Online F&I: The Digital FSO

For many consumers, this is the natural place for the F&I journey to begin.

Five ways to optimize your dealership’s digital F&I experience.

 Think about the number of times you’ve looked at a product in a store and pulled out your mobile device to find more information, or compare it to a competitor’s product. Chances are you even did some research before you walked in. The line between the digital and in-store experience is blurring as retail continues to evolve. No matter what you’re selling, understanding your customer’s journey is key, as both digital and physical experiences can contribute to their ultimate purchase decision.

In fact, 84 percent of car shoppers do online research, according to a 2018 study by Jumpstart Automotive Media. Another study by Google and Luth Research references 900 digital touchpoints that the consumer interacts with in their car-buying journey—such as manufacturer websites, dealer websites, third party review sites, forums, and social media. These touchpoints can be critical in reaching your customers as they often encounter these before entering your dealership.

When a consumer is researching a vehicle, they’re probably thinking about how it will improve their lifestyle, not about the potential problems it could cause or the finance and insurance (F&I) products available to protect their investment. With this in mind, introducing your customers to F&I before they enter your store is key.

Dealer website

A recent study by Jumpstart Automotive Media found that 78 percent of car shoppers visit a dealership’s website prior to visiting in person. Logically, this can make it an effective platform to reach your customers. Findings from a study by MakeMyDeal show that 58 percent of consumers would be more likely to purchase F&I products if dealer websites helped them understand the value. At the end of the day, consumers appreciate transparency. You can earn their trust by standing behind the products you sell, publicly explaining their benefits and why they’re an important part of investing in a vehicle.

In addition to transparency, time is also an important factor. The amount of time spent in the Financial Services Office (FSO) represents a quarter of all car buyers major frustrations, with satisfaction levels dropping substantially after 90 minutes in the dealership. By putting F&I information on your website, you can eliminate this pain point and save time for both you and your customer in the FSO.

It’s clear that you should have F&I information on your website—but where do you start? A good rule of thumb is to ensure it’s in the consumer’s natural path. Talk to your website manager and ask them to pull data from your website, such as first and second page visits. Typically, vehicle detail pages, build and price configurators and inventory pages have the highest traffic.

Consumers are already inundated with information, so keep it simple but consider adding a link to more information around F&I products in high traffic areas. Indicating that a certain model is eligible for an extended warranty on a vehicle detail page or mentioning a free promotion for appearance protection can help you position protection products early in the consumer’s research phase.

Build and price

With build and price configurators gaining traction for vehicle research among consumers, it’s critical to include product information in this stage of the car-buying journey. Not only does it provide an opportunity for lead generation if a consumer expresses interest in a product, but it also provides valuable insight into potential monthly payments for the consumer.

If protection products aren’t included in their expected payments, it’s no surprise they aren’t happy when these are mentioned for the first time in the FSO. Transparency is the best way to go. Period.

Assessment tools

The vast majority of consumers feel personalization is important in F&I, and they’re certainly more likely to purchase a product if they’re presented with tailored options. With this in mind, a simple needs assessment can go a long way, whether you have a separate tool, or integrate it into your build and price configurator.

Explore a tool that asks questions about driving behaviours or lifestyles, such as inquiring about average mileage, payment method and intended duration of ownership. The tool can then generate recommended products based on that consumer’s unique lifestyle.

Product videos

We’ve all encountered a webpage that has enough text to write a dictionary— and what’s the first thing we do? Leave the page! Approach F&I the same way you would a vehicle, and consider alternative methods to reach your audience.

According to Google, video consumption for auto shoppers has doubled in the past year, making it a useful platform to communicate with your customers in a meaningful way.

Video content also works in your favour through search engine optimization, as search engines can prioritize videos over text-based content. Keep in mind, videos aren’t intended to replace text, but rather complement it.

Direct communication

Naturally, you should be doing everything you can to ensure your customers have access to relevant information. If a consumer contacts your dealership via email inquiring about a test drive or stock, answer their questions and provide resources with information on F&I products.

This is a great opportunity to utilize some of the previous tools mentioned here, as you can direct them to your website for more information, product videos, or conduct a needs assessment.

F&I products can be complicated and consumers will still have to discuss their options with their financial services manager, but providing them with information beforehand can help them feel more comfortable and confident that they’re buying the right products to protect their investment.

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