An app developed for Subaru is helping sales associates take showroom pitches to the next level by harnessing the power of digital messaging, vast reams of information and even inventory search functions in an easy-to-use digital format.
The app, dubbed the Subaru Connect App, puts sales information, digital assets, competitive comparisons and even OEM commercials at the fingertips of roughly 400 sales associates at 90 Subaru dealerships across Canada.
Launched earlier this year ahead of auto show season, the system appears to be the next stage in digital sales for the Japanese brand. Ask George Hamin, director of e-business and information systems at Subaru Canada, though, and he says it is more about empowering sales teams with the very best information they can provide.
“We have all these different departments producing competitor comparison materials, vehicle specs, training guides, photos, commercials, walkarounds and more, but there wasn’t a consistent way of getting it all into the hands of the salespeople,” he explains.
Though Subaru had a portal that offered some downloadable content for its retail network, there wasn’t a single repository where staff could get everything. Nor was there a way to pull everything together in front of a customer in a convenient and quick manner.
A year and a half of development with iMason followed before dealers got their hands on the app this past winter. Corporate provided test dealers with Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablets, partially because it would allow dealers to run their existing DMS and other legacy applications.
It works cross-platform on any type of mobile device (and operating system) that Subaru Canada salespeople use. It is also free for dealers.
Feedback following the auto shows was used to update the application before a second iteration rolled out in June. The biggest addition was CRM integration meaning a salesperson can prepare a quote with the app and check inventory to see if the unit is on the lot.
Vehicles can be reserved and tagged to the customer.
It also integrates with Microsoft’s Dynamics AX ERP system so staff can immediately locate and reserve a vehicle matching the customer’s choice of model, colour and options anywhere in the Subaru supply chain.
Complete email integration gives salespeople the power to email content like vehicle brochure PDFs directly to customers.
“The response has been fantastic so far as we have received a lot of positive feedback,” Hamin reveals. “When they [dealers] started putting down their own money for additional tablets, that’s when we knew we had something interesting.”
The system does not require a constant Internet connection to display the assets meaning the tablet can even go on test drives. The only time it has to be tethered online is when connecting to the CRM system.
Subaru insists it placed a premium on security. This app won’t be found in any online store like iTunes but rather at a private Subaru store created in cooperation with Microsoft.
Usernames and passwords are required and the security features have been independently tested.
When asked if a system like Subaru Connect App spells the beginning of the end for the printed brochure, Hamin notes he can see it both ways.
While he concedes the options technology provides exceed what the printed word on a static page can do, he insists there is still a market for old-school spec sheets.
“I think consumers still want both,” he says. “They like the digital version for convenience and what it offers, but when they are down to one or two models, they will probably be flipping through the paper brochure.”