Cool new features from ARI, 50 Below, PSN

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The following complements an article appearing on page 40 of the June issue.

ARI, 50 Below and PowerSports Network are the industry’s top three website builders. Here the vendors tell us about new features. They also recommend features that dealers should be using more often.

ARI Network Services is best known for its PartSmart electronic catalogs, which are used by thousands of dealers. But it also hosts hundreds of e-commerce-enabled dealers sites through its WebsiteSmart Pro product. It also helps prospects find a dealer's website with SearchEngineSmart, its SEM service.

WebsiteSmart Pro sites include a shopping cart and everything a dealer needs to sell parts, whole goods and accessories online.

With the company’s FootSteps CRM software, dealers can track all website visitors and more easily turn them into customers. The system is based on a leading one used by RV and marine dealers, bought by ARI last year. Footsteps integrates fully with any ARI-built website. E-mail templates help staff respond to online inquiries quickly. They can also build and manage e-mail blasts, and do the other things typically associated with CRM systems. Footsteps costs $245 per month by itself or $145 per month alongside an ARI-built site.

ARI reports that powersports dealers that have been selling online for at least a year using an ARI-built site saw their sales grow more than 24 percent in the first quarter of 2010 compared to the same period last year. The dealers averaged almost $20,000 per month in online sales during the traditionally slow sales period, ARI says.

ARI is currently promoting its services at www.youreveryadvantage.com. It also has a variety of promotional pricing available through the end of July. The company will package a bundle of services for a dealer's specific needs.

Most valuable-yet-underused ARI feature: “Custom catalogs are one of the most overlooked valuable features in WebsiteSmart Pro,” ARI’s Tim Mauck says. “Custom catalogs give any dealer the power to present any high-margin items in a clear, concise format to end consumers. The catalogs can be used to powerfully present fast-moving parts for any of the brands they carry, including images and marketing copy to further market to the consumer. Additionally, the custom catalog structure is built to be highly search-engine-optimized and drive more traffic into the dealer’s e-commerce website. With a little effort, a dealer can use this tool to generate one-of-a-kind e-commerce content to make their website and content stand out above the rest.”

50 Below’s Web Inventory feature is a centralized repository for a dealer’s vehicle and PG&A inventory. Dealers can input photos, descriptions, specs and prices. Distributor catalog feeds help load PG&A, and dealers can indicate on their sites the inventory status for each item. Lightspeed NXT users can upload inventory automatically. After all this uploading, dealers can push inventory to the major classifieds.

Kathryn Gritzmacher is 50 Below’s marketing manager. “Speaking with our dealers,” she says, “the overall message was that they’re only listing about 10 percent of their inventory on their website or on third-party classifieds because it’s just so time-consuming. And really every dealer should sell as much as he can through all of his channels as long as he can keep track of it.”

The setup fee for Web Inventory is $200, and the annual subscription is $600. This price, of course, doesn’t include the listing fees charged by the classified sites themselves. Integration with LightspeedNXT costs an additional $600 per year. Dealers don’t have to have a 50 Below site to use Web Inventory.

Also new from 50 Below: Reporting Pro is a hard-core analytical tool developed by Adobe’s Omniture. Reports include not only traditional data like visitors vs. visits, but also things like the most profitable store paths, as well as top products, categories, brands and vehicles.

Another new feature is Page Customizer, an SEO tool that allows dealers to optimize pages for certain keyword searches.

Most valuable-yet-underused 50 Below feature: the EZ-Shop search function. 50 Below recented added a shopping method to the EZ-Shop platform, which it introduced in 2008. In addition to previously released methods (by catalog, brand, vehicle type, product category, featured products or promotions), Exact Search With Smart Find lets customers shop by keywords and phrases. Unlike simple search boxes, the tool scans the store for matches and groups keyword results. For example, while typing the word “helmets,” customers will see hints such as “full-face helmets,” “open-face helmets,” “streetbike helmets,” “HJC helmets,” and so on. Exact Search tells customers how many products are in each group before they even click. Exact Search also features keyword auto-complete, “Did you mean?” hints and spelling suggestions.

