Long-gone are the days of walking around numerous car showrooms – all clustered together on your local industrial park – and negotiating a deal for hours. Modern buyers still ‘shop around’, but now from the comfort of their own home before walking onto a sales forecourt with a clear picture of what they want, and how much they’re willing to pay.
In these changing times, DealTrak’s IT director, Ben Moore, and business development manager, Hilton Austin, explain why the demand for a more retail-like F&I experience offers more opportunity than it does challenges.
The move to online
While many would still argue they would never purchase a car online, look back 10 years and they probably would have thought that paying for their morning caffeine-fix using a mobile phone would never take off either. For dealerships to press forward in 2019, it’s vital that firms embrace the online customer journey where possible.
Whether it’s something as simple as inputting customer data using a tablet synced to internal systems, or offering the entire sales process without the need for the consumer to talk to another human being, dealerships which get the online buying experience right not only streamline their own processes, but present a much more attractive user journey to the consumer.
And, staying ahead of the technological curve can be a gamechanger in the competitive world of automotive sales.
In an industry where ‘putting the customer first’ needs to remain at the heart of what you do, replacing manual processes with automated actions allow dealerships to make the entire customer lifecycle more efficient – and enjoyable.
The rules surrounding sales of finance and Value Added Products can also be adhered to using automated processes. Rather than spending an afternoon making phone calls, using an online platform to pitch a range of value-added-products to the customer – once the allocated timeframe has elapsed – is a more compliant and user friendly sales journey.
Furthermore, dealer software should take care of any GDPR responsibilities via an in-built data processing element. This should save, store and share documentation, while also handling consent, retention and deletion obligations on behalf of the user.
At the time of writing, we continue to await the FCA’s latest industry review. However, it’s expected that one key stipulation of the regulatory body will be that both dealers and lenders examine fully the affordability of consumers looking to finance a car purchase.
Although it is not yet clear how far the regulation will go, it’s expected that checks will need to be in place both at the start and at the end of the agreement.
Consider mortgage applications for example, the buyer is assessed against their current status, but lenders also consider the predicted financial status moving forward, in line with their particular life journey. ‘Has a couple recently got engaged,’ ‘Will they need to budget for wedding and/or a baby during the loan period,’ are some of the factors which may be reviewed.
Whether a small, independent retailer, or a multi-rooftop dealer franchise, most forecourts rely heavily on the sale of F&I products in order to deliver their sales targets. With that in mind, it’s vital that efficient – and compliant – processes are in place to offer motor traders a competitive advantage.
F&I platforms must be built adhering to the rules around compliance. By gathering the correct data right from the start – both relating to the customer, and what a lender panel is looking for from a proposal, sales teams can be confident in matching the right person with the right product.
The FCA requires firms to create a clear audit trail throughout the sales procedure, therefore software which allows users to configure the customer journey in a way which auto-generates the paper trail needed – greatly increasing dealer efficiency – is key to unlocking a competitive advantage.
Making the most of data
Surprisingly in this day-and-age, no one is really using data to its full potential. Insights can provide a valuable understanding around a range of demographics, from the age, gender and financial status of a typical customer, through to which vehicles are most popular at different locations around the UK.
Savvy dealerships should be using their stockpiles of customer information to identify buyer trends, and utilise AI engines to assist with the decision-making process around stock acquisition.
Although 2019 looks set to be something of a tough year across the board when it comes to the sale of high-ticket items. Fears over used and diesel car sales, Brexit, and Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP), can be reduced by embracing the opportunities provided by advancing technology.
Research indicates that Millennials and Gen Z no longer tolerate the stereotypical car buying journey, therefore embracing an efficient – and enjoyable – digital experience, identifying trends around each ‘rooftop’ and viewing stores as retailers, rather than car dealerships, will be critical in developing a true online car retail experience.