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The skinny on PSN’s SocialLink app

August 22, 2011

You may have heard a little whisper from PowerSports Network recently about an app that it deems the “missing link” in making your Web initiatives a little easier to manage.

It’s called SocialLink (promo video above), and it acts as a bridge between PSN-powered websites and dealer Facebook pages. With SocialLink, says PSN national sales manager Dave Valentine, dealers can have their website inventory automatically fed into their Facebook page in real-time, without having to take any additional steps. The app also allows fans to sign up for store email blasts.

“It’s simple to use,” Valentine says. “We do almost all of the work for the dealers.”

PSN subscribers need only click on a button that says “send to Facebook” when they’re uploading their inventory. The action will lead to a window where you can edit text and schedule the Facebook post to go live immediately or set a date for the future. Dealers also can schedule up to three “Featured Units” per day to show up on their Facebook pages. Facebook fans are able to view photos, review prices and Like or Comment on individual units.

“We’d like dealers to use this tool as more of a social thing, for example asking customers, ‘What do you think of this bike?’ rather than just using it as a sales tool,” Valentine says. “If they just did sales, it would turn off their uses.” PSN also plans to add social event posting capabilities in the near future.

The SocialLink add-on tool is $49 per month. Since it’s August 1 launch, more than 100 dealers have started using the tool, including Buddy Stubbs Harley-Davidson in Phoenix, a store that incorporates both of its branches into one Facebook page.

For more information, contact PSN at 800-556-0314.

Facebook for Business is a one-stop shop

July 27, 2011


For dealers still needing a nudge to join Facebook, the social networking site has just made it easier for you to set up a business page.

Facebook this week launched Facebook for Business, an information hub that lists all of its pertinent business information on one page. Everything from how-tos on creating pages to adding targeted ads and plug-ins is now in one convenient spot for you to peruse.

(Aside: It’s interesting to note that this launch comes on the heels of news that spanking-new social networking competitor Google+ has been deleting business pages and turning away businesses from its site.)

So have at it, folks. Visit www.facebook.com/business to create a page, or learn about all the features that you can plug into your existing one.

Milo Fetch bridges gap between online and in-store

June 23, 2011

Dealers looking to branch out online may want to check out Milo Fetch, an eBay-affiliated company that helps small- and medium-sized brick and mortar businesses gain more visibility online. A bonus: You don’t have to have an online storefront to sign up.

Milo Fetch works like this: Retailers enter their store information and sign up, then install Milo Fetch on their main point-of-sale system computer. Milo Fetch automatically uploads the retailer’s inventory, adding it to search engines like those on eBay, Milo, RedLaser and other eBay-affiliated sites. Shoppers who search for items on these sites will be able to view not only national eBay-listed products, but items from local retailers, as well.

The online listings can act as referrals to the retailer’s store. Milo Fetch also updates the product availability in real-time, so customers can see whether a store has an item in stock at that particular moment.

We tried it out, and it seems to work pretty well — and we noticed that powersports products are few and far between. A quick search for motorcycle products near Dealernews’ zip code (92614) yielded only eight local results. Of course, Milo Fetch only has recently rolled out, so given time, more retailers will sign up and more products will be searchable. However, from a dealer standpoint, you could take advantage of this testing period to get a leg up on your competitors.

Currently, Milo Fetch works best with retailers who use Intuit QuickBooks. The service is free during this beta testing period, so it’s definitely worth checking out.

Visit http://milofetch.com to sign up and to learn more.

TIP: Where to place your in-store pickup counter

June 17, 2011

While conducting her seminar at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition this week, RSR Research partner Nikki Baird made an interesting point about the dilemma of the in-store pickup counter. These counters, as you know, are for customers who purchase products from you online or over the phone.

So where exactly should these counters be situated in your store?

“Ideally, as a business you’d say, I want my pickup location to be at the back corner of the store because I want customers to walk through the entire store to get there,” Baird said. “That’s what Walmart has done. Unfortunately, from the customer perspective, the biggest draw [of online shopping] is convenience.”

