Is F&I (Finance and Insurance) Being Left Out of the Digital Retailing Process?
By now, as we begin to settle into 2020, everyone reading this has heard the term Digital Retailing. Most people in and around automotive circles can now define Digital Retailing as the ability to seamlessly and efficiently connect the online shopping and buying journey with the showroom transaction process.
The promise of Digital Retailing certainly benefits car shoppers, many of whom are clamoring for a shorter process when they arrive at the dealership. And with everyone now dealing with COVID-19, car shoppers will rely even more on the Digital Retailing process.
How much time people are spending car shopping
According to Cox Automotive, from initial research to completing the purchase, a car buyer will spend, on average, 96 days in the car buying process1.
Cox Automotive also points to a larger number of consumers leveraging online research when shopping for a car. Its latest 2019 Car Buyer Journey study2 “shows car buyers are spending 61% of their total shopping time online, up from 57% two years ago. Overall shopping time, however, has dropped for both new- and used-vehicle buyers. According to the study, consumers today spend an estimated 13 hours and 55 minutes researching and shopping for a vehicle, down from 14 hours and 44 minutes in 2017.”
A long transaction time is just one of the frustrations of today’s car shopper. Interactions with F&I remains another point of contention. According to Autotrader, 81% of car shoppers4 give the test-driving process an 8-10 approval rating. However, satisfaction levels declined to 67% when F&I interactions were also factored in.
To combat this, more dealers are beginning to leverage additional online education of F&I options when shoppers are beginning their research online.
What are today’s Digital Retailing options?
The good news is that people have plenty of options online when researching and building all the options for their next vehicle, and with Digital Retailing solutions now being implemented, much of this process will now translate to the showroom so that the customer doesn’t have to “start all over” when they step foot in the showroom.
However, when it comes to F&I options, there still remains a large disconnect between online research ahead of time and the experience at the showroom at the time of transaction.
While many F&I options can be beneficial to a car buyer, such as vehicle service contracts and ancillary protection, the customer perceives these as “upsells” at the last minute inside the F&I office, which at that time feels combative.
F&I is left out of the process – for now
More specifically, approximately 87% of Americans dislike3 some aspect of car shopping at dealerships, with the majority saying they feel pressure to buy right away or to buy additional features. This pressure and mindset can be lessened if car shoppers have information ahead of time on F&I product options so they can learn the benefits of these products in the comfort of their own home as opposed to the dealership where they don’t have time to make proper considerations.
The biggest opportunity for dealers remains in the amount of time that it takes a consumer to get through the entire purchase process, especially online. A time-consuming F&I process can be stressful and is the primary source of customer dissatisfaction. Consumers want to complete parts of the vehicle buying process online prior to visiting the dealership and engage with digital technology while at the dealership so they are not sitting idle for hours waiting for the paperwork to be finalized.
Addressing these opportunities provides significant benefits to dealerships. As more dealers incorporate F&I product options and education earlier in the process to car shoppers, the greater the chance to include F&I products in the final transaction through a less adversarial environment.
Editor’s Note: Tim Blochowiak is Vice President – Dealer Sales of Protective Asset Protection, a full-service provider of F&I programs offering vehicle protection plans, GAP, ancillary products, training and other services through vehicle dealerships. For more information visit http://www.protectiveassetprotection.com/