2016 Business Management Software Systems and Website Services survey

For the fourth consecutive year, we at Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE) surveyed many of the leading providers of business management software systems and website services to bring you up to speed on the always-evolving computer technology trends in the OPE industry. Our questions, followed by their written responses in the order they were received Jan. 19-21, 2016, were as follows:


OPE: What is new and exciting about your company and its offerings for OPE dealers in 2016?

Colleen Malloy: In 2016, we are aggressively investing in the expansion of our web and digital marketing ecosystem, ensuring OPE dealers connect with customers at every step of today’s complex digital path to purchase — across social, mobile, web and beyond.

We will introduce a fully responsive website platform, delivering a leading customer experience covering everything from unit shopping to mobile commerce on web, mobile and tablet. We are also aggressively pursuing ongoing enhancements to boost the user experience and search engine optimization of our websites, designed to generate more leads and sales.

We’ll launch an industry-first mobile app, which we previewed at GIE+EXPO 2015, designed to make it easier than ever for shoppers to research a dealer’s inventory and engage the dealership on their most personal and convenient device.

Our investments in creating a more engaging experience that connects across devices and sales channels are complemented by our all-new Digital Marketing Services offerings, with innovative blended service packages tailored to a dealer’s unique business goals — starting at only $99 a month.

OPE: What is currently trending when it comes to website services for the OPE industry, and what trends are on the horizon?

Colleen Malloy: Now more than ever, shoppers are turning to search engines, third-party sales sites, social media, review sites, apps and the ever-expanding list of new digital marketing channels as their primary sources to help make purchasing decisions and get connected with local businesses.

While consumers are turning to digital channels to aid in their purchasing decisions, 80 percent of consumers still make major purchases like OPE equipment in-store (Source: GE Capital).

Dealers need to tailor their entire customer journey, including their online presence and their in-store experience, to connect with these digital consumers. Dealers should start by ensuring their website is mobile friendly and that they can be found across search engines, third-party sales channels, social media and online review sites.

Personalization is a trend we’ll see continue to gain traction throughout 2016 — dealers should begin to explore apps and beacon technology that can deliver personalized content tailored to shoppers on their mobile devices as they browse in-store.

OPE: Why should OPE dealers invest in website services, and what can they expect for a return on their investment?

Colleen Malloy: With 87 percent of customers researching products online before they ever visit a store (Source: Google), having a website is no longer optional. Driving traffic to that online destination through a supporting digital marketing strategy has also become a critical component not only for online success, but to support the overall health of a dealer’s brick-and-mortar store. Working with an industry-specific website and digital marketing services vendor gives dealers multiple benefits over a local provider, including access to catalog content and a user experience designed specifically for OPE shoppers — making maintaining an effective online presence much less labor intensive for dealers who cannot dedicate full-time resources to their online marketing investments.


OPE: What is new and exciting about your company and its offerings for OPE dealers in 2016?

Anne Salemo: Our plans for new functionality within ASPEN, our flagship business management system, and more importantly, ASPEN Interactive Mobility (AIM), its mobile cohort, are pretty exciting. Users will be able to add new customers and customer-owned equipment, create a new work order, and check in equipment from any type of mobile device with our next release. We are seeing more and more dealers provide rentals, so we are beefing up our existing rental system to allow for customer-specific rates, as well as utilizing best rates if the customer returns the equipment earlier or later than expected. Because we’ve had a great number of dealers utilizing our built-in CRM functionality, we’ve decided to extend the marketing functionality to include campaign tracking and make major enhancements to our already-robust mass-email functionality.

OPE: What is currently trending when it comes to business management software systems for the OPE industry, and what trends are on the horizon?

Anne Salemo: Mobile, mobile, mobile! Employees of dealerships need to access business information while inside and outside the doors of the dealership in order to provide excellent customer service. As a result, mobile functionality for the business system transactions and information is the biggest shift over the last few years. Waiting for customers to come in, simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Salespeople are hitting the road, and they need the tools to record those interactions. This type of contact management is also a growing trend so that the dealer can insulate from personnel leaving with intellectual property. We are also seeing many manufacturers make significant investments in their backend IT systems, which include the use of web services, which allows for direct and immediate transmission of information between the OEM and business management system. As we see more and more use of telematics and GPS in equipment, I think we will see more need to enhance the dealers’ ability to utilize this information from within their business management software.

OPE: Why should OPE dealers invest in a business management software system, and what can they expect for a return on their investment?

