Reaching the Online Researcher
Reaching the Online Researcher

I plan to purchase a new vehicle for myself in probably the next three to six months. Like many consumers today, I started on the Internet, researching brands and models that I might be interested in purchasing. I’m one of those consumers who knows, when walking on the lot, exactly what I want — down to the color and options — so I generally start as much as six months ahead to make sure I know what I want. I had, to this point, only ever focused on the cars themselves — so I was looking forward to applying my knowledge of F&I to the whole process.

Since the last time I purchased a vehicle, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about F&I products and the process behind selling them, and I planned to decide on which of those to purchase right alongside my car of choice. I have, in the last several months, visited many dealer Web sites, for five different brands in my area, all of them more than once as I do that research. However, of those sites, only one had any information about F&I — and even that was only a few brochures that had been scanned to PDF. They offered me no real information I could use to make a purchase decision, such as pricing, or even the details of what’s covered in the plan and what’s not covered. Pricing, at least, I can understand wanting to get me there in person or at the very least on the phone or on a live chat. But what purpose does not even giving me the details about coverage serve?

I don’t think I’m alone in today’s market, either. The traditional method of selling vehicles and F&I products is still alive and well, but there are a growing number of consumers who are researching their purchases heavily online ahead of time, and some of those are looking for alternative purchase methods, such as buying the car over the phone or online, who just want to come to the dealership to sign the final paperwork. It might not be the majority of buyers today, but the number of consumers looking for alternatives to traditional car buying is growing.

The question is, what are you, as the provider, doing to help your dealers reach this subset of buyers? What tools are you providing them to help educate customers like myself, who like to know all the facts before ever walking in the dealership’s door? As providers, how involved in this evolution should you be?

As I started writing this blog, I realized it is a much bigger issue than it first seems. So watch for the next issue, where we’ll tackle the problem of non-traditional buyers and their F&I experiences on a wider scale, and look at what providers are doing to help address online F&I education — and what some of the experts in the industry think they should be doing.

Are you a provider offering Internet sales help or training to your dealers, either direct or through agents? If so, and you’d like to be included in the upcoming article, e-mail me at [email protected].