Inventory Presser is Free and Open Source

Today is the day Inventory Presser, a WordPress plugin for automobile dealerships, launches as a free and open-source product at the core of an ecosystem of add-on plugins. 🎉

All development will happen on Github before new versions are released in the official WordPress Plugin Repository.

Manage inventory and vehicle listings in WordPress

Our company, Friday Systems, has built hundreds of dealership websites on top of this plugin since 2016 when we began a private beta. The version of Inventory Presser we shipped to wordpress.org today, 12.2.5, contains these features:

Add-ons Available

Today, 11 premium & 3 free add-ons are available for purchase and download from inventorypresser.com, including a VIN Decoder. Most dealers are decoding VINs and entering photos upstream from WordPress, though, so we’ve published instructions about how we update vehicles using the REST API.

Integration Guides & Other Docs

A Familiar Code Reference

All of Inventory Presser’s source code is available in the same code reference used by core WordPress. Does this page for a template tag method, invp_get_the_price(), look familiar?

Inventory Presser integrates CarStory Market reports

Websites powered by the car dealer WordPress plugin, Inventory Presser, can now easily inform car shoppers with CarStory.com Market Reports and Vehicle Badges. A new add-on plugin, CarStory Market Reports, makes it easy to add vehicle badges to vehicle listings and inline market reports to vehicle details pages.

CarStory badges can be added to inventory listings and vehicle details pages to tell shoppers what kind of deal they are getting.

The plugin provides two widgets, one for each of the Inline Market Report and Vehicle Badge. In addition, the integration settings are built into the Vehicle Options page to give any user control over the Referrer ID, Badge Type, and whether the badges are included in listings and search results.

The CarStory plugin settings in the WordPress Dashboard can be found by navigating to Vehicles > Options.
Car Story Market Reports can be seamlessly integrated at the bottom of vehicle details pages.

Inventory Presser integrates NextGear Digital Vehicle Inspections

Friday Systems has published Inventory Presser 12.2.4, the first version of the car dealership WordPress plugin with support for NextGear Digital Vehicle Inspection links. NextGear is a Bolt On technologies product.

Any vehicle stored in Inventory Presser now has a designated place to store a URL that points shoppers to a NextGear inspection. Buttons to open digital inspection reports are automatically placed near vehicles on both listing pages and vehicle details pages if a web address is found for the vehicle.

Screenshot

The See Digital Inspection Report button appears automatically near vehicles that have a NextGear Digital Vehicle Inspection URL stored in the appropriate field.

We’ve submitted Inventory Presser to the WordPress.org Plugin Repository

Almost five years after the dealership website went live running Inventory Presser, Friday Systems has submitted the plugin for inclusion in the official WordPress.org Plugin Repository.

The review team currently has a backlog of almost 20 plugins, so a response may arrive in a few weeks rather than a few days.

Until the plugin is listed in the directory, you can download Inventory Presser right here: inventory-presser-v12.2.1.zip

Inventory Presser’s Vehicle is ACF Compatible

Inventory Presser is fully-compatible with Advanced Custom Fields

Inventory Presser is fully-compatible with Advanced Custom Fields. ACF is a popular plugin used to store additional pieces of data with objects in WordPress. Vehicles in Inventory Presser are stored in a custom post type, making them easily manipulated with ACF. Here’s a screen shot that shows how to create a new field group for vehicles.

The list of vehicle attributes managed by Inventory Presser has been curated for more than three years and will satisfy most auto, power sports, and boat dealerships. Alas, the vehicle post type is easily extended to accommodate any additional field using Advanced Custom Fields.

Updating Car Dealer Inventory via the WordPress REST API

Updating Car Dealer Inventory via the WordPress REST API

In 2018, Inventory Presser retired its vehicle importer plugin that used a combination of WP-Cron, XML files, and FTP transfers to maintain inventories on dozens dealership websites. It hasn’t been replaced with a better importer–the web servers running Inventory Presser no longer need to listen for inventory changes. One hundred percent of dealership sites built on Inventory Presser are now receiving vehicle updates via the WordPress REST API across the web.

The REST API allows remote access and manipulation of data in WordPress sites by an external client. Inventory Presser version 4.2.0 introduced custom REST API endpoints that enabled granular control over vehicles stored by the car dealer WordPress plugin. Using the REST API to update thousands of vehicles means less processing on the server and better site performance, especially when more than one dealership website lives on the same server.

In the months since this launch, we’ve found a great reduction in the amount of time it takes to sync updates to dealership websites in our network. Direct insertions and updates via the REST API are the most efficient way to manage inventories using Inventory Presser, but we also offer a VIN Decoder plugin for dealerships that do not already use an inventory provider. If you’re not sure of the best way to get vehicles into a site running our plugin, read Importing Vehicle Data.