“If people don’t find what they want online,” Gritzmacher says, “they just leave. But a lot of dealers don’t see this happening [because they don’t monitor online visitors], so they don’t think it’s a big impact. If dealers saw people coming into their physical stores, looking around a little bit, and just leaving, it would make a huge impact on them.”

PowerSports Network has partnered with VertiSEL, which helps people with bad credit. For no charge, dealers can have VertiSEL banner ads placed on their PSN websites. People click on the ads to enroll in a 90-day credit improvement program. Dealers receive a commission, monitor each enrollee’s progress, and are notified when the prospect completes the program.

Also new: 1) a free mobile interface makes PSN sites easier to use on smartphones; 2) the Find a Model SmartForm allows people to contact dealers about models that may not be listed on the site (dealers can then inform the person if the unit is available, cross-sell, record lost sales and buy stock accordingly), and 3) the Web Site Flix video-uploading feature is now powered by YouTube, allowing users to download a wider variety of formats faster with less space constraints.

Most valuable-yet-underused “standard” PSN features: The company listed four. First, all PSN dealers have access to a mass e-mail function that allows them to send text e-mails to various groups of customers at any time. Dealers can use e-mail addresses collected from customer registrations, submitted quotes and online orders, and can also specify recipients based on model and accessory manufacturers. It is a free, easy way to send out highly targeted messaging to customers and prospects.

Second, dealership testimonials. Dealers have the ability to solicit and collect testimonials from their customers and post the testimonials on their sites. A high percentage of people, PSN says, read reviews and testimonials online prior to shopping. The feature is free.

Third, updated inventory-related features. PSN has recently released free enhancements to help dealers better showcase their inventory:

  • Dealers are now able to easily upload multiple images at once.
  • The inventory “Highlight” graphic selections have been expanded, offering dealers more options to help capture a site visitor’s attention.
  • Dealers can now leverage “Advanced Pricing Options.” Rather than listing one price, dealers can now list a retail price and their price, along with customizable text labels for each field.

Fourth the Find A Model SmartForm mentioned earlier. While this free option can be beneficial, dealers may not be aware that they can have the functionality added to their website at no charge.

Most valuable-yet-underused “premium” PSN features: The company lists four. First, the Web Site Flix product mentioned earlier. As we said, it’s now powered by YouTube. Dealers can upload videos through their PSN maintenance environment that will show both in the their video library and on YouTube. Inventory-specific videos can be uploaded that will show directly on the model detail pages of the dealer’s site. What’s more, each YouTube video enhances a dealer’s search engine presence and can offer information about the dealership as well as links to the dealer’s site and inventory.

Second, PSN offers a comprehensive website reporting environment from VisiStat, a website performance management firm. The real-time website traffic reporting service is built for nontech and low-tech site owners and small to medium-sized business owners. In other words, VisiStat offers immediate, up-to-the-minute, easy-to-understand traffic data. Dealers have access to more robust real-time data and can see at a glance who is visiting their website, how long they stayed, what search engines and keywords brought them and more.

Third, Dealer Newsletter. PSN offers an HTML newsletter option that lets dealers load text and images to various customizable newsletter layouts. The newsletters can include graphics, images and information promoting dealer-loaded inventory and links to direct readers to specific pages on the dealer’s site. The program also allows dealers to create their own e-mail lists and categories to send to.

Fourth, the recent integration with TrafficLogPro. The purchase of TLP by PSN’s parent company, Dominion Enterprises, has allowed PSN to offer integration with an industry-leading customer relationship management application. The TLP solution helps dealers manage and maximize sales opportunities. With TLP, dealers can better manage the efforts of the sales staff for accountability and follow-up purposes. They can track, enforce and encourage best practices.