Make the shift


WebNo one likes looking at a cluttered website.

An abundance of text and headings with multiple drop down menus are bound to give the user a headache.

But there’s one heading that’s noticeably absent from many Canadian franchised dealer websites: F&I product offerings.

For F&I managers, that could mean lost sales and potential profitability.

That’s according to a recent F&I study by MakeMyDeal, a Cox Automotive company that created a communication platform in which consumers and dealers can negotiate a purchase deal online.

Of the 500 car buyers surveyed in September 2014, eight in 10 respondents would prefer to learn about F&I products online and on their own time before they enter a dealership.

The majority of consumers are more open to hearing about products from an F&I manager after they have a better understanding of them, according to the survey.

Amongst the findings, 63 per cent of consumers would be more likely to buy F&I products if they could learn about them on their own before finalizing their vehicle purchase.

Consumers have spoken. They want to take matters in their own hands, rather than being ambushed and overloaded with product information during the sales process.

It’s clear the F&I buying process needs to move into the 21st century. So what’s preventing dealers from making that transition?

To get a better idea, I spoke with Mike Burgiss, the founder and vice-president of MakeMyDeal, and the driving force behind the survey.

Burgiss says dealers are worried about losing control, and that’s what’s keeping them from moving their F&I products into the digital age.

“Information is a form of control, and the notion of giving up information feels like loss of control of the deal structure,” he says.
Burgiss advocates providing the F&I information to the consumer, without turning it into an Amazon-like transaction.

Not everyone would agree with Burgiss. It’s no secret car buyers aren’t the biggest fans of dealerships and the whole car buying experience.

Accenture’s latest study revealed three quarters of car buyers would like to see the entire car buying process moved online, including financing, if it were possible.

AutoNation has recognized those changes to public sentiment, and is investing heavily into its e-commerce initiatives. Now that the new vehicle retailer has become a household name, it’s even launched its own private-label F&I products (a whole other initiative) and plans to sell the entire line of products online by 2016.

But what MakeMyDeal wants to do through its beta product is provide consumers with the information they need about F&I products to make an informed decision, says Burgiss.

This includes a realistic monthly payment set by the dealership that incorporates the costs associated with the car sale, along with the F&I products by coverage level.

Having the product information online also makes for a better conversation, as opposed to a consumer passively listening to an F&I manager rattle off a list of products.

The online education approach is in no way a threat to an F&I manager’s role. In fact, Burgiss strongly believes the Internet will only help F&I managers speed up the process and take away some of that pressure to sell.

“Car dealerships are fearful that the Internet will become a robot. Robots replace people. The Internet is not a robot. The Internet is a power tool. All it does is speed things up,” says Burgiss.

Though Burgiss is not advocating for an online transaction process, dealer websites can still look to e-commerce driven sites, like Amazon, to learn how to showcase their F&I products. Online shopping sites include product descriptions, spec sheets, images and videos.

I came across a popular Toyota dealership in Toronto that features its F&I product information online in a smart and creative way.

The F&I product landing page shows a diagram of a car with the various protection products and kits that the dealership offers.

When you click on the more detailed product sections, you’re taken to a page that has short, punchy descriptions of the product, along with a brief minute long video of each one.

This is a simple and effective way to educate consumers about your F&I products, without the sales pressure.

Why not give this a try and see if it works for your dealership?

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