Beginning this fall, more than 10,000 dealers in the powersports industry will be upgraded to the enhanced PartSmart Version 8.0, an offering from ARI Network Services, Inc. which includes enhanced search capabilities, expanded diagram display, faster access to key information, automatic creation and display of pick lists, and more efficient pick list management and part search capabilities.
A publicly-traded company headquartered in Milwaukee, ARI currently provides 83 parts catalogs for approximately 70 equipment manufacturers in the U.S. and Europe, and offer more than 86,000 catalog subscriptions to more than 28,000 dealers and distributors in 120 countries. The company's powersports OEM customers include Kawasaki Motors Corp., Harley-Davidson, Yamaha Motor Corp., USA, BRP, Arctic Cat, American Suzuki Motor Corp., and KTM North America, Inc.
In fact, in 2000, Kawasaki became the first ARI customer to use the company's B2C e-commerce solution and the ARIwebcat Internet-based electronic parts catalog. The Web-based system was introduced via the launch of www.buykawasaki.com - a site that makes vehicle accessories, clothing and gear available directly to retail customers.
“We do have product for OEMs - a warranty system, some e-commerce stuff - but our dealers are our primary customers, and we're going to be adding a number of services within the next year that are all aimed at helping the dealer market themselves,” Brian E. Dearing, ARI Chairman of the Board of Directors, CEO and President, told Powersports Business.
ARI posted $13 million in sales last year and a little over $1 million in profit. The company's product offering is made up of three types of software and services: Web and CD-ROM electronic parts catalogs, template-based Web site services, and transaction services. “Our big business today is electronic parts catalogs, and we are expanding into dealer marketing services, which is our second product category,” Dearing said.
The “dealer marketing services” Dearing refers to will be included in the company's expanded website offering, WebsiteSmart, scheduled to be released by the beginning of the fourth quarter.
ARI entered the website business last year, after acquiring San Diego-based Vertex and its WebsiteSmart from Jim Woodruff. The template-based website service makes it easy for a dealer to create a professional web presence and optionally to conduct electronic business with its customers. Dearing said expanded measures include e-marketing blasts to customer lists, event-based marketing, and semi-assisted content management.
“My experience is that dealers don't want technology at all,” he said. “What they want
is what the technology does for them. So, the more technology you can make invisible,
“We know that the requirement for electronic parts catalogs are going to be different in ten years than they are now,” Dearing said, “and that meant that we needed to re-platform PartsSmart to allow for greater flexibility.”
PartSmart Version 8.0 has been over two years in the making. In designing it, ARI worked with Usable Interface Solutions of Colorado Springs, Colo., which was charged with coming up with a technologically-advanced product that would aid the dealer rather than add more operating steps.
“The end-product was that we changed to an interface that puts the functions in more obvious places on the screen; we added the ability for the data to be updated incrementally via the internet; and we made it much easier to switch between different languages,” Dearing said. “We really did a lot to insure that when this hits all the dealers it's rock solid and doesn't tick them off.”
ARI's trademarked product includes the CD-based PartSmart electronic parts catalog, WebsiteSmart, ARI MailSmart, ServiceSmart, TradeRoute, EMPARTviewer, EMPARTpublisher and EMPARTweb.
Aside from ARI's headquarters in Milwaukee, the company also operates offices in Colorado Springs, Colo. and Williamsburg, Va., and recently opened a 12-person office in Holland.
- Guido Ebert