An 800 percent increase in e-commerce queries from dealerships during COVID-19

As online traffic increases due to adapting purchasing habits with the onset of COVID-19, dealerships are finding value in a streamlined online presence and operations process. With many showrooms closed to the public, online management systems are being utilized to not only market machines, but streamline management and accounting processes as well. Powersports Business staff reporter Nick Longworth found out how some dealerships are capitalizing from online inquiries with management and marketing tools.

“We’ve seen an uptick in customers who want to do transactions online or on the phone and we’re trying to accommodate that. We’re all trying to adapt, and as the guidelines change both at the state and federal levels, we’re trying our best to adopt those guidelines,” said Scott Goedken, dealer principal of Sun and Fun Motorsports in Iowa City, Iowa. “I’m not sure if stimulus checks are hitting bank accounts, or people are getting cabin fever with the nice weather but people are saying if they’re going to quarantine they’re going to do it on their motorcycle with a helmet on. Is that really any different than sitting in a living room?”

Previously Goedken owned two other shops, which have since been all consolidated into one storefront. During the transition, Goedken became aware of the DX1 dealership management platform to help consolidate and streamline operations.

“A friend from Hicklin Powersports in Des Moines put me in touch when he recently changed systems and had good success with them. We were looking to make a change because we were on multiple systems with the different dealerships that we had and we needed to get everybody onto one system. It was a good time for us to make a change,” said Goedken.

Brian Cox, owner and general manager of Simply Street Bikes in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, similarly came across DX1 at the AIMExpo trade show six years ago, and also became familiar with platform through communication with other dealerships.

“We had an older system that did not integrate sales, parts and service together,” said Cox, whose shop sells pre-owned units only. “We wanted the ability to have all invoicing and customer information together in one system, and also we wanted to communicate with our financial software, which was QuickBooks.”

Marketed to offer all-inclusive tools to manage and grow a powersports dealership, DX1 offers an interactive cloud-based Dealer Management System (DMS), website platform and online integration tools.

“We offer a DMS system, but we also attach a website to it to bring together an end-to-end platform to give more dealers more tools all on the same platform without different log-ins and feeds going to different places; one vendor to deal with and one person to call — all the benefits of traditionally offering two things, but one platform and one vendor,” said Stephen Rhodes, implementation manager with DX1.

“We first rolled out the DMS. After a couple of years with just that, we had another website that was doing well and I didn’t want to rock the boat, but after a while we had some outage troubles, losing information and customer service falling off,” said Cox. “Maybe two or three years into working with DX1 we rolled out the website portion as well. At that time we considered rolling out an e-commerce platform as well, but we didn’t.”

Simply Street Bikes in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, is considering adding e-commerce offerings to its website.

DX1 offers dealerships a streamlined system to maintain and communicate a relationship with every inquiry coming through the pipeline. According to the company, dealers who have been with DX1 for the last two years have seen impressive gains in year-over-year average revenue growth.

“In general, people are becoming more accustomed to submitting queries online and there’s a general increase in online leads,” said Goedken. “While having DX1 itself hasn’t necessarily increased our sales, the integration they offer with managing the website and getting things up on the system has made life a lot easier. In that way it’s created some efficiencies for us.”

Calls from dealerships interested in e-commerce services have increased by more than 800 percent since the COVID-19 onset, according to DX1.

“We’ve had existing clients reach out and want to look at e-commerce because they feel like that gives them a way to have another revenue stream during this time. We’ve had a decent amount of uptick in customers looking for both e-commerce and how to work remotely,” said Rhodes. “Most new clients coming on board are full end-to-end clients. We offer the website, but we also have newsletter tools, social media tools and marketing destinations. Most dealers like the tools offered and not just the point of sale.”

“We weren’t sure we wanted to roll out an e-commerce platform to try and compete with the big dogs,” Cox said. “But I think given the current situation of the economy and world, we have a lot of people shifting online and it’s something we are going to consider in the next couple months.”

In addition to the tools themselves, data mobility, client support and integrated accounting features have also been invaluable factors for dealerships once implemented. According to data provided by DX1, 61 percent of all traffic to DX1 dealership websites is mobile.

“I’m on the road a lot and I can check on our dealership from wherever I’m at, which is a nice. Everyone is going that way,” said Goedken. “One key selling point for us is that they were very responsive to their clients. We wanted to avoid any ‘perma-hold’ calls where it took forever to get through to somebody. A lot of times you’re dealing with issues where you can’t afford to wait five hours to get an answer. Their client support team is very strong.”

“We’ll get both feedback on product support and just general information regarding how dealerships are doing,” said Rhodes. “We use an online forum that lets dealerships submit feature requests, and they can view each other’s and comment on them. We also have a group of account managers that offer proactive calls to see how they’re doing and what we can do to help.”

As bottom lines become increasingly affected adversely by COVID-19, both dealerships and back-end technology companies are beginning to see silver linings of an industry recovery — working together to forge a prosperous future for all involved.

“At the end of the day weighing benefits versus cost, it’s been a smart move for us,” said Goedken. “We all could do a much better job of managing expenses within our dealerships. We have to find ways to be efficient by spending on things that are going to add value to our dealerships and customer experience.”

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