Vincit Talks

Driving Dealership Revenue Through Digital Marketing Transformation

Vincit Talks
October 30th 2020
Vincit Talks is a monthly tech meetup held in Southern California. It’s designed to bring directors down from their towers and tech professionals out from their cubicles. We feature speeches on a variety of topics ranging from marketing and business development to software engineering and design. Talks are brief, but informative. Check out for upcoming events.
On our October 29th event, Andrew Cullen focuses on effective tools and strategies to maximize ROI through digital marketing efforts.
Rachel Valentine: Today on Vincit Talks, we are going to have our very established guest, Andrew Cullen from Yamaha. And a few things that I'd just like to share before going into his bio and letting him take off is that, again, welcome back for those that have been here before. And for those of you that are first timers, Vincit Talks is something that we established as a monthly webinar series for anyone interested in staying up to date with what's happening in tech development, user experience, design, and business strategy.
Rachel Valentine: And just a quick introduction to Vincit and we are hosting this. We are a custom software development and design agency originally from Finland, but with US headquarters here in Irvine, California. And we really created Vincit Talks as a way to engage with notable industry leaders and passionate experts that are wanting to help share the latest developments in everything tech and really be able to discuss important topics that we don't want to ignore such as, today, talking about taking your business digital and ways to drive revenue. And so we hope that everyone that decides to attend Vincit Talks or is able to watch this session at a later point, whether you might be a business owner, a developer, a designer, a marketer, even recruiters coming to watch, that you can walk away with just really valuable information pertinent to your company or your career.
Rachel Valentine: So now that we're a few minutes in, kind of to jump into the introduction of today's session, so I'm very excited for our speaker to be discussing driving dealership revenue through digital marketing transformation. And Andrew is the Senior Manager of Digital Marketing and Communications for Yamaha Motor Corporation. He's extremely results-driven in new media marketing and communications and comes with a diverse background both with corporate and agency expertise. So I know it's going to be a great dialogue today, especially when we get to that Q&A session. Andrew has experience creating and executing B2B and B2C marketing strategies that really help engage audience using new media, social, digital, and mobile platforms. And he also has a large passion for innovation and an obsession with using the latest technology to connect, inform, and compel today's consumer.
Rachel Valentine: So I hope you're all just as excited as I am to listen to Andrew's talk, but even after that, we will have Vincit's very own SVP of Strategy, Sean Richards, lead us through some specific Q&A to help dive even deeper into this topic and allow for all of our viewers tuning in to get a better understanding of ways to really implement these tactics for your businesses. So without further ado, as we've waited for a few minutes and seeing attendees still kind of trickle in, but mostly here, we will hand things on over to Andrew. So Andrew, you can take it away.
Andrew Cullen: All right. Thank you, Rachel. I'll bring this up. Okay. Can you see it? So thanks a lot for the intro. That was awesome. That was quite a bit about me. A little bit about our group, we're the Yamaha Watercraft Group. So we are part of Yamaha Motor USA. We're a division of Yamaha Motor USA. Yamaha Motor's products include everything from motorcycles, to ATVs, to snowmobiles, to golf cars, and then our division, which is responsible for the WaveRunner personal watercraft and sport boats between 19 and 27 feet long.
Andrew Cullen: And so I'm going to talk to you a little bit about, today, about some of the changing nature of things in our business, particularly with regards to a lot of looking at consumers and the way that they're purchasing our products and their customer journey, but also through the lens of the dealership in particular because they're ultimately that last mile for us where all of the purchases need to take place. So you can't really buy a product from us. It has to be purchased from a dealer, similar to auto industry model.
Andrew Cullen: Quick overview of the agenda that we're going to go through. I'm going to talk about the customer journey and how things have changed, really in 2020 especially, but just overall big trends that are going on, as well as how we're nurturing those leads, sharing them with the dealer, and ultimately creating the sale. Next, we're going to talk about the change that's going on between dealership websites and then the Google business listings, which have really taken center stage and are really popping up before all of the dealership websites. And we're going to talk about the advantages of that for the customer and for the OEM like us because it's actually a very good thing for us, as well.
Andrew Cullen: Next, we're going to talk about social media automation and some of the ways in which we've been able to help our dealerships create a strong social media presence as the manufacturer. A lot of dealerships are pulled a bunch of different ways. They've got a finance department, a parts department. They've got new sales, used sales. And a lot of times, they don't have somebody dedicated to marketing or social media. So a lot of times, these pages can get outdated. They're not good with a lot of content. So we've got some cool tools and some cool technology that we're using to help them out in that area, as well.
Andrew Cullen: Then we're going to talk about mobile apps. This is something that we worked on a long time ago, starting in 2010 with Vincit through the conceptualization of these apps and then how they've kind of developed over the years and become a really important part of our business and an important tool for our dealership. So we'll get into that. And then we're going to talk about what happens inside the dealership and some cool technology that's going on there with regards to streaming video and touchscreen because, even though a lot of stuff is taking place before somebody gets to a dealership, once they're there, a lot of things could knock them off the path of going down and purchasing the product. So we want to have a strong footprint there, help our dealers and help our brand accomplish that sale.
Andrew Cullen: And then the last thing we're going to talk about is text-based communications and just the flow of information from dealerships back out to customers around service, around appointments, and just creating a good experience for customers down the line. We have a lot of new buyers coming in right now. We've got a lot of people who we've welcome to the industry and we want to make sure they have a really great experience in it. So those are kind of the main buckets that we're going to cover.
