Software Vendors Step Up to the Retail Challenge

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Dealer Expo Indy 2009 software

It's a good time to be a software vendor, if you're courting dealers. According to Jim Thompson of SofTek Software, last year's roller coaster ride — in which bike sales drooped, then rose in conjunction with gas prices, then crashed alongside everything else — has dealers scrambling to adapt to more turbulent times.

The result? Retailers are looking for new systems, new efficiencies and new training. Today's dealers have to be able to gear up and down not just by the season, but by the month. Streamlining has led to smaller staffs. But if technology can replace some of these man-hours, Thompson reasons, one result could be less hiring and firing.

The SofTek booth was just one among many offering business software and services at Dealer Expo. Here's a brief rundown of what a other companies were offering. (For expanded coverage, visit the "Web Exclusives" section of www.dealernews.com.)

Website builder 50 Below had an impressive booth with multiple computer kiosks for demos. The company's new EZ-Shop offering adds six features to its standard site — among other things, allowing customers to refine their searches by brand, category, vehicle type and price. EZ-Shop also includes several features found on big websites, like the automatic completion of search box text, as well as search results help ("Did you mean ... ?").

Another new item from 50 Below is Aftermarket Fitment, which allows customers to search for aftermarket products by typing in their bike's make, model and year. (This feature was already available for OEM parts.) The new fitment tool is powered by Ready 2 Ride Inc., an exhibitor that made a splash last year with its XactFit software (see image, below), which allows parts counter staff to search for aftermarket parts by fitment. Each listing contains up-to-date retail and wholesale pricing. Last year, the company had uploaded only the Tucker Rocky catalogs, but now has deals with Parts Unlimited and Western Power Sports.

Another 50 Below partner, ADP Lightspeed, is integrating its dealer management system with the vendor's websites. It will be the first and only two-way integration, meaning that dealers will be able not only to download data, but upload it as well. This will allow them to inform customers of current pricing and availability.

ADP Lightspeed has already integrated with website builder PowerSports Network, the market share leader, but the integration is for downloads only. PSN was at the show promoting three things: a more user- and SEO-friendly parts fiche presentation, a partnership with Parts Canada to make its catalogs available to PSN dealers, and its new Banner Builder application that gives dealers "the ultimate control over their graphics creation process."

ADP Lightspeed also promoted a new customer relationship management module powered by V-SEPT. The CRM vendor had its own booth at the show, and said business was up 250 percent. More than 750 dealers now use the software. — Arlo Redwine