This fiscal year will be the best sales year ADP Lightspeed has ever experienced in marine dealer management systems, which the company says reflects an increasing desire by dealers to take advantage of technology to help their bottom lines.
Today’s dealers want a system that can tie together all their operations, provide an overview of different departments and allow them to compare departments across locations, according to Greg Smith, general manager and VP of ADP Lightspeed.
“At the marine shows we attend, like MDCE and different boat shows and manufacturer shows, we have a lot of dealers coming up wanting to understand the technology that’s out there and wanting to understand what a dealer management system will do for them,” Smith says. “There’s a lot of attention to keeping their fingers on the pulse much more frequently as to how the business is performing.”
Smith says the company’s new customers are evenly split between dealers migrating from other DMS options and those who have never had a true DMS before and are coming from of the shelf accounting packages or a ledger sheet.
Looking at operations as a whole
Spurred by the recession, dealers are increasingly aware that they need to look at their operations as a whole — ensuring that all the legs of their stool are sturdy — rather than relying on a single department to carry the load.
“Many dealers are thinking, ‘Maybe I can’t just be concerned about selling new units,” Smith says. “Maybe I need to be concerned about used boats, maybe I need to be concerned about my service business, maybe I need to be concerned about improving my parts operations, rentals and marinas.’”
The good news is that this approach, coupled with an improving economy, appears to be having an effect. Based on the marine dealerships it works with, ADP Lightspeed has seen an overall improvement in business, with retail sales up about 4.5 percent and unit sales up 12.5 percent.
“We are seeing growth, and we’re also seeing opportunities for dealers to get themselves on a more solid footing financially,” Smith says. “There’s been some consolidation in the industry, and so for dealers who have weathered the storm, there are opportunities as business improves to enhance profitability.”
Keeping track of existing customers
Dealers are also starting to look at their existing customer bases as an important asset. Smith says dealers want CRM tools that allow them to measure the value of a customer.
They also want to see every interaction a customer has had with the dealership at a glance, so they can do their jobs more quickly and improve the customer experience. And they want to be able to share that information throughout the dealership, so all the departments are on the same page.
“They want to know which customers have purchased but haven’t been in for service,” he says. “What customers you need to talk to about winterization or spring specials. They want to have the technology to be able to segment them and target promotions.”
In addition, they want technology that will allow them to stay in consistent communication with their customers, with the idea that nurturing an existing customer is a lot easier than creating a new one.
A fresh start
In general, Smith says adding a DMS can be a chance for dealers to take a look at their processes and update them. Or, if they didn’t have a good structure in place, it becomes an opportunity to create one.
"For those that are coming off the yellow pad in the desk drawer, the knowledge it will give them about their business is huge," Smith says.