In: Blog, Customer, Digital

ADAPTING TO THE MODERN CONSUMER IN THE DIGITAL SPACE

By: Brad Dickerson, Director, New Business Development, LGM Financial Services

Brad Dickerson, Director, New Business Development, LGM Financial Services

Think about the number of times you’ve pulled out your phone to Google a product or read reviews. Can you even remember the last time you made a large purchase without doing a bit of online research first? There’s no denying that there has been a shift in the market, as consumers demand information be readily available in order to make good purchase decisions. In fact, a recent KPMG study identified the most disruptive market trend as the change in consumer behaviour to expect immediate service and a personalized experience.

Findings from a recent study by Jumpstart Automotive media show that 84% of car-shoppers do online research. This makes webpages with useful, in-depth vehicle information highly valuable to consumers. When it comes to cars, detailed information is available on a number of platforms to support informed buying decisions – so why not do the same for finance and insurance (F&I)?

Consider your approach to selling F&I products similar to how you sell a car. Your dealership’s website is a great place to start, as 71% of car-shoppers prefer to get information around pricing, warranties, add-ons, and trades online (Cox Automotive’s Future of Digital Retail Study).

DEALER WEBSITE

I think we all understand the value and significance of a useful website, as 78% of car-shoppers visit a dealership’s website prior to visiting in person (Jumpstart Automotive Media). When I say useful, I’m referring to a website that provides information your customers are looking for, such as the F&I products and services you offer. Make the F&I sale easier on yourself – 58% of consumers would be more likely to purchase F&I products if dealer websites helped them understand the value (MakeMyDeal).

The modern market is all about transparency, and consumers appreciate and respond well to it. By providing information around F&I products on your website, you’re demonstrating that you stand behind the products you sell and believe in their value. Consider how a digital experience could increase feelings of trust and transparency for consumers. An online, interactive needs assessment tool can enhance these feelings by presenting personalized options based on questions around driving behaviours or lifestyle.

When incorporating information around F&I products into your dealership’s website, find out which pages customers frequently encounter when visiting your website. Vehicle detail pages, build and price configurators and inventory pages often see the highest traffic. Ask your website manager to pull useful data from your website, such as first and second page views, to strategically position your F&I content.

BUILD & PRICE TOOLS

Build and price configurators are a standard for each automotive manufacturer’s site, but it doesn’t have to end there. This tool offers a customizable experience, and would also be useful within your dealership’s site. This is an important component of your website to consider when positioning F&I online, as this is often where consumers begin to price out their monthly payments. If a customer goes to the effort of carefully selecting and building a vehicle, it’s no surprise that they’re resistant to purchasing an F&I product if they hear about it for the first time in the financial services office (FSO).

In addition to build and price tools, consider your vehicle detail page and third party sites. A quick reference to the product such as “Appearance protection available on this model” or “Find out how to protect your vehicle” can be a simple, yet effective way to entice the consumer to read more information. As the consumer gets closer to selecting their desired vehicle, their excitement builds. This is the opportune time to inform them on how to best protect the source of their excitement.

Tip: If you include this information on your build and price configurator, consider setting it up as a lead generation tool to follow up with customers. If F&I isn’t included within the information transferred in your lead generation, it can feel like you’re starting all over again when you meet.

THE ONLINE OBJECTION

When visiting dealers, I hear a common concern when it comes to F&I online: F&I products don’t sell themselves, the value needs to be explained. Without that explanation, the customer views F&I products as an intangible purchase with a perceived high cost.

The truth is, the dealer is right. There are products and services that need an explanation to be understood, and the value needs to be demonstrated rather than assumed. Placing the products online doesn’t mean adding a simple sentence stating that they exist and what they cost. Take the time to explain the value of your F&I products online, just as you would if you were in front of a customer. Ask your administrator to provide relevant content that can demonstrate the value of F&I products.

Another common concern I hear from dealerships is that customers do the research on online forums and they’re overwhelmed with the negative feedback, creating a bad perception of F&I products. Some dealerships believe that the first engagement should be in person, after building trust.

We live in a time where trust is built through transparency and reviews, and by meeting the consumer where they’re looking for information. The consumer wants to know more before making the decision. Yes, there are negative reviews of F&I products. Unfortunately, bad experiences – whether legitimate or not – can create hesitation for your customer. Let’s face it, negative reviews are a part of any product or service. You can combat these reviews by building your reputation through a transparent approach, and the products you offer will be trusted, just as you are trusted.

BRICK AND MORTAR

Having a strategic, informative, and transparent presence online for your F&I products is critical for today’s consumers, but it’s also important to remember that both physical and digital experiences shape the customer experience and their ultimate purchase decision.

Brick and mortar storefronts will continue to be an important component of the car-buying experience. Look at Amazon, online retailer giant, who now has physical in-store locations known as Amazon Go, where they offer consumers a seamless shopping experience – in person.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

So you’re armed with some tips on how to improve your dealership’s F&I content in the digital space, but now what? How would implementing these changes influence how your dealership functions on a day-to-day basis? Well, it’s not just your website that needs to change. It would certainly require some change management for your employees. If your financial services managers and sales team are used to working with customers who haven’t been exposed to the F&I products offered in your dealership, it will take some training to ensure they’re equipped to handle the educated and empowered consumer.

Objections to your products and services will evolve as consumers become more educated. Training on how best to overcome and handle these objections is key, as it’s on you to evolve alongside the consumer.

Digital retailing solutions are now available and can offer your customers much of what they expect in the car-buying process. If you have the functionality on your website allowing a customer to build and price their vehicle, pre-approve themselves for credit, appraise their trade in, send the information to your dealership, and schedule their appointment online, a seamless transition from online to offline is required to fully optimize the digital experience. If the customer walks into your dealership and has to repeat the same information they shared online, it wastes a lot of time and can cause frustration for both you and your customer. Put in the work beforehand to ensure you’re prepared for the modern consumer.

Long story short, take advantage of the advice around how your dealership can improve its online presence and integrate F&I into your customers’ car-buying journey before they enter your store. Don’t forget that this will have a big impact on your customers’ expectation of your dealership, and if done well, it can drastically improve the customer experience with a personalized and transparent car-buying process.

Don’t miss F&I panelist speaker, Brad Dickerson, during the TalkAUTO 2018 Canada Conference in Toronto on Wednesday, November 7 as he discusses the disruptive trends in the F&I space.

About the author: Brad Dickerson is LGM’s Director, New Business Development. He is responsible for the research and discovery of new business ideas and partnerships for LGM. He also works closely with LGM’s digital marketing team and OEM partners to develop optimal consumer user experiences in the digital realm.