, we discuss the fundamentals of auto repair shop design for your overall customer experience and branding.
Conceptualminds | August 22, 2022
Modern Auto Repair Shop Design
Every driver who steps into an auto repair shop waiting room is a potential long-term customer; the millennial getting an oil change, the Gen Zer’s first brake pad replacement, or the Baby Boomer looking to get regular maintenance done on their SUV.
Their initial experience determines how comfortable they are in making a sizable purchase, which can become the first of many if their journey is pleasant.
Everything, from signage, color scheme, the waiting room, and customer accommodations, can help you connect on a deeper and more immediate level.
When drivers step into your world, you need it to be welcoming, engaging, and productive.
You want it all to say one thing loud and clear: you’d make a smart decision by trusting us with your ride.
However, much of independent auto repair shop branding has been formed around relationships with car and parts manufacturers, who are now actively developing direct-to-consumer sales.
Many small-to-medium sized businesses will need to overhaul their image and offerings to offer unique value.
Modern Auto Repair Shop Design: Why Branding is the Answer for a Fracturing Industry
Economic trends from the introduction of electric vehicles to self-driving technology and direct-to-consumer sales have dramatically changed the survival calculus over the next 10 to 20 years for most small-to-midsize shops.
Branding is a bridge to starting customer relationships and fostering them over the long term.
Given the economic headwinds facing small-to-medium-sized auto repair shops, owners must differentiate their companies by providing unique value in their brick-and-mortar retail locations.
EVs & the Shrinking the Small Auto Repair Shop Customer Pool
Since electric engines don’t require a host of routine fixes (think oil changes), repair shops are left without a significant source of new long-term customers. And without as many moving parts and points of failure, many electric vehicles can be serviced with web-purchased parts—or fixed through over-the-air updates.
While only 10 million electric cars are on the road today, that’s expected to reach 300 million in 2030.
Direct-to-Consumer Tire and Auto Industry Spells Trouble for Small Auto Repair Shops
A move to direct-to-consumer sales has permanently disrupted many industries. Increasingly tire, car, and car part manufacturers are finding success.
Such actions have helped companies score savings on restrictive third-party margins while driving ecommerce revenue.
And there’s good reason to believe consumer behavior will support this trend.
One Forrester Research survey reported that not only are 40 percent of buyers interested in buying directly from manufacturers; they’re also willing to spend up to an additional 20 percent for direct access.
Shopping behavior suggests that when shoppers search online, they look for the manufacturer, not the distributor. Consumers broadly trust them to know their product best, making further direct-to-retail shifts appear inevitable.
Self-Driving Car Repair is Increasingly Skewed Towards Dealerships
The direct-to-consumer trend is on the horizon for vehicle, and parts manufacturers, who have watched as Tesla’s dealership-exclusive repair deals helped connect its powerful brand and create revenue streams.
As manufacturers are integrating automated driver assistance systems (ADAS) inspired by those in Tesla EVs, they’re following along, pressuring and forcing users to stick to first-party fixes through warranty restrictions.
Today, both Nissan and Volvo say using third-party ADAS parts and repair services voids warranties. Subaru also places restrictions; any problems caused by third-party replacement parts for its EyeSight-branded ADAS technology aren’t covered by warranty either.
Others, like GM and Honda, are taking a less extreme but worrying tact of discouraging their customers by implying safety concerns.
While only 10 percent of cars currently have ADAS tech, manufacturers hope to bring it to every model. And because ASAD technology lays the foundation for truly self-driving cars, independent auto repair shops could see themselves increasingly locked out.
Why Branding (And Modern Auto Repair Shop Design) is More Than a Competitive Advantage
How can a word as tortured as “branding” play any part in revitalizing a business? How do you know it will work for you when there’s no instant, guaranteed fiscal return for “rebranding” efforts?
Marketers tend to get attracted to the next shiny trend, and it’s a habit the general public is very aware of. We remember the fads and slang that didn’t pan out. Unfortunately, “branding” is broad enough to include far-fetched activities that don’t fit elsewhere.
But when we refer to branding, we’re talking about creating a positive, memorable experience in the eyes of your customers and target audience—one that’s distinct from the competition in ways they find advantageous or valuable.
There are infinite ways to establish and spread your reputation, but today we’re focusing on achieving that with your in-store experience.
Creating a Brand Through Modern Auto Repair Shop Layout Design
Your branding should reflect the role your company serves. Think of your values, customer promises, what makes you different from the rest.
Understanding your customers and target is the first step towards understanding their needs and wants. Customer and target market surveys can help delve deeper into your market’s wants and needs.
Ask them what they enjoy most about your shop, what’s missing, and what kinds of offerings might increase your shop’s value in their eyes.
Also, be sure to gather the following demographic information and customer metrics:
- Age group
- Average household income
- Average repeat purchase rate
- Revenue per customer
- Market penetration by zip code
Compare that feedback to your current messaging and visual design, and you’ll likely find opportunities to better appeal to both parties.
Auto Repair Shop Color and Logo Design 101: The Logo
It might seem unlikely, but colors, logos, and fonts form an instant and lasting subliminal impression.
Customers will form an impression whether you present them with an award-winning brand experience or one designed by your niece, so it’s in your interest to present a logo that creates a first impression that’s both memorable and easily identifiable.
Take our retail brand redesign work with Wiygul Automotive, which we applied to several of their DC-area stores.
What do you notice?
We see a dominant dark blue shade, which feels neutral and quickly fades into the background. The horizontal line shading at the logo’s top third—doesn’t look quite “right,” drawing the eye above the sign instead of straight at it.
In addition to difficult-to-quickly-read cursive writing, the most eye-catching element of the design is the yellow Goodyear logo. Overall, it has a monotone feel that doesn’t make a distinct impression.
From here, we developed a range of logo options. We knew we needed a visual element to solidify the company’s association with auto repair, different, clear lettering, and a more vibrant color scheme.
The design we arrived at conveyed Wiygul’s tire and repair expertise by combining images of a wrench and a tire, with the wrench nut set in a circular wheel well.
The wrench in the negative space brings an element of creativity and presents a modern look and feel while ensuring that the logo won’t become dated.
Changing “automotive clinic” from cursive to [font name] makes it far more readable and setting it in orange helps reinforce the main visual element.
Auto Repair Shop Color and Logo Design 102: Color Considerations
We may think of ourselves as too savvy to judge a book by its cover, but research shows that’s not the case.
According to one survey, 92 percent of consumers say visual appearance is the most persuasive element of marketing. When it comes to color, 62-90 percent of a person’s first impression of a product is based on it alone (85 percent of consumers say color is their largest motivator in selecting products).
Again, it stands to reason that your auto shop’s color scheme will be part of your prospect’s first impression regardless of how positive that impression is.
Giving thought to how color can be used to create a more memorable, positive, and lasting impression can give you a considerable advantage.
Modern Auto Repair Shop Design: How Color Impacts the In-Store Experience
Without looking, which color did we add to the new Wiygul logo?
That color selection was the result of a lot of consideration and debate. Its instant memorability (and our previously hinted at award) perfectly demonstrates how effectively it plays its role.
To show how color impacts the customer experience, we’ll walk you through another set of changes we made with a different Wiygul branch.
A vibrant-looking shop creates a positive, welcoming experience. Add too much, though, and shoppers may leave overwhelmed. You’ll notice the yellow walls give off an intense impression, not comfortable for a long wait.
The brand’s neutral blue on the doors and signs offsets yellow’s intensity, but it’s not present enough to make a substantial difference.
Our redesign focused on creating a more comfortable, less distracting, and welcoming experience.
We replaced the harsh yellow with warm-toned gray walls set against a clean white ceiling and on equally warm and cozy black floor-to-floor carpeting.
