Thursday featured a powerful final session on the Disruptive Thinking stage, packed with lessons crucial for any retailer and delivered by an expert panel.
First up, Judson Gingrich, founder of GroDigital, which makes custom websites for dealers, made the strong point that according to Google, 53 percent of users will leave your website if it takes more than three seconds to load. Gingrich says any dealer can test their website and measure not just load times but also see if their site is searchable, if their location data appears, and many other factors.
Judson Gingrich, Sara Hey, Sean Chandler, Jay Dwire, and Johnathan Aguero
He added that most consumers won’t click through more than five pages to find the item they want “before giving up and moving to another resource.” Also, your inventory has to be accurately reflected on your site. If not, you’ve wasted a customer’s time clicking a buy button only to find it’s back-ordered. Lastly, customers want to use their preferred channels – the same way they communicate with friends and family, which means chat and text – to ask questions and make purchases.
Sara Hey, VP of business development at Bob Clements International, a dealer consulting firm, had several of her own pointers to offer. She said at both your virtual and actual storefront, buying should be easy and frictionless. Her analogy was Amazon, where purchasing and delivery is very simple. And by contrast, she raised home repair, where getting anyone to call you back can be a challenge.
That transitioned into a point about customer service and lost sales, and why returning calls as fast as possible is all about money. Hey said you have to set the expectation throughout your dealership that getting back to someone about a repair or purchase must happen, at minimum, within a day.
Sean Chandler and Jay Dwire of Remote Finance Group raised a few final counterintuitive points. First, resist the urge to take cash from a customer. Convert them into a finance customer, Chandler said, underlining that a customer is far more likely to buy more accessories and services this way. He also said that building in a tire and wheel protection package with roadside assistance is genuine service, so your customer isn’t stranded.
Dwire added that you need software that enables over-the-phone sales so that you’re not writing down credit card numbers. Instead use digital tools that will automatically vet data and bake in financing, even while that salesperson is talking to a customer on the phone. That, he stressed, comes back to Hey’s point about being as frictionless as possible and to Gingrich’s, that you need to meet the customer on the device or system they find most comfortable.
A Powersports Podcast
Recorded in Front of a Live AIMExpo Audience
For the first time ever, the Garagecast podcast was recorded on the AIMExpo show floor, in front of an audience, with Garage Composites President Sam Dantzler and CEO Tony Gonzalez behind the microphone delivering their brand of dealership advice.
The discussion ranged from everyday retail questions such as F&I and flooring, to newer topics like website pricing and even what will be the next big thing in powersports. Dantzler imagined it would be some kind of hybrid sports car that started out as a motorcycle. The answer from Gonzalez was back-to-the-future: He predicted the next big thing will be the strong return of two-wheeling. And Gonzalez spoke about the return of so many OEMs to AIMExpo this year, more than 20 of them in all. He wants to see more.
“It’s great to see the representation that we’re seeing from the manufacturers that are in the building and the third-party vendors,” he said. “But we were just talking about – and again, the industry is not the same – but we really, truly feel that it would be great to have all the manufacturers here representing all their brands, have their people here rubbin’ elbows, back to a longer show, back to a commitment from where it all starts, and that’s at the manufacturing level. So bravo, that we do have representation here. Let’s make sure that we continue to grow and that we continue to get a larger representation by brands and more people here.”
From dealerships, Dantzler and Gonzalez called for better efforts across the digital landscape, particularly with customer engagement. They spoke of the increasing success with sales that start in a digital form and not through a traditional door-swing.
“Your physical brick and mortar front door is paramount to making sure your business moves forward,” Gonzalez said. “But…at a 25 percent delivery rate in your digital space, you’re closing more people that you’re talking to now electronically. Do you have a system in place to make sure that you are actually talking to those customers better yet? You’ve got to watch your digital front door.”
Dantzler was more far animated, stating that 95 percent of new and pre-owned buyers start their journey in the digital landscape.
“Just hear that: 95 – which is all of us,” he said. “So it starts in the digital landscape and ends in the physical landscape. I think we’ve all seen door-swings go down year over year. But what’s interesting is that for most of us in here, your digital leads have remained almost steady or almost stagnant. I just think we’re bad at ‘the greet’ in the digital landscape.”
