Suzuki Revs MySQL Kiosks

MySQL database forms cost-effective back end for kiosk sales system.

Needing to kick into high gear the proficiency and management of its national dealerships sales expertise, American Suzuki Motor Corp. relied on open-source software development to create a new virtual purchasing world for its finicky motorcycle audience.

Unlike the auto industry, which typically experiences steady sales through the year regardless of geographic area, the motorcycle industry is much more cyclical.

Challenges include multiline dealership responsibility, limited floor space and on-site inventory, extensive accessory options, and cold weather, which slows sales during winter months. In addition, customers come in prepared with Internet research.

Upon visiting various Suzuki dealerships across the United States, Steve Bortolamedi, dealer network manager for Suzuki, in Brea, Calif., realized that regardless of the promotion—such as for new models or options—the ultimate difference in customer satisfaction and sales lies in strengthening the dealership salesperson.

"Motorcycling is a real hobbyist sport, and theyre real tech heads. They know every little piece thats on the bike and every little detail, and they want more knowledge than the salesperson has," said Bortolamedi. "You want to build a relationship and trust [with] the customer, and if you spend whatever time you have with not knowing the product, then youre going to have problems. ... That was very disruptive to the sales process."

Bortolamedi said that without sufficient knowledge of—or quick access to—information on myriad motorcycle makes, accessories, nuances and technical knowledge surrounding Suzuki and key competitors such as Kawasaki Motors Corp., American Honda Motor Co. and Yamaha Corporation of America, sales staff would often take the path of least resistance and let the customer lead the sales process.

To remedy the situation, Bortolamedi, with the help of Suzuki Marketing Manager Rob Lopusnak, decided to create a three-dimensional virtual-tour kiosk that could also act as a centralized database, training tool and tracking application.

"The biggest thing we were trying to bring out is we wanted the salesperson to be involved—what better to have than one place to gather all that information and take the customer through the whole sales process, right up to the point of purchasing," said Bortolamedi.

To develop the application, called Suzuki Sales PRO (Professional Retail Outlet), Suzuki recruited Matrix Consultants Inc., of Santa Monica, Calif., to build the program and system to update 600 kiosks slated to be deployed around the country.

"Every dealership does something different, so we took the best practices of all the dealerships in the country, and we built a selling-approach system. Then we added in Matrixs expertise," said Bortolamedi.

Next page: Open-source database alternatives open up.