Visitors are soothed with a warmer palette and comforted by furniture and decor that wouldn’t be out of place in a friend’s living room or a coffee shop (It’s essential to avoid the temptation of filling one’s walls with their logos and branding).
Accents of our new shade, a striking bright matte orange, draw the eyes, reinforcing the brand with a relaxing experience.
Auto Repair Layout Design: Waiting Room How to Brand Your Retail Shop
Branding your shop isn’t just about rearranging floor space to increase sales. It’s about designing a space that welcomes customers, creates a positive impression, and makes waiting as painless as possible.
Just about every part of your store plays a role in how visitors navigate, feel, and act in your store.
You’re aiming to establish an environment where customers of all kinds can feel safe making big financial decisions about their car’s health and safety.
We find professional-looking environments are more suited to the auto repair customer experience.
What do we mean by that?
Check out our work before and after with another one of Wiygul’s DC-area locations.
The remodel’s black carpeting helps lend a cleaner and more professional feel, not unlike what you’d find walking into a medical specialist’s office.
This is a great vibe for an auto repair shop, not just because it makes for a cozier environment for visiting and waiting, but because it helps the consumer associate your services with the precision and humane—not just business-driven—care of a medical facility.
Providing this more relaxed and professional experience is more difficult for auto repair shops openly connected to their garages.
Shop owners with such buildings can opt for soundproofing between the retail space and the garage, helping to shield customers from piercing tire gun whirs and employee banter.
Auto Repair Layout Design: The “Decompression Zone”
In retail, they call the first five-to-fifteen feet from a store’s front door the “decompression zone.” It’s the exact space where visitors transition from the outside world to your world.
When customers enter this space, they form many judgments about your shop; trustworthiness, comfortability, affordability, and appeal to their sense of style. But it’s not the decompression zone’s job to make those impressions; that’s for everywhere else.
The decompression zone is just about easing their transition.
This space is best left sparse.
Let posters and displays in front tempt visitors in. Once they’re inside, let the displays do the talking for you. And avoid overwhelming visitors or placing objects and signs that might obstruct that space.
Auto Repair Layout Design: Waiting Room
If the front door and decompression zone are for first impressions, waiting rooms are about creating a positive lasting impression. It’s also where you plant seeds for repeat business and word-of-mouth promotion.
A good waiting room has all the amenities needed to satisfy the major customer segments. Take this one, for instance, that we created for yet another Wiygul location.
This location had little space for a waiting area between the door and the front counter, but the accommodations feel a little limited. There’s a single wooden bench facing the register, and a large tire display.
We designed it to accommodate a broader audience more comfortably.
A cafe-like experience in the front is excellent for accommodating work-from-homers or anyone looking to pass time on a laptop. It’s set in the quietest corner of the shop, with desks that wouldn’t look out of place at a Starbucks (Be sure to provide free wifi with clearly displayed passwords).
Older visitors are most likely to hang around for the repair’s total duration. For them: comfortable couches, hot coffee, and a TV tuned to something agreeable. And if you have parents, you’ll have to accommodate kids, too.
Keep around some modern, popular toys, books, and board games for kids of various ages.
Lastly, consider offering drop-off services to help accommodate customers who can’t stay or would prefer not to—showing customers that you’re willing to go further to make their life easier means greater loyalty.
Create a Unique Auto Repair Shop Design to Make Yourself Impossible to Ignore
Science is only beginning to reveal how deeply designs, messages and memories linked to visuals reach people in their day-to-day lives.
If you take one lesson from this guide: people can be reliably reached if you take a systematic approach to aligning your image with their hopes and expectations.
Learn About Conceptual Minds
At Conceptual Minds, we know auto repair marketing inside and out.
Whether you’re looking for a visual facelift, an entirely new and magnetic retail design, or improved advertising results, we do it with care and precision.
(How else would we have scored an award for Wiygul’s slick logo?)
Ready to invest in auto repair shop design that stands out?