Anne Salemo: Business management software, for many dealers, is still considered mainly a means to complete point-of-sale transactions and to do their taxes. Using email marketing, matrix parts pricing, flat-rate functionality, built-in time clock, and suggested parts ordering (to name a few), a dealership should be able to get their system to more than pay for itself within a year and easily justify the monthly cost through overall streamlining, increased sales, service efficiency and parts turns. Buying a new software system without top-down management will result in failure. The dealer principal and key managers committing to implement the change and to support the use of the features of the software is imperative to successful ROI.

OPE: What is new and exciting about your company and its offerings for OPE dealers in 2016?

Greg Carradus: As part of the Constellation Dealership Software (CDS) family, Ideal’s reputation for industry-leading software and customer support has continued to grow through development of the product and our industry-leading customer support and training. We have all of the right tools in place to help streamline our customers’ “go live” capabilities, which results in a much quicker and sustained return on investment with Ideal.

One of our biggest enhancements that we have coming up this spring is a newly revamped rentals module. Our development continues to be driven by feedback from our customers and industry consultants. We all have the goal of providing the tools necessary for dealers to become more profitable. To help achieve this goal, we invested some time working with industry expert Bob Clements to modify and add key reporting metrics, and introduce flat-rate guides that can be imported into the system. We’re also seeing dealers become more profitable by utilizing a feature that marks up a percentage on items from your parts department that you add to work orders. This feature alone is helping dealers literally add thousands of dollars to their bottom line.

OPE: What is currently trending when it comes to website services for the OPE industry, and what trends are on the horizon?

Greg Carradus:

* Mobile Technology: The emphasis on mobile technology continues to grow. Employees in service and parts departments can now perform key tasks from anywhere in the dealership. Dealers are saving considerable time and improving overall business efficiencies by conducting year-end and cycle inventory counts with their mobile devices, and expediting parts receiving right on the spot. Service personnel can take and attach photos to work orders and compose a work order while standing outside with the customer. This dramatically improves the speed and quality of the engagement. Technicians are now able to clock in and out of jobs, add labor and comments, take pictures, and complete work orders on the go, without being tethered to a workstation.

* B2B Communications: There’s also a trend in the OPE industry’s continued development of streamlined communication between dealer and supplier. We have more than 80 dealer-to-manufacturer/supplier integrations with our system, and those numbers continue to grow.

* Paperless Office: Dealers are looking for a reduction in paperwork and better ways to store pictures, signatures, customer files. By incorporating a “paperless office,” dealers can easily store data on a secure cloud server with unlimited space and avoid increasing the size of their database or taking up valuable space on their server’s hard drive.

OPE: Why should OPE dealers invest in a business management software system, and what can they expect for a return on their investment?

Greg Carradus: We all know that a good business management software system will save time, improve efficiency, and streamline business processes. But when it really comes down to it, dealers are mostly in business to make money, and a business management software system will help them do just that as long as it’s utilized properly. While there is an upfront investment and a learning curve in the beginning, the future returns are much greater and well worth the investment.


OPE: What is new and exciting about your company and its offerings for OPE dealers in 2016?

Jim Phelan: For more than 33 years, c-Systems Software has provided professional computerized business management software designed specifically for outdoor power equipment, power sports and agricultural dealers and distributors. The core philosophy that drives c-Systems is to create and supply innovative, cutting-edge services and products that help our customers manage and operate their businesses more efficiently and profitably.

Last fall, c-Systems announced the addition of a totally new Infinity mobile application that supplies essentially much of the same functionality that is currently available from the desktop version of our Infinity business management system. Instead of multiple mobile applications to perform specific functions, Infinity’s new “Genesis” mobile app contains a full menu of business operations like sales invoicing, repair order check-in and billing, real-time stock check for both parts and equipment, purchase order check-in, inventory maintenance and physical inventory, plus reporting and much more. The Infinity Genesis application can be configured to run within your local business wireless network, or, with an appropriate router or switch, you can use Genesis to connect to your business system anywhere you have cellular or Wi-Fi services. Infinity Genesis is a full-featured business system application unlike anything else currently available from other business system providers.

On January 13 of this year, c-Systems Software and KPM Exceptional LLC partnered to present the first in a series of dealer educational webinars. During this webinar, Don Stewart from Stewart’s Power Equipment gave a superb presentation about “Vendor Rebates,” using the new Infinity Vendor Rebates feature as a model for other software systems in the OPE industry. Don showed how the new Infinity Vendor Rebates feature affords greater efficiency at the dealership, helps dealers capitalize on available rebates, maintains accountability, and ensures timely submission so the dealer is paid what he’s due. After the webinar, c-Systems had numerous calls and e-mails asking about the new rebates feature from both existing c-Systems’ customers and from dealers on other systems. Immediately, it became obvious that the webinar was a great success and that rebates are a “hot” topic with dealers.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, with the success of our first major webinar, c-Systems Software has planned a full series of educational webinars for 2016 that will cover a full spectrum of business management and business software related topics.