So, in other words, if you force a customer walk through a maze of aisles and salespeople to retrieve their conveniently purchased items, they’re not going to appreciate it. Customers who shop online love the ability to effortlessly browse and buy merchandise, so making them wind their way through an entire store can defeat the purpose of online shopping in the first place.

On the other extreme end, placing the pickup counter at the very front of your store doesn’t serve you, either. Baird mentioned another retailer, The Container Store, as a business that places its pickup counter directly in front. “There’s not even impulse items there for customers to look at,” Baird said.

So depending on your store design, placement of your in-store pickup counter would fall somewhere in the middle of both extremes. You need to have this counter in an area where there’s a little bit of eye candy to catch a customer’s eye, but not so much that he may as well have bought the item in the store, instead of online.

Hip to be square: Demystifying the QR code

June 2, 2011

They’re called QR codes, and they’re seemingly everywhere these days — you may have noticed them in store windows, magazine articles, and other places where you’d usually find traditional advertising. But what exactly are they, and what function do they serve for retailers?

“By the book definition, they’re two-dimensional barcodes that can be scanned by a mobile device or camera phone, which would lead you to a phone number, SMS text message, or URL,” says Scott Bronenberg, regional sales manager for Advanced Telecom Services.

In newbie terms, QR codes are similar to regular product barcodes — only instead of listing a price at the checkout counter, they act as portals to a retailer’s mobile website or other information. Users scan the code, and in turn, the code sends the user to whatever the retailer has linked to the code — whether mobile website, coupon, or other information.

“Right now, people are using QR codes to [redirect] users to their websites,” Bronenberg says. “But what we’ve found is that there’s so much more we can do with further integrating that landing page. Be it Facebook, Twitter, an opportunity to download an app, watching a video, and live streaming.”

QR codes were first developed in Japan as early as 1994, when they were used to track automotive parts — sort of a mobile tagging system. It wasn’t until just about a few years ago that they caught on in the United States. “We’ve been working with QR codes for about a year and a half, and the growth is spiking right now,” Bronenberg says.

And, with mobile phone companies like Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile planning to offer phones equipped with QR scanners rather than have users download these scanners themselves, Bronenberg muses the interest in them will multiply — not fade out like other marketing fads. “Right now, they’re like the shiny object in the room — they’re new, and unique. But if people get more comfortable with them, their growth could be endless,” he says. “They’ve been in use in Japan for awhile now. If we as marketers can do a good job of executing what’s on the back end, they will be here to stay.”

Besides linking to a website or social media page, one could also run various promotions with QR codes. Frank Mazza, Advanced Telecom Services’ QR code production director, recently helped develop what the company calls a “scannenger hunt.” Retailers would place QR codes around their store, asking consumers to scan them to view and download exclusive content. Mazza also suggests that dealers place QR codes on showroom vehicles that link to videos of vehicle demos or customer reviews. “[Customers] can scan them, and they can see the vehicles in motion [in a video],” Mazza says. “They have all of the details they need on their phones. You could also tie the QR codes in with vehicle servicing.” The best part? Customers have access to all of this interactive content, all without having to leave your store to get it.

Advanced Telecom Services helps retailers build custom apps and marketing campaigns to link to these QR codes. The company offers customization, building, setup and development services that start at $500, plus monthly maintenance fees. Customized QR codes that are branded according to your business start at $100. Bronenberg and Mazza also run a website, QRcode2.com, where one can generate generic, black and white QR codes for free. “A lot of people who use the standard QR code just link it to their website,” Mazza says. “But the thing is, yeah, you can use them for free, but you want to brand it, from the outside and inside. That’s what we do. We’re creating a landing site for you. The works.”

Google’s take on mobile marketing

May 23, 2011

About 8 percent of those surveyed in a Google report admit to using their smartphones to access the Internet while they’re in the shower.

If that doesn’t tell you how powerful mobile marketing can be just read on for more stats from Google’s findings.

Some background: Last month, Google released a report titled “The Mobile Movement: Understanding Smartphone Users,” that was conducted by Ipsos OTX Media CT, an independent market research firm. (You can download the free report here.)

