Polaris, like many businesses, sprinted during the pandemic shutdown to set up online buying for dealerships and customers.
The Medina-based powersports company took lessons from the pandemic — and tips from its dealers — to put together a new online marketplace called Polaris Xchange. The site will help consumers buy its new products. Dealers also will be able to post their used vehicles, including models from other manufacturers.
"One of our major initiatives is to continue to grow the powersports customer base," said Vic Koelsch, chief digital and information officer at Polaris in an interview. "Xchange is a continuation of that."
Even for large-ticket items consumers are increasingly comfortable starting online. Xchange simplifies the shopping experience by providing a digital option for most steps in the process from initial research to scheduling delivery. Customers will still buy their new vehicles through a Polaris dealer.
"This is playing on what was already a trend. And frankly, the pandemic accelerated it," Koelsch said of evolving online purchasing trends within powersports and elsewhere.
Polaris will now weigh initial feedback and make some final tweaks before widely marketing the site.
While online vehicle marketplaces such as cars.com exist for both new and used markets, none are particularly tailored to the powersports industry, Koelsch said.
The options and accessories for powersports vehicles make them distinct, and Polaris quickly decided not to try and modify existing online marketplaces for cars and motorcycles.
Polaris partnered with JoyDrive, a Seattle-based tech company that builds e-commerce marketplaces, to design and build the site with powersports consumers and dealers in mind.
On the used-vehicle side, customers can complete the entire purchase online or connect directly with the dealer. The Xchange platform offers a vehicle history report on each used vehicle and a three-day return policy giving new entrants more confidence.
"Every one of these vehicles, a trained certified technician goes through it and fills out that vehicle history report," Koelsch said.
Polaris created the new online exchange with the consultation of its dealer councils and the new exchange helps them by allowing them to post their new and used inventory on the exchange. That leverages their marketing dollars and increases their reach to more potential customers.
"Through Polaris Xchange, we are offering a one-stop, credible resource that makes it easier to not only find new Polaris vehicles but search through available used powersports inventory at our trusted network of dealers," Koelsch said.
Tom Dehn has been a Polaris dealer for over 25 years. He owns six stores including four Power Lodge stores (three in Minnesota and one in Florida) that sell powersport products. He has used the new Xchange program for several weeks and already generated sales leads off of it.
In comparison to other online marketplaces for autos and motorcycles that might have some powersports products mixed in, he said Xchange gives him a more streamlined and cost-effective tool to reach a massive audience.
"It's on its early stages, but it's gives us a high-powered social media tool to have all our inventory displayed," Dehn said.
One feature of Xchange that Polaris added for the dealers' benefit is a wholesale piece so dealers can purchase used vehicles directly from Polaris that come back from employees returning machines off lease or vehicles used in the Polaris Adventures and Polaris Adventures Select programs. Those vehicles typically would have went to used-vehicle auctions.
Right now the Xchange doesn't offer marine products, but that is a feature that Polaris expects to add later.