Dantzler said that when a customer is first interested in a powersports vehicle, without fail, they go to the manufacturer website and the local dealer website.
“They go to the manufacturer’s website to find out what that crazy looking thing was that went down the road by them on the interstate,” he said. “What’s the name of that thing so that I can see if it’s at my local dealer. They’re looking at your local dealer to see if you have an inventory.”
“It’s the piece in the middle that I find amazing,” Dantzler said. “The second place that customers go is to a ratings and review site. Do you know what the number one social media site is right now? It’s YouTube. And you know what’s on YouTube? Videos, not still pictures. Video breakdowns and video reviews of somebody walking me through the new thing that I can’t live without anymore.”
“They’re so much more prone to being closed in the digital landscape,” he said. “Because they’re already emotional about it before they ever walk in the store, as opposed to a front-door swing. How do I keep them on the line? I wonder if you just took that little amazing tool that’s in every one of your pockets and turn the camera on yourself and took a video of you with all of your enthusiasm and all of your excitement for the thing they’re looking for. And for all of you who are, like, well I don’t like how I look or sound on camera, well you still look or sound like that when I come into your store. It’s still you. Just turn the dumb camera on yourself and say what you’re gonna type and put some emotion behind it. Be shocked at the engagement.”
What’s Ahead, According to Competitive Analytics
David Savlowitz and Michael Ponton of Competitive Analytics delivered their latest economic forecast this week at AIMExpo. While they had continuing encouraging news about motorcycle sales in some key segments, they weren’t as positive about the overall economy headed into the future.
“Yes, there are strong indicators out there, like the employment growth that just came out this past Friday,” said Savlowitz, CEO and founder of the firm. “That’s good. But there are plenty of other indicators that are troublesome. Jamie Dimon from JPMorgan Chase, you know, he just recently said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna be driving off a cliff.’ Okay, we don’t believe that that’s going to happen. I think it’s a little over exaggerated. But, we do believe that there is going to be some tough sledding ahead in 2024, albeit we are cautiously optimistic.”
David Savlowitz and Michael Ponton of Competitive Analytics
Looking back more than a decade for comparison, Ponton, director of analytics, provided better news about motorcycle sales.
“What we’re forecasting for 2024 for off-road is, again, still strong sales,” he said. “Historically speaking, they’re still strong. So from January 2011, overall motorcycle sales have grown 24.69 percent, which is healthy. You see this COVID effect right here, and then now kind of the deceleration, but actually a recent bump, too, which is positive. Cruiser…is kind of a dwindling segment, down 50 percent from 2011. Dual, another sort of off-road segment again, that’s been a very healthy segment. Scooter, not so much. Sport bike, down a bit. Touring, also down. Traditional, up big-time, but this segment has expanded, so it includes a lot more types of motorcycles in it. So, it’s kind of skewed. You can see that COVID effect on off-road. COVID resulted in a huge spike in sales because of just outdoor activities. And they’ve remained pretty healthy since then.”
A long-time partner with the MIC in delivering and analyzing sales data, Savlowitz discussed some of his strong opinions about forecasting.
“Anybody tells you there’s one way to model your forecast for your sales, where one model that’s the best at doing something…they’re lying, run away, and don’t believe them,” he said. “Because in the ecosystem of analytics, and especially predictive analytics, there is no one model that’s the panacea.”
“The philosophy that we take is you gotta build many models, hundreds of different models and scenarios, if you will,” he said. “And then you just take them all and you build a distribution curve, you plot them all. And then you take the median of all the model outputs, because nobody on earth…can tell you at the end of the day, before an event happens, that that model is going to be the best. No one really knows. It’s the future. However, what you can do, it’s called a gravitational model or a gravitational pull. You build a whole bunch of models.” MIC members can access the latest Business Advisory & Forecast report, produced by Competitive Analytics, which details total motorcycle and on-highway motorcycle sales and makes predictions, based on macroeconomic trends, correlated to motorcycle sales. The reports examine trends that affect our industry, as well as the larger, general economic direction.