F&I: A Digital Step in the Right Direction

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When you give someone the power to give their honest opinion without consequence, you get the truth. 

It’s why studies like the AutoTrader Car Buyer of the Future study are so important. It says that just 17 of more than 4,000 people surveyed think the car buying experience is good like it is, and that 72 percent want to spend less time at the dealership. It goes on to identify that more than half would like to begin their paperwork online, but that 88 percent would not buy a car without first test-driving it. 

That’s a lot of information, but it’s all relevant for car buyers of the future. It says two very important things: customers want the car buying experience to shift to an online transaction, but also reinforces that the physical dealership format is still extremely important. 

Online or in Person…or Both?

Car shoppers and buyers are keen on using their computers and handheld devices for the shopping experience. They also want to put their hands on the product, getting a feel for the second-largest purchase most people make in their lifetimes. It seems like a contradiction, but it doesn’t have to be. 

The dealership model is not threatened by the current retail climate. What consumers want is a simplified purchasing experience that involves technology but is not solely online. The industry is certainly capable of offering that type of experience to the customer. All it takes is a bit of innovative thinking. 

Online Credit Applications

Most stores already offer a pre-approval process. Go a step further and make it an option on every vehicle description page (VDP). This way, pre-approvals take into consideration the make and model in which the shopper is interested. 

Provide Online Resources for F&I Products

That little F&I office is intimidating to car buyers. Soften the harsh transition by providing online F&I product descriptions and videos on the webpage and in VDPs, and allow customers to select F&I products to their vehicle pricing estimates. 

Pre-Package F&I Products

Selling vehicle protection items and insurances one by one feels to the customer like they are being nickel-and-dimed to death. Package pricing on common bundles like GAP insurance, undercoating, and life and disability insurance reduces the number of choices the customer has to make. It keeps the focus of the conversation on the one major thing: the car they’ve bought. Offer these packages in your online resources (“just $19 more bi-weekly for the best coverage!”) and you’ll see better sales penetration. 

Customers still want to visit a bricks-and-mortar store. They just don’t want to stay for three hours anymore. Give them what they want by moving non-essential stuff online.