Photo by PollyDot

Lift Kit Makes Any Theme A Dealership Theme

Lift Kit Makes Any Theme A Dealership Theme

As we continue building dealer websites on Inventory Presser, we need to introduce new layout options for our customers. It is also clear that agencies and freelancers using our plugins need help designing custom themes for their dealership clients. We are happy to introduce Lift Kit, a free and open-source code repository to enable rapid theme development for Inventory Presser.

Lift Kit is a set of inventory listing and vehicle detail files that can be added to any WordPress theme to quickly achieve compatibility with Inventory Presser, a dealership website platform.

We believe Lift Kit will help everyone in the ecosystem develop compatible themes faster, and we’ve decided to share and maintain the code on GitHub.

View Lift Kit on GitHub

Photo by FelixMittermeier

WordPress Tips for Building Car Dealer Websites

WordPress Tips for Building Car Dealer Websites

Here are few things we’ve learned while launching the first 100 dealership websites on Inventory Presser, our WordPress plugin for automotive dealers.

Set WordPress’ thumbnail sizes to match the aspect ratio of the dealer’s photo uploads
Find the width and height dimensions of the dealership’s vehicle photos, and determine thumbnail sizes in Settings > Media to be of the same aspect ratio. These photos are the most important content on the site, and preserving the quality and size is of utmost importance to your client.
Do not organize media uploads into month- and year-based folders
We turn off he “Organize my uploads into month- and year-based folders” checkbox under Settings > Media. We see no value in maintaining an information architecture of vehicle photos by time. Also, very few of our customers are using WordPress to regularly blog, and therefore vehicle photos are the vast majority of content in the Media Library.
Dealers prefer leads have a vehicle attached
(We knew this long before building sites on WordPress, but it’s worth sharing here.) A dealership website is a lead funnel, and dealers would like every lead to identify a vehicle in their inventory in which the customer is interested. Save your client time by designing a dealership website that attaches vehicles to all form submissions.

Photo by moritz320

Friday Systems Vehicle Importer 3.0.0 Has Launched

Friday Systems Vehicle Importer 3.0.0 Has Launched

We are thrilled to launch version 3 of our Vehicle Importer WordPress plugin. This plugin imports car, boat and power-sport vehicles into WordPress websites running Inventory Presser, an inventory management plugin for dealerships.

While some customers in our private beta prefer to enter and manage inventory directly from the WordPress dashboard, most users already have an inventory management system in place. Part of making Inventory Presser the best dealership website solution is importing inventory from a variety of sources totally, effortlessly, and as fast as possible. Today, the best tool for that job is Friday Systems Vehicle Importer.

A brief history

Our importer started life as a fork of the WordPress Importer, one of the tools that makes moving a WordPress website easy. Our first iteration was running the WordPress Importer via wp-cron a few times a day and making it look in the uploads folder for the WXR file to import. As the number of customers in our private beta grew in 2016, we took a top-down approach to reinventing the code.

Today, the plugin is a lean vehicle and photo importing machine that checks for changes every few minutes. Our website customers have always been spoiled by the speed at which new vehicles and photos have reached their websites. Our Lot Wizard deal processing software has always pushed updates to websites in 15 minutes or less, and our dealers have never had reason to expect anything less.

Challenges

WordPress is ubiquitous, so the challenge of writing good plugins is that they perform in a wide variety of hosting environments and server configurations. The hosting provider we chose, WP Engine, has a non-negotiable 60 second script timeout. This is not uncommon. After one minute, any PHP script that is still running is terminated. Inventories containing 300 or 500 vehicles have to be updated as quickly as those with an order of magnitude less.

A single vehicle might have 20 photos that take up 5 megabytes of disk space. Fetching those files from another server and creating all the thumbnail sizes WordPress wants could take most of a minute, so we pursue every opportunity to optimize our import. Version 3 is working well today for customers with more than 500 vehicles and more than 6500 photos, but we are looking forward to the next challenge.

Here is a screenshot of the set-it-and-forget-it (hat tip Ron Popeil) user interface:

Friday Systems Vehicle Importer

Photo by kliemphoto

Manage Inventory at Multiple Dealerships on One Website

Manage Inventory at Multiple Dealerships on One Website

Blending inventory from multiple dealerships into a single website is effortless on websites built with Inventory Presser and WordPress. Not only is managing multiple addresses, phone numbers and sets of hours easy, but associating vehicles with separate locations is just as simple. Customers shopping for vehicles on websites built on Inventory Presser can filter by location, and even if they choose not to, each vehicle page will inform shoppers where the vehicle they are looking at is located.

Often, the make-or-break feature of managing multiple locations is lead delivery. Websites built on Inventory Presser can absolutely deliver lead notifications to different sales representatives based on the dealership to which a vehicle belongs. A location taxonomy is built-in to the core of the Inventory Presser plugin, and serves as the basis for filtering, segmented lead delivery, and guiding shoppers to the right dealership.

Photo by Jill