The Future of F&I: The Convergence of Sales and Technology
Interactive technology helps buyers better understand how your aftermarket products protect their investment
The future of F&I is being foretold by consumer engagement trends in fast food restaurants and similar establishments. They offer a preview of the rapport-building technologies that will change how you present and sell F&I.
McDonalds and Pizza Hut, for instance, have undertaken technology initiatives to install kiosks for ordering food. About 50% of company-owned Panera stores already has the technology installed. McDonalds’ “Create Your Taste,” and Panera’s “My Panera” programs connect food ordering to customer memberships and other processes to streamline orders and create new levels of brand loyalty.
Moreover, they’re setting the stage for consumer interaction using graphical menus, touch-screen technology, and personalized products that meet the unique needs of the modern consumer. Although ordering food is a relatively simple transaction, this convergence of sales and technology informs every kind of business, including F&I.
Digital F&I tools help you more thoroughly and compellingly engage customers in your presentation because they hear more and understand better. In the future of F&I, just as currently in restaurants, technology will help buyers through processes faster.
A 2015 Autotrader/Cox Automotive study noted that consumers respond well to technology. Also, J.D. Power’s recent U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index Study reported that technology—more specifically, the lack of it—might be a deal-breaker for consumers and dealers this year.
“Dealers should understand that customers want and trust technology and that it can enhance efficiencies,” reported the survey. “Dealers that disregard it may risk being left behind in three to five years,” said Chris Sutton, vice president of the automotive retail practice at J.D. Power.
In addition, McKinsey & Company noted that digital is “less a thing and more a way of doing things,” including creating value in the processes that execute a vision of customer experiences.
F&I technology helps you deliver a digital experience that accomplishes this and three other important business goals:
- It streamlines and automates the assembly of customized F&I presentations.
- It engages customers’ full senses, drawing them deeper into product reviews and selection, so they chose what they find useful and valuable, increasing their willingness to buy.
- It holds F&I accountable to lending and other regulations. It annotates customer acceptance or declination of offered products, so you have the right evidence if ever audited.
Consumers that use digital F&I technologies to view and manipulate information, images, videos, and surveys—on tablets, high-definition TVs, digital pads, or kiosks—report being more satisfied and persuaded. Mobile devices, tablets, video, and other information and experience devices provide self-service education about product features and benefits, and tell how they influence finance or lease payments.
For example, self-guided “smart surveys” capture F&I customers’ responses to various lifestyle questions. Responses are analyzed against vehicle data, deal detail, driving habits, risk factors, expected duration of ownership, and vehicle and manufacturer warranties.
The result is a customized driver profile. It’s designed to be a guide to aftermarket product offers that best meet the customers’ risk profile revealed by the survey.
Interestingly, consumers of all generations respond positively to presentation technology, not just millennials. Therefore, you can use digital F&I technology with confidence with every customer.
The most sophisticated systems can toggle between more visual information—including images, video, and sales tools—or fewer visuals and more data and text. The variety of presentation options is flexible and can be matched to the customer’s liking.
Consumers respond especially well to these engagement tools:
- E-menu technology. The digital e-menu is the modern way to present aftermarket products to customers. It speeds up and automates the process, which customers appreciate. A recent MaximTrak PVR study of 270 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles dealers showed their use of digital e-menu software lifted per-vehicle revenue an average of 72% and vehicle service contract penetration 51%, compared to presentations not using a menu. (Click here to download report.)
- Self-guided presentations. Touch-screen technology combined with interactive survey tools in customers’ hands helps them quickly recognize the value and usefulness of your products. They use educational videos and interactive lifestyle surveys to focus interest on the right products, resulting in improved product penetration and margins.
- Compliance safeguards. Keeps staff adept at using a compliance waiver that meets all buyers’ bill of rights laws. This technology should document consumer choices, authorizations or declines, capture digital signatures, and protect you from unfounded claims. Other safeguards it should provide are compliance checks and balances that will alleviate your team from having to think about submitting OFAC and Red Flag verification, risk-based pricing, and adverse action disclosures. You’ll know you are offering buyers the right products every time.
Vehicle sales will remain healthy this year, so make the most of this opportunity by keeping your F&I technology current. Use interactive technology with buyers to help them better understand how your aftermarket products protect their investment.