Andrew Cullen: I'm going to start by just talking about some changes to consumer behavior. And the big thing here is that, in the past, and this is a few years back, customers would first visit our website, then they would visit the physical dealership, and then they would make their decision. That was in the past. And this customer journey has continued to evolve. And I think that, in the last six to nine months, it's probably evolved more than it ever has before. And so that's kind of the current situation, but not so long ago, we saw the rise of a lot of independent third-party websites.
Andrew Cullen: These are what would be the car and driver motor trends of the auto industry, these third-party websites that would do reviews and give customers information. And those really popped up as maybe the first place that they go. Customers want to find out, hey, what are people talking about? What are getting these good reviews? Then they would visit our website, then the physical dealership and they would make their decision then. Keep in mind, all of this is happening after they visit the physical dealership, but now everything has really changed. And I think the big trends that we're seeing now is that the customers are coming to the manufacturer website first and they're coming back a lot and they're spending a lot of time there. And they are just digesting it. And that's where they're ultimately making their decision, right then and there, based off of that manufacturer information.
Andrew Cullen: And then what they do after that has really changed a lot. They're going in and they want to confirm and they want the affirmation that the decision that they just decided on is the right one. And we've seen the rise of the online forums because you've got people in there who are real people, real owners, saying real things without money and without the brand because marketers end up ruining everything, kind of like we did to a lot of these independent third-party websites that we kind of took over an influence on and now you don't see a lot of them out there anymore.
Andrew Cullen: And so after the online forum, which I think right now is really used as a way to affirm the buy, to make sure you're doing the right thing, you're going to see them going and visit the dealership's Google business listing. And this is where the customer's going to decide, "Which dealership am I going to choose?" We've probably already shared with them the nearest one to them, as you'll see in a couple of slides. They want to know which one's got the highest ratings, what's got the best star rating on Google. And then what we've really seen a lot of lately is digital transactions between the customer and the dealer. So can it be a touch-less experience where, ultimately, you can buy a boat or a WaveRunner, you can do the whole thing digitally, via email, and you can get the product delivered to your driveway or to your boat slip. You're seeing more and more of that among the dealers who are really on it.
Andrew Cullen: So pretty cool stuff. Good changes. And then I'm going to talk a little bit more here in a second about how we're playing into all of this stuff, but you can see from the stats up above here that quite a few of our boat buyers and WaveRunner buyers, more than half of each of them, up to 70% of the boat buyers, they knew what they wanted before they ever entered the dealership or before they contacted the dealership and that is the product that they bought. So they're definitely making these decisions way early on in the process. And so, really, what we want to do, the main goal in a lot of our marketing efforts right now is we need to empower the customer with the information that they need. It might not always be the stuff that we want to put out there or what we think is important. We've got to really flip that and look at it from their perspective and say, "What do they need to make their decision?" And we've got to give it to them right away.
Andrew Cullen: And that's kind of what we're doing with some of the new developments we've done on our website. And a lot of this isn't brand new, rocket science, crazy stuff, but it is newer for our industry, newer for our experience, and kind of a new approach to buying WaveRunners and boats. This is a new experience that we've built on this page, which has filters on the left, kind of like you see at Amazon where you can narrow down your choices on the right as you check the boxes of what you want. The idea is that, when you look at all of our models, you've got EX, EX sport, EX deluxe, VX, EX. There's an FX. There's all these different models and it's really hard for people to determine what are the differences, which one do I want, what's going to be right for me?
Andrew Cullen: So the filters allow them to narrow it down and then we've got these compare buttons underneath each one of them. And as you go along, you can pick the models that you want to compare. And as you do, this drawer pops up underneath the bottom and it's going to log all the models that you want to compare, up to four, and then you can hit the X and change them out all you want. And then, once you hit the compare button on the far right there, it brings up a nice columned out area where you've got all the models, all the specs for all of them all put together.
Andrew Cullen: And we've done this before in the past within the series, itself, but now we're doing it kind of across all the product lines. And the goal here, really, is empowering the customer, giving the the information to make the decision that is best for them. We've got the download button there. There's a lot of sharing capabilities, so they can share it with a spouse. And we really are trying to put the customer and empower them and put them in control of their buying experience.
Andrew Cullen: The next way that we've really been doing that is a brand new build and price feature. Now, this is very similar to what you see on the automotive side. A lot of our products are feature packed. There's not a lot of features that you add to each one, but you'll see there's a lot of aspects of the buying experience that you can add along the way. And then you see, on the far right, we turned this into really our lead management system so that the dealer can get a full order from the customer; all the things that they want, the boat, the accessories, the finance offers that they want. And we also send that email to the customer so that they can make that connection.
Andrew Cullen: And here's a little bit about how that experience works. The first thing you're going to do is you're going to narrow down, choose your series of WaveRunner. Then you're going to choose your specific model. And then, as you do it, you go ahead, you choose your color. And as you can see down here, once you get to this point, you've got your navigation up here and your MSRP is going to start to build right here. So we're starting to build a shopping-cart-like experience for the customer. And so here, they're going to walk in. Step two is really showing all the accessories that they might want to add. So as they're adding them, it's popping up over here in the shopping cart. The MSRP is being added here.
