The history of Inventory+ provides a glimpse into why it’s a profit-driven inventory management solution built for dealers.
By Merritt Critcher
Inventory+ is a pricing, merchandising, and syndication machine, but at its core Inventory+ is powered by the Ideal Inventory Model™, an algorithm that focuses on profit per day. It’s also the culmination of multiple tools and products that led it to become as powerful as it is today. Since its inception, it’s been a tool to help dealers manage their inventory from acquisition to disposition with a focus on increasing front-end profit for dealerships.
Inventory+ uses data-driven analytics to deliver quick answers about vehicles in your inventory and your market to help you make informed stocking and pricing decisions. And more importantly, its focus on your inventory — from acquisition to disposition — is designed to drive profits for your dealership.
It was the foundation of two inventory software platforms — AAX and eCarList — that formed Inventory+.
Simplifying Vehicle Listings
The founder of eCarList — who happens to be my brother, Len Critcher — had a dealership that sold vehicles entirely online. Though online sales were taking off, there was a dearth of efficient software tools to create vehicle listings. The task at the time was manual and quite tedious.
But Len was determined to simplify the process. Aided by a software developer, he crafted a listing tool that housed information vital to online vehicle sales, such as photos, descriptions, and prices. The tool would then load that information onto third-party vehicle-shopping sites.
Len’s online car sales took off, and he quickly recognized that his tool could be adapted for use by other dealerships. The software developer moved into some extra office space at the shipping company I part-owned in suburban Dallas, and eCarList, an automotive inventory and marketing software company, was born.
While eCarlist was getting going, I owned a shipping brokerage that handled the shipment needs for over 200 dealers. We realized we could include anoter essential tool for dealers within eCarList – transportation management. So, we added a feature that allowed dealers to notify their shipping company when a vehicle was sold and ready for transport.
The majority of the dealerships I did shipping for were among the first to sign up for eCarList. It got their cars posted online faster, and they were pretty excited that they could just click a button within the software, and we’d send an 18-wheeler to pick up their car.
As the software technology grew, I got out of the shipping business and joined my brother’s company in 2010. Shortly after, we debuted one of eCarList’s most popular enhancements, its TrueTarget™ mobile app that allowed users to appraise, price, and manage inventory on the go.
AAX + eCarList
Both eCarList and AAX came onto the scene in the early 2000s, when online retailing was in its infancy. Many of the features that appealed to dealers then appeal to them now, though those features have been enhanced and refined.
One of AAX’s major strengths was that it integrated with a store’s dealership management system to analyze past sales transactions to determine which vehicle makes, models, and trim levels sell fastest and for the most profit.
Those vehicles made up a dealership’s Ideal Inventory Model and still do.
Dealertrack Technologies integrated the products after acquiring AAX in 2009 and eCarList in 2011.
Using technology to enhance dealership profits isn’t a new notion for DealerSocket. So, in 2015, Inventory+ became part of DealerSocket’s suite of products.
Taking Inventory Management to the Next Level
Since then, and particularly in 2019 and 2020, we’ve released many new features and placed the software on a new platform. Inventory+ has a new look and feel. It’s nimble, intuitive, and easy to use, whether you’re working with inventory at a single rooftop or across hundreds of dealerships.
Users can set up and save workflows for daily tasks and thus reduce the time to complete those tasks from hours to minutes, something that couldn’t be done in previous versions of the tool.
One dealer group describes the user experience as “frictionless.”
Our enhanced pricing tool allows dealers to work faster and smarter. They’re able to apply pricing rules to their inventory in bulk based on actual incentives from automakers while keeping an eye on other factors such as market conditions, and how competitors advertised prices in relation to MSRP.
In fact, one dealer repriced his vehicles by exterior color as part of his Memorial Day promotion, discounting the prices of red, white, and blue vehicles in a matter of minutes.
Using the tool, he searched for and pulled up his red vehicles, hit “select all” and updated their prices simultaneously. He did the same thing with his white vehicles and his blue vehicles, all within five minutes.
Here are just some of the many Inventory+ enhancements made over the past year:
- The Ideal Inventory Model is more accurate and shows in greater detail how your dealership performs with similar vehicles you are either appraising, holding in inventory, or considering acquiring at auction. Again, the goal is to show you vehicle profit potential.
- Updated algorithms and data-cleansing technology enable us to give you better and more accurate snapshots of your dealership’s inventory, your sales history with that inventory, and which vehicles are profitable.
- We have an amazing market graph, released earlier this year, making waves at our dealerships. Its analytics provide you greater visibility about price in your market by answering questions such as how a vehicle’s price in your market compares with its MSRP and how the price of a vehicle at your dealership compares with prices of similar vehicles at your competitors. The graph also details how many of a specific vehicle your competitors have for sale vs. the number of similar vehicles you have in stock.
- Absolute Sourcing, also released this year, streamlines acquisitions by searching for and serving up ideal inventory matches missed during recent appraisals, available for trade at sister stores (if your dealership is part of a group), and available at auction.
- Inventory+ is now participating in General Motors’ Dealer Vehicle Inventory Management (DVIM) program. That means GM dealerships using the inventory management tool can now syndicate inventory to GM-participating website providers and programs, including the automaker’s Shop-Click-Drive e-commerce tool.
Since the early 2000s, we’ve been creating software to drive profitability at dealerships. In the past two years, we’ve accelerated that innovation. Now, more than ever, dealers need to take a look at their vendors and ask: Are they helping me, or competing against me?
Merritt Critcher serves as director of product management for DealerSocket’s Inventory+ line, a role in which the 16-year industry veteran works closely with dealerships to develop software solutions that enhance their profitability and cash flow.