Positioned in 200 dealerships selling Polaris' ATV product, the Polaris ATV Experience Center is a new interactive merchandising display the company says serves as a focal point in dealerships to help drive brand ATV and ATV accessory sales.
The unit comes in two parts. One half is designed to attract the consumer from across the store and consists of a large flat-screen monitor attached to an approximately eight-foot-tall stand. It loops video images of ATV rides, interviews, and safety tips, among other things. The second portion of the offering comes in the form of an LCD monitor attached to a stationary fully equipped Polaris quad. The monitor takes the seated consumer through a simulated ATV riding experience, offers information concerning “Polaris' competitive advantage” over other brands, and supplies some footage of how Polaris technology within the machine actually works.
Cassey Murphy is Merchandising and Retail Development Manager at Polaris.
“Extensive marketing research has gone into this display and we believe that its exciting and versatile design will help Polaris machines and accessories break through the clutter in multi-line dealerships,” Murphy told Powersports Business. Murphy said Polaris' research found “a lot of ATV dealers selling a lot of machines and having no problem with that, but then failing to find the up-sell through the Polaris accessories.” She says the kiosk points the consumer to the correct ATV for their riding style, plus provides an up-sell opportunity for the accessories the company offers.
According to Murphy, the Polaris ATV Experience Center “is much more involved” than the point-of-sale information kiosks developed by competing OEMs. “A lot of marketing people at companies are shifting dollars from advertising and creating more of an experience at retail to get the customers attention there,” she said. “We wanted something that would make consumers excited about the product yet be a good resource for dealers to use as a sales tool.
“From a consumer standpoint, the program takes them from the initial shopping process right down to the close of the sale. But it helps the salesperson keep up to date, too. In fact, we're actually getting calls from dealers requesting that various pieces be added. So, as a result, what we'll probably end up with is offering another section that will be devoted to in-store training. Add to that the fact that it's a great ice-breaker for the salesperson.”
Murphy says the ATV Experience Center wouldn't have come to fruition had the company not thought it would “add value for the dealer.” She said the idea for the ATV Experience Center was the result of brainstorming for a program for its dealers that would mimic the success of its capital assistance program - Polaris provides capital assistance to a dealer for new construction or a dealership facelift. Murphy said dealers who go through the capital assistance program see an increase in sales anywhere from 30% to 100%.
“The unfortunate thing is, because there is a barrier to entry into the capital assistance program - a dealer's minimum capital outlay in the program is $50,000 - we average 40-60 dealers taking part in the program each year,” Murphy said. “Since we thought this program a success, we wanted to offer a different program that would take less of investment to get into and thus be available to a larger number of dealers.”
There's an application process necessary to acquire an ATV Experience Center. “Dealers need to talk with their district sales manager, and then we would take a look at the number of units they sell and the opportunity within that region, among other things,” Murphy said.
“We're not giving it to the dealer for free - it's really a partnership, a commitment the dealer makes in terms of a sales commitment and Polaris makes in terms of investing in the dealership. Polaris pays a higher percentage of the investment, and the dealer states that they will sell 'X' units over the course of the next three years.
“The bottom line is that we both win if we sell more units, and we're finding that that is exactly what's happening.”
Polaris' first step in the design of the ATV Experience Center was to partner with Retail Partners Associates (RPA) of Ohio, a firm knowledgeable in creating and managing retail environments.
Then, after formulating a strategy, “we chose which dealerships we wanted to target,” Murphy said. “We looked at multi-line and single line dealers, we looked at where they were in the market and where we were down in market share, and we looked at dealers that were selling 100-plus Polaris ATVs each year. The areas we focused on were places where we may not be as strong as we'd like to be with the brand - specifically, places like Florida, Arizona, Texas, Michigan and California.
In August 2004, the team set up four ATV Experience Center prototypes in Florida, Texas, California and Michigan and did some consumer polling outside of stores.
“What we saw was a 50% increase in terms of incremental unit and accessories sales at each of the four prototype stores after the units were installed. The largest percentage of that growth was actually in accessories sales,” she said.
While the finished ATV Experience Center launched with the first official installations in November 2004, Polaris plans to re-launch the tool at its dealer show in July.
- Guido Ebert