Andrew Cullen: Again, this is going to be great for the dealer. They're going to be able to talk to the customer about this unit. Maybe when they make the purchase, all these accessories, everything can be ready for the customer, all ready to go. This is a really important step here, which is our special offers and financing. This one says, i don't know if it's easy to see, but zero down, zero payments for 90 days. That's a pretty good deal. This one's $399 for 36 months. So you can add these offers and pop them in the cart. So now, when the dealer sees, hey, okay, this is the offer that they're interested in. They still have to qualify for it, but they're able to have the customer saying, "Hey, here's all the stuff that I want," and it's really up to the dealer to help make this happen and that's what their job is. So we're trying to give them all the information that we can.
Andrew Cullen: This is kind of the summary page. So you've got your build summary over here. You've got all the colors, the accessories, everything that you put in your cart there. And then, right here, you're going to pop in your information, preferred method of contact. You're going to be able to indicate if you're interested in some warranty information, if you're interested in a contact-less delivery, things like that, and then it's ultimately going to build and send to the dealer and to the customer over here. So this is much more of a customer shopping-like experience and then the dealer to fulfill that experience for them. And again, this has definitely been done in different models. We get that, it's just it's kind of newer for our industry and for the experience that we've been building up for the customers, driven by that demand to help empower them.
Andrew Cullen: So that is a big part of getting the customer into the fold. They know what they want. They've connected with their local dealer, but that just might be their nearest dealer. That doesn't mean that's the dealer they have to go to. And so the old way here is dealership websites. This is really hit or miss. This is one of the first ones I grabbed. This is just a dealer in Dallas. And they actually have a pretty decent site, but a lot of these are hit or miss. You really don't know what you're going to get. A lot of them haven't been updated in months, sometimes years. They're often not responsive. Mobile's huge, obviously. We've got 75+% of our visitors are mobile, so we know that's important. These dealer sites, there's a lot of pinching and other things going on still, which is just not acceptable.
Andrew Cullen: But probably the big thing that you see here, you see a competitive vehicle, potentially you see an ATV. That's something maybe somebody wants to buy instead of a WaveRunner. So you have competitive brand, competitive discounts, not all the things that we want to see as they're going through their process. There also could be old inventory because it's not updated all the time. There could be used products that could be less expensive and take them out of the market for a new product. And there's just not the strength of buying tools that you would get working through the Yamaha site with Yamaha factory finance and some of the larger things that we can bring to the table.
Andrew Cullen: But this is really the big, interesting change here. There's a lot to unpack related to moving over to the Google My Business, which when you search for things now has taken over. And we all know that Google loves to keep us around, searching for things and in their ecosystem. And this is probably one of the most genius ways to do it. When you search for, "Yamaha dealer Dallas," here, the first thing that pops up is the map with the dealers on the mobile site. Over on the right-hand side, you get the same thing. So they do a great job showing the nearest one. And they're doing an amazing job with the star ratings that you see over here on the mobile site, popping those up, because now the customer's not only researching the model that they want, the brand that they want. They're going to research the dealer. And this is a great place for them to do it and we know a lot of them are.
Andrew Cullen: So this is a pretty good dealer setup right here. Everybody's got almost 300 ratings and they're all above four stars, but you're going to see this be hit or miss. Some people have given this more attention than others. And I've got a slide later on about some of the ways that we are encouraging dealerships to take this a little more seriously and help them with their star ratings, but it's not even done here yet. Once they find the dealer, there's a major nother step and that is that, if you think about 91% of consumers depend on online reviews to make a purchase, we already kind of talked about how they're looking at the forums and things like that, they love to hear from other people.
Andrew Cullen: Well, inside all these Google listings, you've got all these reviews. And I didn't have to dig far to find one where it starts to talk about the actual salesperson at the dealership in the review. So this person left another dealership with a bad taste before coming to this dealership. And they start talking about Johnny the sales guy, who was great, really knowledgeable. Sounds like a great salesperson. There's also ... they mention a finance person here that was great to deal with. I think, if you start clicking around, you could probably find more information on maybe who these people are, their names, maybe their email. You could call the dealership, start to connect with them.
Andrew Cullen: So people are taking that next step forward. They don't just want the dealership, they want to know who at the dealership they need to talk to. So in this case, calling Johnny sounds like a pretty good idea. You won't be disappointed, according to this reviewer. That's kind of an overview of the importance of Google My Business. And some dealers take it seriously, some don't. It's a really important part of, I think, any local business. And as you can see up here, this is a stat from Google that 84% of customers are finding the business through discovery searches. So they're searching for something and they're finding the business. They're not going directly to the business. That's only happened 16% of the time. So this discovery phase is huge.
Andrew Cullen: Big stuff there. Next, we're going to talk about social media. Like I mentioned before, the dealerships don't have the resources for this, but social media remains a really great way for dealerships and for OEM manufacturers to interact with customers on a regular basis. We take it really seriously. We want our dealers to have a strong presence, as well. Some of them do, some of them don't. And we wanted to create a way that we could assist them and, at the same time, assist ourselves by making sure that our content, our brand is front and center across all these networks.
Andrew Cullen: And so we work with a company and they're called Foamstopper. And it's a really unique company. They allow us to create this dashboard. And this dashboard that you see up here pipes in all of our existing social media content from Facebook and from Instagram, from YouTube, from everywhere we post. It brings it into this dashboard and then we're able to work with our dealerships for them to allow us to make posts on their behalf. And you can see down here, when we do it, it actually still looks like it comes from that dealership. And the interaction takes place with that dealership, but we're behind the scenes. We're kind of the engine that's pushing this out.