The study represents 5,013 smartphone users between the ages of 18 and 64, all who’ve said that they use their smartphones to connect to the Internet. Just like social networking, it seems as though consumer mobile usage is on the rise — and here to stay.

Stats to think about:

  • 93 percent of those surveyed use their smartphones at home. Most people consider their smartphones as an extension of their laptops and desktop computers.
  • 72 percent say they’re using their smartphones while doing other things, like watching television (33 percent), and reading the newspaper (22 percent).
  • 43 percent say that if they have to, they’d give up beer just so they could continue using their smartphones for Internet access.

And here’s where it gets interesting for you, dealers:

  • 46 percent of those surveyed use their smartphones to visit retail websites.
  • 53 percent of those who use their smartphones for searches end up making a purchase, whether in-store (40 percent), online (35 percent), and on the smartphone itself (20 percent).
  • 95 percent of smartphone users have used their phones to look up local information. About 61 percent of them have subsequently called, and 59 percent have physically visited the businesses they’ve looked up in their local searches.
  • 79 percent of those surveyed say they’re using their smartphones for shopping-related activities.
  • 74 percent of smartphone shoppers made a purchase as a result of using their smartphone.
  • 67 percent research a product on their smartphones, then buy it in-store.

So what can you do to make sure you’re on track with your mobile retail efforts?

  • For starters, hop on a smartphone — iPhone, Blackberry, whatever — and cue up your store’s website to see if it’s displaying properly. Are icons too small? Text too confusing and hard to read? If you’re running into these and other problems, you may want to consider investing in designing a mobile shopping app to make it easier for consumers to shop from their phones. This is especially crucial if a chunk of your sales are made online.
  • Advertise with mobile banner ads, etc. The Google report also mentions that 82 percent of those surveyed actually notice ads on their smartphones. Those screens may be small, but that means ads can take up a lot of real estate.

Tips on text-message advertising

May 16, 2011

A recent Internet Retailer article states that 35 percent of consumers who’ve opted to receive promotional text messages from retailers or brands usually end up visiting the stores or websites in question as a result. About 34 percent of those people who visit the store or website redeem the coupons or take advantage of the promotions offered in the store’s text message. (Read that entire article here.)

So while these numbers are pretty enticing, there are a few basic things you need to do before you start blasting your customer base with text messages.

First, make sure your customers actually want to receive the fruits of your mobile-marketing efforts. Let them opt in. If you have a store e-newsletter, send out an email message about it and let them decide whether they want to receive these special text promotions or news announcements. Have your sales associates mention the program during every transaction at the register, and promote it on your social media sites.

Also, choose your texts wisely — the last thing you want is for your opted-in customers to opt out if they perceive you’re merely spamming them instead of sending them awesome deals on service or products. This New York Times article doesn’t recommend texting customers more than five times per month. (The article is also worth a click for its handy mobile marketing tips.)

You can get started by looking into some of the various companies that offer these mobile advertising services. Start here, with this recent Top 10 list of mobile marketing companies.

Dealers, take a bow

March 1, 2011

Forget about winning — just entering the Top 100 Dealer competition is no easy feat. The application itself is arduous, requiring entrants to submit information about the vehicles and products they carry, the size of their store and all of its departments, and estimated gross revenue per square foot.

Entrants must submit their best examples of customer service and community involvement initiatives. They have to detail how they motivate their employees. They are required to submit a mission statement, and then detail how they fulfill that mission each and every day.

They have to describe their service departments, their accessories departments, their marketing departments and their
e-commerce and Web activities. Entrants submit images — lots of images — showing the best of their stores. They attach samples of print collateral, digital files of commercials, PDF documents of media campaigns.

Indeed, once you complete and submit a Top 100 entry, it stands to reason that you can use this same file as a basis for loan applications, city permits, employee handbooks, franchise petitions, and more.

So for all who submitted a Top 100 dealer entry for the 2011 competition, and many of you did (entries were up 56 percent this year), well done. The competition was the tightest in recent memory. And if the rest of the dealer community is doing half of what you all are doing each and every day — well, then, the powersports industry is going to be in good shape.

