Mobile solutions, social media continue as hot trends

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LAS VEGAS, NEV. – Mobile applications and hi-tech options continue to drive new software innovations among companies exhibiting at the National Automobile Dealers’ Association Expo and Conference.

Walking the show floor at the 2012 installment, held from Feb. 4 to 6 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, signs promoting mobile functions for tablets and smartphones were ubiquitous – from software providers to the service world to the finance sector.

Another key theme, building from the last few shows, has been the surge of social media and reputation management solutions as more consumers migrate to online social sites.

“Mobile is a very big piece of the equation this year,” explained Dean Anton of ADP, referring not only to the show in general but also to ADP DriveMotion, the portal for ADP’s mobile applications expected to hit the Canadian dealer market sometime this summer. “And the show overall has been very busy with attendance up over prior years, which is good for an industry as a whole.”

One of the showstoppers this year was the docuPAD system from Reynolds and Reynolds. Though not available to Canadian dealers yet, the F&I selling tool was a hot topic amongst show attendees.

The large tablet sits atop desks in the business office and offers an interactive sales procedure that includes personalized menu presentations, a display of all forms in an electronic menu format, discloses all necessary contract and lease information and captures files in an electronic job jacket.

The system can even play presentations and videos to upsell products. Ian Reilly, manager of sales operations at Reynolds & Reynolds in Canada, was frank in his characterization of the product: “I have no doubt this technology will change the way F&I sales are handled in the future.”

Reynolds communication head Tom Schwartz said the new user-friendly hardware and software is a product of company president Ron Lamb’s philosophy of breaking down the technology barrier between the dealership and the consumer.

“Over the years we have made DMS software more efficient for dealers to do their job. But consumers don’t see that. Now in areas like service and F&I, we are starting to develop the kinds of products to engage and interact with the consumer,” Schwartz said.

There is no timeline in place to bring the docuPAD to Canada, but Reilly was fired up about the ERA Ignite system, which he revealed is running in pilot phase at stores in Canada right now.

DealerTrack was also getting in on the mobile application game with the introduction of DealerTrack Mobile. According to the company, the new program will be available for iPhones and iPads and gives dealers “unprecedented and secure” access to their indirect auto lending deals worked through the DealerTrack credit application network.

The app gives dealers the chance to check the status of credit applications and contracts, including contracts-in-transit and funded agreements.

Not content with just offering mobile websites, a U.S. firm called MobileAppLoader told Canadian AutoWorld that the next big thing for car dealers is to develop and offer their own apps for smartphone and tablet users.

Company rep Dave Ashkenazi said this trend marks what he called the “new app economy.”

“People constantly have their phone with them these days. While a mobile website is great, think about the regular visibility you could get with a dealership-branded app right on their screens,” he said.

Apps, he added, are versatile and can allow for service appointment booking, inventory display, communicate with customers via phone and text and highlight special sales and events.

Often considered to be a bellwether of the overall health of North American automotive retail, floor space this year was sold out. NADA reports that more than 20,000 attendees crowded the floor to survey the more than 570 companies showcasing their latest products and services.

For continued coverage of many more products and services found at this year’s NADA Conference and Expo, check next month’s Canadian AutoWorld and its focus section on Marketing and E-Commerce.