Andrew Cullen: And we've had more than half of our dealerships sign up for this service and it allows us to go in. We get our content fed right in here. We can tweak it and make it more dealer-friendly as we want and we can pop it in a big bucket that gets pushed out to dealers on a regular basis. And they can control inside throughout the system how often they want to receive the content, but this is great for people who aren't posting a lot. We're getting the Yamaha message over, and over, and over again out there to them, to the interested customers. We're keeping their page fresh. And this is really a set it and forget it, hands-off kind of thing. Once we get set up with a dealership, they don't have to do anything except interact with customers and respond to them as we drive interest in them.
Andrew Cullen: You can see over here, just in the last seven months, this is all kind of incremental gain for us in terms of reach, but reaching almost seven million people, eight million impressions. Just video views, 384,000 additional views by pushing content out through this network is just huge. So very cool technology and pretty soon you'll see it on here. They're going to be rolling this out for Instagram, as well. So we hope that our dealers get on that platform, as well. We see a lot of growth in Instagram and YouTube right now.
Andrew Cullen: Moving on to mobile apps. Like I said before, this is an exciting development project. This was conceptualized way back in 2010 with Vincit. We developed these initially for customers. And the idea was that this was going to be a virtual catalog that lived in your pocket, but it was going to be more than a catalog because it was going to be interactive and you were going to be able to view news and the latest promo offers and social. You're going to be able to share things, but you're going to be able to compare series and model and do all these great things. And that's kind of what we developed and what we built.
Andrew Cullen: On the front end of it, we built a little ... the wire framework that shows you how the app works and, at the very end of that, we have a feel free to enter your email address. And then we went back and compared the email addresses coming through the app to our warranty registration data and saw the huge conversion rate of 7%, which is gigantic for an expensive product like ours. So these people who were downloading the app, the consumers, were really, really, really strong leads for us, strong customers. So the app has been a great help in that area, as well.
Andrew Cullen: But what was really interesting about the app development and what's interesting from the dealer perspective is that we were building this for consumers, but what we ended up building was the ultimate sales tool for the dealership sales staff. And as we rolled this out, the sales staff started hitting us up with requests for, "Hey, can you add this, can you add that?" And we were like, "Whoa, this is kind of interesting. This is a completely different application than what we thought it was going to be, but it makes a lot of sense because everybody has a smartphone in their pocket. Everybody can download this for free."
Andrew Cullen: And the biggest challenge with a lot of sales staff inside of a dealership is product knowledge and product information. Somebody is trying to figure out the difference between these different models or how long this boat is. It is going to fit in my garage? All these different questions that it's going to be hard for sales staff to answer. They have to keep track of all these different products, all these different brands, and all these different model years, changes every year. So lots of information that they need. This puts it all in their pocket, right at their fingertips.
Andrew Cullen: So we ended up creating this great dealership sales tool, as well, as a result of the mobile app. So it's been something that's been huge for us in terms of conversion, but also in terms of educating and helping our sales staff. Really good at events, too. Obviously, there's not too many of those going on right now, but back at boat shows and other things like that, you could bring a salesperson who doesn't know a lot about the product, give them the app, and it walks them through a lot of the products and features and stuff like that. So that one's been a great one.
Andrew Cullen: The next one I wanted to talk about is how we win inside the dealership because that is still important battleground. And like I said before, people are coming in and they're connected to us and the product and the decisions are made and there's so many great things there, yes. They're ready to buy, they're ready to buy, but what happens is they walk into these dealerships and there's just so many fun, cool toys. There's so many different brands. There's so many ways that they can get pulled out of their path. And each dealership is going to have more of one model than another. They might need to get rid of something. Their staff might be incentivized on certain products. They might try to move people into those products.
Andrew Cullen: So there's a lot and we're completely out of the process at this point, for the most part. We've got a little bit of a touch, which we're going to show you next, but we're really relying on the dealership and the sales staff to finish the sale for us. We've done everything we possibly can at this point. And so what we did is we ended up working with a group called MotoTV. And MotoTV, they've got a great service. They run a dashboard that can push out to all these streaming TV sets that we can put at dealerships all over the country. These are all controlled by an Apple TV, Roku-like box that connects via HDMI, that connects to the internet. And that's really it for the dealership. It's very easy to install.
Andrew Cullen: And what we can do is we can pipe in our content, our streaming video. We can pipe in product reviews, anything that we want, as the OEM, under these TVs. And so you walk into a place and you see this great imagery. You see exciting people on boats, wakesurfing. You see people ripping around on WaveRunners. It's pretty cool inside of a more stagnant showroom. So we're really trying to capture their attention through that. And one of the cool things, too, is the dealer can start to brand it, themselves. They can put messages down here because everybody loves to look at tickers and read what's happening on the bottom of the screen. They can put their logo here. They can mention special events that they might have going on or open house or deals that they're offering, anything they want to kind of customize this TV.
Andrew Cullen: And the cool thing is is that we can push an update out every night and it'll search for the update overnight and then it'll be ready to roll in the morning. So I'm going to show you one more thing, which is a touchscreen, but the cool thing here is that when we turn over our model year and everything goes from, like it just did, from 2020 to 2021 model year, we can roll that out to these TV sets remotely. So the dealership might have 2020 one day. They come back the next day and then, boom, all the new stuff is there. It's on their TV. They didn't do anything. Super easy.
