ADP Grows Its Marine Business

Dealer management systems were relatively primitive beasts back in 1983, when powersports dealer Hal Ethington set out to improve the efficiency of his business.
In an effort to rethink the way he managed his parts department, Ethington hooked up with a software designer to create a system soon to be called Lightspeed. It essentially ordered and tracked parts and executed invoicing. Over the years, the software expanded to include service, sales and accounting modules, which were so well received that the brand became a leading DMS in the powersports industry. The company served 60 percent of its target market, which included dealers of motorcycles, ATVs and snowmobiles.
Lightspeed has come a long way since. It parlayed its success in the powersports segment to branch into marine, where it’s now known as LightspeedEVO. A major player in the marine DMS segment, the company reported in May that it had realized a 21-percent increase in sales over the past 12 months. As for market share, of the dealers who now use a DMS, approximately 20 percent rely on this brand.
The company’s growth has paralleled advancements in DMS software. Six years ago, ADP, a major provider of software for automobile dealers, acquired Lightspeed, which now leverages the product developments and investment dollars of its parent company.
Today, the LightspeedEVO DMS is available with a number of modules that can be bought separately or in combination. The main components are modules for parts inventory, service, sales, accounting and slip rentals. Yet, according to Smith, the brand’s success rests not only on software but also on the customer support provided.
“We spend up to three weeks at a dealership configuring the system and training the staff on how to use it,” says Greg Smith, vice president and general manager. “After the installation, we follow-up in person rather than over the phone because we think it’s important to be in a dealership to understand its processes.”
As for future growth at LightspeedEVO (where, by the way, Ethington is still at work), it will rest on the company’s ability to deliver more sophisticated features to meet the needs of today’s lean marine retail operations. One new feature developed to do just that is automated credit card processing. In addition, the LightspeedEVO DMS represents the state of the art in cloud computing.
“With it, a dealer doesn’t need a server on site,” says Smith. “We do the hosting for him, and again, we’re able to leverage the strength of ADP, a large payroll company. It has data hosting servers that could make the Pentagon green with envy.”
LightspeedEVO also plans to offer integrated phone systems in the future, so when a call comes into a dealership, it will trigger a pop-up on the computer’s screen showing the customer’s complete file. With this information, dealers can inform customers about their part being ready before they even ask.
That’s one way a DMS can strengthen relationships between a dealer and his customers. Smith also touts LightspeedEVO’s Customer Experience Management module, which he calls the next evolution of CRM. In addition to managing the sales process by tracking leads, it has a rich digital marketing tool that a dealer can use to create custom brochures and promotions using the materials available from OEMs.
“It can make a big impact on the retail customer,” says Smith, “and that’s critical for anyone operating through this downturn. The dealers who are maintaining profitability in this climate have realized the value of their customer base and the business that can be mined from those existing relationships. With CEM, for instance, they can see what services a customer bought in the past, such as commissioning. They can then send a note in the spring to remind the customer it’s time to bring the boat in. Successful dealers target those opportunities by constantly engaging their customers.”
Improving customer relations is one of the key benefits of DMS, but in the future, this software will also offer dealers more business intelligence. At LightspeedEVO, that information will come by way of a soon-to-be-released feature called Databack. With it, a dealer can track his volume and margins, and also see how that information compares with other companies.
“DMS boils down to eliminating distractions for dealers — from parts inventory to accounting processes — so they can engage their customers on a regular basis,” says Smith. “With those processes covered, the next step will be for that dealer to learn more about his company so he can increase profitability.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *