Don’t be afraid of personalized F&I product offerings

March 13, 2018

As appeared in March 2018 Canadian Autoworld

By: Brad Dickerson, Senior Manager, Client Strategy, LGM Financial Services

We’re inundated with marketing promotions all day, every day. Whether through social media, text alerts, email marketing campaigns or traditional platforms such as television commercials or bus advertisements, someone is trying to sell us something at every opportunity. To demonstrate true value to your intended customer in the midst of all the noise, sellers of any product or service have to go one step further and offer personalized buying experiences.

Personalization is especially important when you’re dealing with product offerings that aren’t everyday necessities like laundry detergent or tonight’s take-out. Consumers are more likely to buy lesser-known or more complicated products if they are shown why the item is particularly well-suited to their lifestyle. Automotive protection plans would fall into this category.

According to Adlucent research, 71% of surveyed consumers say that they prefer advertisements that are tailored to their personalized interests and shopping habits. When asked to rank the greatest advantages of personalization, 46% of respondents said that it reduces irrelevant advertising, 25% said the main benefit was that it was a way to discover new products, and 19% said it makes online searching and shopping faster and easier.

F&I customers are similarly enthusiastic about the idea. According to Superior Integrated Solutions, “90% of the customers feel that personalization is important in the presentation of F&I products.”

The growing trend towards personalization isn’t limited to proactive marketing techniques. Even consumers who seek out product offerings by visiting a website on their own volition expect personalized scenarios to help convince them of the purchase.

How can the main players in the finance and insurance (F&I) industry provide the modern-day consumer with the bespoke details they want? For original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), their own website functionality offers plenty of opportunity.

OEMs can incorporate a needs awareness tool or guide during both the early points of research and further down the funnel during the build & price purchase stage. This tool can be inserted along your customer’s online journey path to help make a purchase decision that’s right for them and their lifestyle. Pages such as the homepage, vehicle detail page, and build and price, are high traffic areas along your customer’s vehicle purchase journey and optimal opportunities to present customized protection products that will add value to their ownership experience.

The personalization of F&I products can be a two-pronged approach – a combined effort of both the OEM and the dealer. The dealer, too, can include a simple needs awareness tool on their website so that consumers can access that information if they don’t conduct their early research via the OEM.

A dealer’s Financial Services Office can also make use of customizable selling tools at the transactional point of the sale. For example, an eMenu can create multiple quotes for a single customer, offer a side-by-side quote comparison so that it’s easy to review and select the best coverage option for the driver’s lifestyle, and can include a payment term calculator so the customer can see the cost breakdown presented in a way that works for their own financial circumstances. This differs from a traditional laminated menu, which does little to demonstrate consideration for the consumer’s specific wants and needs.

Personalization isn’t about limiting your selling potential by omitting products that might otherwise be considered by the consumer. It’s natural to worry that customizing offerings based on an individual’s specific profile might result in fewer products being sold because you’ve only presented a more specific set of options. In reality, personalization is meant to build greater confidence in the mind of the buyer by showcasing exactly how much they need the coverage. It invites the consumer to pay particular attention as the applicable product or service is recommended specifically for them.

In “Having It Their Way: The Big Opportunity in Personalized Products,” authors Elizabeth Spaulding and Christopher Perry argue that personalization elevates customer loyalty and engagement with a brand. Their Bain & Company research suggests that if a consumer purchases a product they truly need, it’s more likely they will be a repeat customer who may even serve as a brand advocate to other potential buyers. Spaulding and Perry also note that customization helps companies differentiate their products from competitors at a time when the Internet is making it easier for customers to compare the prices of products that have standard features.

Altimeter Group’s digital analyst Brian Solis describes the new-age approach to marketing as engaging “an audience of one” as opposed to targeting broader buyer segments. Though it may seem overly direct, that one individual may be more valuable to you than you could ever imagine.