Andrew Cullen: And so that was very successful for us. People really loved the streaming TV. So then we decided to take it a step further and we decided to see if we could build that into an additional touchscreen experience, as well. So the touchscreen starts with just the streaming service, but when you touch it, it goes into this touchscreen mode, which is almost like a giant version of the apps. It's very similar. It's got all the product information, it's got all the photos, it's got all the specs, it's got compare functionality, a lot of cool features for sure.
Andrew Cullen: And this is great because people might walk into a dealership and the sales staff's over talking to somebody else. They can go play with this device. Kids love to play with it. It's a good distraction for them. It also helps sales staff inside the dealership. If they need to look up something quickly, they've got their app, as we just talked about, but they can also do it on the touchscreen, which is good. Again, pre-COVID, dealers take these to events and boat shows. People walk by. Everybody wants to play with the touchscreen, see what it's all about.
Andrew Cullen: And like I said, it's worry-free. We manage it remotely. We control what goes on to that box and we push out updates regularly, so they don't have to do anything. Plus, they can use their co-op money. So that's cooperative marketing money that we give them that they can use on marketing our products. So it makes it really easy for them to do and we've seen good success with that.
Andrew Cullen: And next, we're going to talk about mobile customer communication. This is definitely something you're seeing a rise of, pretty much in all businesses, but it used to be phone calls, then it was email, and now it's text. And the stats on text, I don't think, are really going to surprise anybody. They're opened. They're instant. They're more likely to take action and they're more likely to take action quickly. And where this makes sense and where this really gets big for the dealership is in scheduling appointments, also talking about service and maintenance information.
Andrew Cullen: The ability to send pictures and video is huge. So if somebody has a boat in for maintenance or service and they see something else, they can snap a picture of it, text it to the customer, and get approval to maybe move forward with that extra $200 repair instantly, which is huge, versus a phone call that it's probably going to look like a spam number. Nobody's going to pick it up. You're not going to check your voicemail. Just the old way of doing it. They can also collect payments remotely, which is huge, just overall quick communication.
Andrew Cullen: But really where the beauty of this is is in the fact that they can text that your boat is ready. They can move things along faster in the service department. And right now, obviously, boating is a great recreational activity right now. It's something everybody's doing. If they have a boat, it's on the water right now. So service departments are busier than they've ever been. This allows them to get the service done, move them along faster and open up those service space, which is good for the customer, gets them on the water faster, gives them a better experience, also helps the dealership make more money by doing more service. And that's really huge.
Andrew Cullen: And we work with a group called Connect, which is an application and a provider of mobile communication, and creates a dashboard for customers and makes it real easy, using their existing dealership phone number in a really easy interface. And one of the other cool things that Connect offers, and this gets back to the star ratings on the Google listings, is that when a customer comes through and they were a good customer, had a good experience, you're able to go in and send them a followup text. And with one click, they can get into that dealership's Google or Facebook page and they can leave a review.
Andrew Cullen: Quite often, reviews are left by people who have a negative experience, not always a positive experience. This is a good way for dealerships to find their people who have a great experience and push them to leave a review, maybe offer them a coupon for 10%, but that'll help them push up those star ratings, help these dealerships, the good ones who are going to hustle and do stuff like this, to win more customers.
Andrew Cullen: And you can see some of these stats. I think these are from Pew, but online listings get 500% more views than the dealership website, which kind of relates to the stat I shared earlier. And then just a one-star increase can mean a 5% to 9% increase in revenue, which is pretty huge, so it's definitely worth looking into. So kind of a cool feature there that you can build onto Connect.
Andrew Cullen: So that's kind of getting to the end of things. I just wanted to maybe wrap it up by just talking about some of the key takeaways that I was thinking about as we were going through this, but the first one is really about empowering the consumer, putting them in control, and providing the tools and the resources, the information, and thinking about it from the customer perspective and doing what is best for them.
Andrew Cullen: Next one is watch and react quickly to changing consumer trends. I don't think we can do that fast enough, especially right now. There's so much going on. We all live the technology life. We see it. When we see people walking around on a mobile phone everywhere, bumping into walls and stuff, obviously the mobile phone's huge and we need to capitalize on that. And I think the faster that we do that, the better, and the more that we help our dealerships do that, the better.
Andrew Cullen: Automate, so you cover more ground. That gets to that social automation. That allows us to do a lot. We could never post all this stuff for dealerships' websites and, with the staff that we have, manage dealership websites' social media like that, but you know what? With a dashboard like this where we can automate the complete delivery of it, it makes it incredible and we can reach those crazy numbers of impressions that we were sharing before.
Andrew Cullen: Next one is win the sale by providing the information the customer really wants. Kind of goes back to the first point here, but it might be different than what we want. And we might sit in our meetings and hear being talked about by different groups within Yamaha saying, "Hey, you should do this, you should do that, you should do that," but always trying to take that information and look at it from the customer-first standpoint. And I think that's just huge. And I think we, as customers, we want other brands to do that for us, too. Expectation for communication speed is instant. No question there. With the rise of mobile communications, this is what they expect from us, they expect from dealers.