OPE: What is currently trending when it comes to business management software systems for the OPE industry, and what trends are on the horizon?

Jim Phelan: Each year, technology continues to improve, and the same is true for almost every aspect of business management software designed for the outdoor power equipment industry. As in the past few years, Mobile Applications and Vendor Communications continue to top the list of items that are at the forefront of software development, and this trend will only continue.

Many leading industry consultants have consistently led the charge for increased mobile connectivity, so that has helped fuel the demand for sophisticated mobile applications. That increased demand for improved mobile connectivity was fundamental to, and the reason for, the development of the new Infinity Genesis mobile application.

Improvements to vendor communications and specifically integration between the dealers’ and vendors’ business management systems have become a major priority with many prominent equipment OEMs and distributors. c-Systems has endeavored to maintain close relationships will all industry vendors in order to help make it easier for our customers and their suppliers to do business with each other. This trend or process has been going on for nearly two decades and will continue on in the future as technology evolves and software developers, dealers and suppliers learn better and more efficient ways of doing business with each other. In the past year, we’ve had new communication initiatives come from several major OEMs that extend out over several years. These new communications are now well beyond the normal purchase order transmission function, but include items like real-time parts location, product registration transmission, warranty claim submission, just-in-time equipment replenishment, and much more, all via automated electronic communication.

OPE: Why should OPE dealers invest in a business management software system, and what can they expect for a return on their investment?

Jim Phelan: There are many reasons why an OPE dealer should invest in a business management software system. Business management software is a significant investment for any business, but one that, if implemented correctly, will easily pay for itself by providing a substantial increase in efficiency and more importantly, increased dealership profitability.

A business management system is an essential tool a dealership needs to help grow its business. It provides dealers with improved access to dealership information and significantly reduces the amount of manual entries. A quality business management system supplies the tools needed to quickly identify and solve dealership problems.

A business management system will help you:

* Improve efficiency and productivity

* Get organized and get things done

* Achieve goals with better results

* Stop procrastination and reduce stress

* Increase profits

* Do the right things at the right time

Investing in a quality business management system is an investment in your dealership and your employees.


OPE: What is new and exciting about your company and its offerings for OPE dealers in 2016?

Chanse McGuire: Basic Software Systems always keeps the dealer in mind with our development of new features and products. Not only are we continually adding to our Archway Data Mining and Custom Reporting Tool, we are also making changes to bring productivity to the dealer’s daily processes. We have added many new ordering interfaces, including Kubota’s new ordering interface released in 2015. We are continually working with manufacturers in 2016 to ensure dealers have the technology tools necessary to succeed.

Bottom line, we are listening to our dealers. We have been providing solutions to dealers for nearly 37 years. And we are determined to make sure our solutions not only fit the needs of dealerships of all sizes, but that we make our software adaptable so the dealer can grow bigger and better and stronger.

OPE: What is currently trending when it comes to business management software systems for the OPE industry, and what trends are on the horizon?

Chanse McGuire: From what we hear from the dealers, the trends are staying steady with interests of seeing business critical results anywhere, anytime. It is vital that an OPE dealer know he is making a profit on a daily basis. In addition, the dealer desires the tools necessary to provide the service the customer expects and meet inventory demands and grow his business. The continued growth in use of mobile applications is one of our highest priorities.

OPE: Why should OPE dealers invest in a business management software system, and what can they expect for a return on their investment?

Chanse McGuire: OPE dealers should invest in a business management software system for many reasons. First and foremost, as smart as we are, we need help to keep up with a growing business. Many times, you don’t know what area of your business needs the most attention until you track it with a business management software system. The system can save you many hours and potentially lost revenue if used correctly. You will detect the losses and turn them into gains just by utilizing the timesaving capabilities of a business management software system.

Secondly, you must consider the needs of your customers and how you may best meet their needs through your business management software system. Your software solution should:

* Make the owner’s job easier, more cost effective, save valuable time, and give you a clear picture at all times of your profit margin and what is being completed in each department. We do that through dashboards customized for each department manager.

* Provide all the tools that your employees need to do their jobs well in all areas (i.e. service, parts, equipment, sales, rentals and accounting).

* Provide tools for marketing.

* Communicate and manage relationships with manufacturers and vendors.

* Help you streamline daily activities and processes.

* Grow with you as you expand and add new services, new locations and users.

* Provide FREE access to continual training classes for existing and new customers, new employees and those just needing refresher classes.

* Provide technical support for questions when using software.



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