Two unique awards launched in the 2011 competition, both recognizing an effort related to the competition itself. The new Consumer’s Choice Award, sponsored by our sister property, the Progressive International Motorcycle Shows, is awarded to the Top 100 entrant that secured the most consumer votes in a balloting process conducted on www.motorcycleshows.com in November and December. The 2011 Consumer’s Choice Award is given to South Texas Suzuki, a Lytle, Texas, dealership that received 37,000 (no, that’s not a typo) votes in the competition. Congratulations to a dealership that knew how to rally its troops.

The second is the new Vehicle Brand of the Year award. We launched this award with a specific mission: to give the OEMs a real incentive to support their dealers who are working hard every day, and detailing their achievements through the Top 100 entry process. The Vehicle Brand of the Year award goes to the “winningest” OEM — that is, the franchise listed most often by the Top 100 dealers.

For 2011, the Vehicle Brand of the Year award goes to American Suzuki, an OEM that arguably has had better years in terms of vehicle rollouts and annual sales. But here’s one thing Suzuki does right: It works with its dealer community to really encourage those businesses to go through the Top 100 entry process. Suzuki recognizes that the entry process is an education in and of itself, and it is to be commended for its support of the Top 100 competition.

Congratulations to the class of 2011. You work hard, you stay focused, and you persevere. And for that, the industry is grateful.

Mary Slepicka
Group Content Director
mslepicka@dealernews.com

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews March 2011 issue.

Bika Chik fashion show at Dealer Expo

February 20, 2011

It’s kind of a well-known fact that men’s motorcycle apparel exponentially outnumbers women’s apparel  — the complete opposite of how it works in everyday casual wear, where women’s apparel dominates. But luckily for us ladies — and judging from what I’ve seen on the Dealer Expo show floor this weekend — there are some great women’s clothing companies out there holding down the fort. Designer Jeanette Keller’s Bika Chik is one example. A few minutes ago, I caught its fashion show at the Fashion Forward stage, and besides all those cozy graphic tees, there were two things that stood out to me as possible hot-sellers:

Embroidered leather vest. This looked even better on the model than it does in this stock photo. It’s fitted, and a tiny bit on the cropped side, which makes it great for riding. The front has all kinds of edgy zippers and a small upper pocket design, along with two front pockets and a button-waist. The back is embroidered and studded with Swarovski crystals. Comes in black, in sizes S to XL.

 

 

 

 

 

Leather jacket with fringe. A little bit of fringe never hurt anyone. Just like the vest, it has an embroidered skull design on the back to bring some edge to the girly design. It currently comes in pink, but I wonder if Bika Chik will offer this in black as well, in the future. Comes in sizes S to XL.

A bonus: Prices are pretty affordable, too.

If you’re at Dealer Expo, you can find Bika Chik Wear in Booth 5653. Otherwise, contact the company directly by visiting www.bikachik.com and clicking on the “contact us” button.

— Cynthia Furey

Dealers: How you can jump on the mobile-shopping bandwagon for free

February 18, 2011

Hey dealers:
I’ve got an assignment for you that may propel you headfirst into this year’s top marketing trend: mobile e-commerce. Why should you care? In this morning’s Learning Experience Marketing session with Craig Cervenka at Dealer Expo, it was said that an estimated 75 percent of people will try mobile shopping at least once this year. 75 percent. If that doesn’t reel you in, how about if I tell you that your assignment will take just 5 minutes, and it’s free.

Here’s what you do:

Make sure your business is listed in Google Places.

1. Visit places.google.com

2. In the bottom right corner, click on “Google Places for Business.”

3. Create a Google account or log in, if you already have an account.

4. You’ll be redirected to a page where you can “List Your Business.” Just follow the directions on the page. If Google doesn’t have the information on-hand, you’ll enter your address, website phone number, and some other pertinent information.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: If a local customer Google’s your dealership name, or even a keyword like “motorcycle jacket,” you have a better chance of landing on Google’s front page for local results. There will be a map, your address, web address and phone number, all there for them to see. Also, Google automatically formats its Places pages for mobile screens (iPhone, Android, etc.), so you’ll get a nifty little mobile page as well.

— Cynthia