Andrew Cullen: And then the last one's really the big one here; be ready and fluid. This could all change tomorrow. I just want to share the last one is a mantra that our senior staff shared with us at the onset of the pandemic and everything, was that, "All failure that we see in coming months is our failure to adapt. And all success that we see is successful adaptation." And that's kind of what drove us. So we wanted to adapt, adapt, adapt and help our dealerships adapt. And we try to constantly be pushing them toward new ways of thinking, toward thinking about this new model and this new world that we're living in. And I think that that's been a big part of our success. And that is the end of what I have for you. I hope you found something as interested in your business and interesting in the projects that you're working on.
Sean Richards: Great. Awesome, Andrew. Thank you very much. That was very exciting and really interesting to hear all the insights as to how you and the team have approached your digital transformation. We're taking some questions from the audience right now and I have a few questions for you, as well. So I'm going to jump in and start with a few of these. One of the first ones I wanted to ask, because you clearly have taken on a lot of transformation over the last five to 10 years, and I'm really curious how, essentially, did the process go of getting internal buy-in of investing your time and budgets into these digital transformation tactics and tools? What did that process look like for you?
Andrew Cullen: Yeah. Well, I think it's super important that you constantly try new things. And I think that's the driving force. Luckily, we have a pretty supportive team that realizes this new world that we live in, realizes the importance of technology in the business, and really encourages us to try new things and to push it. We look at it a little bit of like these small bets that we can try. We try different things and we see what pays off. And we don't just jump into something with a massive budget and hope that it works. We try a little bit here and gain some traction and build, and build, and build, and it's kind of a progressive type thing.
Andrew Cullen: But yeah, I think at the end of the day, too, you have to measure everything the best you can, make decisions on what's working, what's not. We measure a lot of stuff, just based on sales, reaction from our sales staff and reaction from our dealerships. And if it checks all those boxes, it's probably something that is a good deal, something that we're going to keep, but I think you have to be prepared, too, when you go into sell things. I wouldn't walk in with a half approach to something and expect to get buy-in from everybody. I think you've got to go in thinking it through all the way and probably, again, going back to that customer-first aspect, say, "Hey, the reason we're going to do this is for this experience for the customer and this is what we expect to get out of it from a business standpoint." If it matches those things, then it sounds to me like it might be a good thing to do, but it's not always easy.
Sean Richards: I couldn't agree with you more. That customer-first approach to justifying a major investment of time and money is absolutely imperative. And I was interested in understanding that, if you got that buy-in, you moved forward with those initiatives. Has your, let's say, your budget or your ultimate investment over time increased because of your ability to measure the success of every transformation you've taken on? Have you seen an increase in allowable budget to be able to take on these kinds of transformations?
Andrew Cullen: Yeah, definitely. I mean, not as much as I'd like to see, obviously, because I'm a big believer that this is the way to go, but I think that, to get to the budget stuff, I think it's an incremental kind of gain. You gain more over time. One way that it really helps to justify a lot of the stuff is, too, is we have really good research and data from owner surveys. And we ask very detailed questions about their customer journey and what they did and when in the process to get to their purchase. And if that matches back to the customer journey that we're presenting here, it's a pretty easy sell to, hey, this is working, these are the elements that are growing fast.
Andrew Cullen: Right now, we just bit off a really big website overhaul project, which was huge. Complete infrastructure overhaul. And we had to do some selling, but we got it launched. Everybody's very happy with it. It's got all the new features on it that we just showed. Sales team's really happy with it, dealerships like it. So it's always a little risky, a little dicey. And anytime we're spending large amounts of money, better hope it goes good, but I think in the digital realm today, I think these are safe bets to make.
Sean Richards: Yeah. That's absolutely imperative. With the digital transformations, the beauty of these tools is that they allow you to track a lot of data points that help reinforce the reasons why you're taking on these initiatives and the goals that you should have and expectations out of them and use that to continuously reinvest your time into those efforts. So yeah, thanks for that insight.
Sean Richards: You had mentioned a little bit more about the dealer tools and how they've essentially accelerated the purchasing cycle. I'm curious on the amount of time that you've been able to measure, prior to the engagement of, let's say, the build and price tool. How much are you seeing traffic that comes and converts? Is it a significant amount of time while they're doing the research before they either download that mobile app or they use the build and price tool on your website before they then convert to a purchase, whether it's actually online or in the dealership? Have you seen that shrink using your tools or what kind of timeframe are you looking at?
Andrew Cullen: It's hard to say if it's related to the tools or if it's related to the market right now because, after all this COVID stuff hit, nobody really knew what people were going to do for recreation, but everybody decided to buy a boat and a WaveRunner at the same time. So the window was pretty short on a lot of these sales. And our supply completely could not meet the demand. So they didn't have a lot of time to think about it up until recently. So it's kind of a tough one to say, but looking at years past, which is probably more representative of the larger spectrum of everything, these are not cheap products. Our highest boat costs $130,000 and there's a lot of people out there that can just go buy that on a whim, but most people spend a little bit of time looking into it.
Andrew Cullen: And we've seen that, during the winter months, we usually have boat shows and boat shows are a time where people go to learn about the products, to see them in person, to touch them and sit on them and talk to some dealerships. And we've got a lot of information that at those boat shows is when these customers really decide that they're going to be interested, this is an activity that they're going to do. And that's kind of the first little nugget. They might convert six months later or three months later, but it does start pretty early. And I think, given the fact that these are big-time purchases, this is something that definitely has a longer consideration.
