For many dealers, the pandemic rapidly accelerated the adoption of a digital retail process. According to a recent survey of nearly 400 dealers by Protective Asset Protection, 68% of dealers say they’re now offering F&I products online.
How can dealers retain their F&I gross while helping customers navigate the online purchase process?
However, getting consumers to take the time to review and purchase F&I products online can be a challenge. In the dealership, car shoppers are a captive audience. But when shopping from home, they’re more in control of the process. So, how can dealers retain their F&I gross while helping customers navigate the online purchase process?
Get Involved Early
In the dealership, menu selling is the final step of the vehicle purchase process. The timing is often an obstacle because when this process begins, customers already have a final price or payment in their mind. But at the dealership, the customer has no choice but to sit through the presentation.
Online, car shoppers should be made aware of F&I products earlier in the process, before they configure payments. If you wait until the end, it’s too easy for them to reject the offerings because they don’t want to increase their monthly payments.
Create a Consultative Process
If F&I is not a part of your digital retail process, your dealership’s long-term profitability is at risk. If you haven’t already, you may want to adopt a consultative approach with remote car shoppers. This differs from the traditional sales approach used in the dealership.
One option is to have the F&I manager become an expert on using the online tools and technology, so they can answer questions and help the customer through the purchase process. This allows the manager to build rapport and earn trust with the customer early in the process, which should make customers more open to product education. Transparency and education at every step are key so that customers feel confident about their purchasing decisions.
Fewer, More Personalized Options
In the dealership, salespeople are trained to present numerous buying options for finance and lease terms. But when this process is done remotely, too many choices on a screen can overwhelm customers. Try presenting only two or three payment options and suggest the one you think best matches the car shopper’s needs.
Similarly, don’t try to pitch a half dozen F&I products over the phone or send links to a dozen different product videos. Instead, create personalized presentations for each customer based on vehicle type, driving habits, and other data. Ideally, have the customer complete an ownership survey and then customize your presentation with just two or three products that are most likely to resonate with that specific customer.
When a customer walks into the showroom and decides to buy a car, the purchase is completed within a few hours. When a customer starts the purchase process at home, it might take several days to complete. Remember, digital retailing improves the customer experience because it gives them more control. This means you have to be patient and persistent, without being pushy. If a car shopper feels pressured, they might abandon their cart.
One day, the pandemic will be over and normal life will resume. However, it’s likely that digital retailing is here to stay. Including access to F&I products in your digital retail process is critical to the success of your online retail strategy.
Dan Dillingham is regional vice president-central at Elead/CDK Global. In his current role, Dillingham oversees sales in the central U.S., including seven regional directors and their sales teams from Texas to Wisconsin. Prior to joining Elead, Dillingham was GM with a dealership group in Houston, and has been in the automotive retail industry for nearly 30 years.