Andrew Cullen: I think we've seen our website traffic, like I was saying before, as becoming the primary place where people are going to first, just go through the roof. It's been 300 or 400 times what it was the prior year. It's remarkable. And the amount of time people are spending, the amount of time they're coming back, and the amount of new users is really crazy in 2020. I think these are definitely current trends. It'll be interesting to see how they continue when we come out of this and things go back to maybe more normal.
Sean Richards: That's some incredible growth and really great to hear. Have you noticed an increase in the conversion? So your build and price tool and your dealership mobile app, the conversion of using a build and price to then actually purchasing, has that significantly grown in addition to the traffic or has that conversion rate actually stayed pretty consistent?
Andrew Cullen: It's hard to say because we didn't have it in the past quite something that would be comparable to measure. I will say that the number of people that have gone through that since August when we launched it is pretty staggering. I mean, it's upwards of 20,000 that have gone through it. And that's not even during the core selling months of the year. So it's a lot of people that are using it. What'll be interesting is to see how that conversion rate compares to the app, which is 7%, which is really good for a high-ticket item. We're still dropping some tags throughout the whole process to look at that behavior a little bit more, but I think it's going to be a gold mine for data down the line. It might just be a little early for us right now.
Sean Richards: Makes sense. On the mobile app you have, the dealer systems tool that you mentioned, you said you've got about a 7% conversion rate through that from the consideration phase of people using that. I was curious as to how you market the mobile app. How do you get that mobile app in the hands or the eyes of the people that are seeking a purchase? What kind of marketing tools and tactics are you using there to get that mobile app out there?
Andrew Cullen: There's a few things. We probably could do a better job, quite frankly, but we do build it into ... We have a marketing automation program. So when somebody begins to go down the path of one of our products, they're sent a series of emails and there's a call to action in there because we do want them to download the app and put it in their pocket so they see the brand and the app on their phone. So that's a good one. It's at the bottom of all the websites throughout. And then we do include it in certain other emails that we send out. We send out just general one-off emails. Every once and awhile, we try to push them into it. And that's primarily the primary calls to action.
Sean Richards: Yeah, great. In addition to the website, I think data collection for mobile apps is such a unique look into the behavior of users and the behavior of buyers. There's a lot to learn from that, so it's great to see that there's such an effort to push people towards these kind of multifaceted omnichannel experiences you're providing, including social media. And as you start to integrate more and more of your online reviews that you spoke about and how imperative those have been to your business, has it been a challenge to integrate those into those other channels? Obviously, when you go to search, you get the reviews, but do you also include reviews on your website, in your social media? Do you use it as content to continue to drive awareness?
Andrew Cullen: No, not directly. We don't do that on the OEM level, just through the Google listings. We talked about that and it could be something we do down the line because I think it is valuable. The online forums for us are really important, like I mentioned. People are really interested in hearing what other people say, but I think those online forums are also ... the reason why they work so good is because they are organic. We're not trying to influence them. I know some people over there, but we don't influence them. We want them to be organic. We want them to self police themselves and be the resource that they should be. And I think, just like marketers killed the whole idea of third-party independent website, I think we don't want to lose that with the forums. They're still a great place for information.
Sean Richards: Yeah. We do have one question from the audience that I want to send over to you, which is how do you identify and prioritize the improvements or the changes on the mobile app?
Andrew Cullen: On the mobile app, the changes. Well, we definitely are tracking the behavior, I think. We added the build and price as a call to action inside the mobile apps. So that's a change from this year, I think, that if we see the conversion on the build and price on the mobile apps would be really huge. That means that we're driving leads into the dealership. We're trying to do a better job of it because I think the mobile app was a little stagnant before in terms of the calls to action. So putting the build and price in there a little bit more, even when you use your location to find the nearest dealership, it's got the build and price built right into that, as well. Have the dealer contact me. So the calls to action are definitely more relevant.
Andrew Cullen: Again, it's a little early because we just launched it in August, but I think if we look at the calls to ... it's not even going to be close, the strength of the latest version of the app with the calls to action into it versus where we were before. It's going to be night and day. So I think that that's definitely a huge thing that we wanted to build into the new experience and we did, but we're also looking a lot at ...
Andrew Cullen: It's going to be interesting, too, to see what models people are looking at, how much time they're spending on different models. We're spending more time looking at that because we've got a lot of new product this year. It's kind of interesting to see where are people gravitating to. And we've got a lot of new buyers come in and you think, are they just looking at the low-end stuff? And the answer is no, they're looking at a lot of stuff. They're coming in in the mid range. They're buying a lot of different stuff.
Andrew Cullen: There's more metrics than we could ever go through and comb through. I'd love to have somebody just dedicated to looking at this all day and feed it to us, but ... yeah. Mobile apps are a good one, for sure.
Sean Richards: So one question I had kind of in relevance to what you were just saying is the data collection on products and the interest in how people respond to new products that come out. How often or, I guess, maybe even just talk to us about the process in which you use data, behavioral data and build and price tool, to then influence actual product changes. How often does that happen? How often do you use digital metrics to then influence product changes?
Andrew Cullen: Well, I'll tell you, it's also related to sales, themselves, because I would say that the trends that we see on the website translate very closely to the sales that we see. And ultimately, I think it's probably more of the sales that would be driving the product innovation than it would be the digital trends on the web, but like I said, they're very similar. So I think that the product ... they're almost working so far in advance, too, because we're working on models years out right now.
Andrew Cullen: So everybody's keeping an eye on what's happening right now, especially with sales to make sure we're not making a bad decision down the line, but a lot of it's been forecast through the vision of the product engineers and the developers that are working and engineering the products. I'd say it's definitely more attributable to sales than it is probably on the digital side. And it definitely is way into the future in terms of the product development side.
Sean Richards: Thank you for that insight. Another question from the audience is how do you quantify the investment for a mobile app before you knew what the conversion rate would be?
Andrew Cullen: Well, that's a tough call. Again, that was a little bet that we made back in the day. I think it's easier what I mentioned before about it becoming such a great sales tool for the dealerships. I think, if I walked down and talked to our sales staff right now, they would agree to pay for the app just because of that aspect, alone, which maybe I should do that, but I think that we started with a very basic and a smaller version of the mobile app. And again, this was 10 years ago, so it was popular, but not quite as popular now. And we've incrementally built onto it and added onto it. Because we've seen the success, we keep building and keep adding it, but it didn't just go from A to Z that fast. It was definitely an incremental build over time.
Andrew Cullen: And I think that we do that with a lot of things. And some things you dial down, some things you dial up, but it's more of a gradual process. And that's kind of a covering your butt kind of thing, too. You don't want to just go in and go all in with something and be crazy and hope that it works out, but more so just trickle in, trickle in, trickle in, see some success and then build from there. And then, when the numbers are good, then you start sharing it with everybody and you look like you knew what you were doing the whole time, but it's a gradual process, for sure.
Sean Richards: I think that's great to know for those of our audience that are considering similar opportunities, that it is a process. It takes a lot of strategic thinking and planning and, ultimately, a great design and user experience, brainstorming to help get you to something that will be relevant to your market. So it's great to hear that you've gone through that process and it's turned out to be very successful for you. I have one more question from the audience and then I think we'll work towards wrapping it up, since we're getting close to the end of the hour. So last question we had for you is do you see AR becoming part of the app as a means to increase conversion?
Andrew Cullen: Yeah, that's a good question. We actually tested it. We tested it between, let's see, November of last year through August. And it had a decent usage. It was hard to do at the time because we had to use a CAD model of the ... We didn't have a great infrastructure to support an AR-type experience, but we made a push to go do it. We got some CADs from the engineers. We filled it and made it look as beautiful as we could. We did this for our 27-foot boat and I thought it was pretty sweet. It was pretty cool. You could drop it in your garage and it was all made to scale and things like that.
Andrew Cullen: The question really was, did it move the needle? And speaking of investments in technology, that one turned out to be kind of a hard sell. So we tried it, we experimented with it. The results were okay. I don't know if we could go ahead and say they were unbelievable enough to push us down that path. And then it became the question of, well, we tried it with one model, but we have a lot of models. If we roll this across all these different platforms, are we going to be able to even get the right images that we need to create a good experience?
Andrew Cullen: And even though the one that we made, it was a little ... The boats are really beautiful when you see them in person, but when you see a CAD image with some stuff kind of built into it in the interior, it's just not as plush and as luxurious as it is in person. So I think we may have done a little bit of a disservice with what we were able to provide. And all that said, if we could provide a better file to make a better experience out of it, I think that would be one way to go, but to do it across the entire lineup would be a little bit of a challenge.
Andrew Cullen: But I think, down the line, I think it's a great way to go because, with a product like ours, when we had the 27-foot boat AR experience, you could walk into it, you could see it, you could virtually sit down and really get a feel for the inside of the boat. It was pretty cool, just not quite there and not everybody was in love with it on our side of things. So we tried.
Sean Richards: Yeah. I think that's a great point, underscoring that you're going to try things in digital transformation. Some work and some just don't. And sometimes the technology is just not up to speed yet. Our last Vincit Talks was on augmented and virtual reality and we did get insights into some of the new improvements that have happened just in the last year. So it's always a good opportunity to keep that on the radar, but I agree with you. As a large organization with a large customer base, you have to make really good decisions for user experience. And if it's not making the conversion and it's not increasing the opportunity for buyers to be confident in that purchase, you chalk that up and you find the great tactics that are working for you.
Sean Richards: And your overview today really gave us a lot of insight into how Yamaha approaches that, how you influence the change throughout the organization and the customer buying experience. I really appreciate all the answers to our questions that you've had for us so far and the presentation up to this point. I'm going to hand it over to Rachel just to wrap us up, but I wanted to thank you so much for your time today.
Andrew Cullen: Sure. Yeah, thanks for having me.
Rachel Valentine: Yeah. Just to reiterate what Sean was saying, thank you so much. The information was super interesting to hear and I think everyone can walk away having added value in the learnings. And for those of you that have asked, yes, we are recording this and it will be available as early as tomorrow on the Vincit website. So be sure to pass it along within your network, as well. I think there's a lot of tidbits that can be great takeaways for anyone.
Rachel Valentine: Just as a final few words, again, thanks to everyone that has attended, whether you've been at a Vincit Talks in the past or this was your first one. This is typically a monthly series that we host. We will be taking a small break for the holidays, but I highly recommend following our Vincit social pages or joining our Vincit meetup group so that you can be aware of the next session that we'll be organizing after the holidays. We're always looking to engage with notable industry leaders and passionate experts, talking about the latest developments in tech and those important topics not to ignore. So be sure to stay tuned with future topics that we have. And once again, thank you to everyone and have a great rest of your Thursday afternoon.
Andrew Cullen: Thank you.

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