How Combining Agile Thinking and Acknowledging the Individualism of the Customer is Disrupting Auto Finance
In the post-pandemic world, the, in some ways forced, adoption of digital has had resounding effects on the purchasing process.
The pandemic created an increased sense of digital comfort amongst consumers. As consumers began to rely on digital platforms for everything from shopping for groceries, to meeting with friends, to job interviews, one of the more profound developments has been the upward surge in consumer driven research capabilities.
With access to information through digital applications more prevalent than before, the new, digitally comfortable customer, can educate themselves prior to making any form of direct engagement. This greatly impacts the playing field and changes some of the traditional metrics previously held as decisive factors when it comes to digital marketing.
In preparation for his upcoming presentation at CXAUTO2022, we met with Lewis Scott, the Director of Marketing: Digital and Field Performance, at Byrider. Along with sharing his story, Lewis gave his expert opinion on the current state of the industry, as well as what him and the team at Byrider are doing to solidify their presence (and the future of automotive) through vertical integration, redefining the customer and the full customer journey.
Growing up in Southeast Michigan, Lewis was destined to build a career in automotive. Having interned at Chrysler’s parts division, MOPAR, Lewis moved on to join Chrysler Financial once he had graduated from St Joseph’s College with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Management.
In 2012, Lewis and his family relocated to Indiana and, with the Byrider Headquarters situated in Carmel, it seemed like the perfect place to settle down and establish a root structure. Byrider’s in-house proprietary approval platform and in-house financing, has supported the establishment of 32 company stores and 114 franchise rooftops. Lewis has spent the last decade with the Company, moving up the ranks from an underwriter to where he is now, directing marketing for digital and field operations.
Prior to being promoted to Director, Lewis worked on the Franchising side as a Franchise Consultant, which, along with the exposure gained throughout his tenure in the industry, uniquely positioned him to understand the complex nature of consumer behavior within the automotive industry.
The Metamorphosis of the Customer
The customer is educated: they want their answer online, virtually, remotely, digitally. Before they decide if they want to give you their business and buy a car from you, they want to understand if they can get approved. In the old days, circa pre-2016, customers would call your store, look at newspapers, look at automotive ads, come up on the lot, “kicking tires” so to speak, and right now, customers are comfortable with and require an experience that is digital and remote.
Our ability to build relationships and engage in experiences online has become the expectation.
Customers want an experience, they want to know what you have, what you stand for; they want to know about the business. Customers now want to understand the journey upfront, what is the approval process like and before deciding on whether or not to commit, they want to understand both the pre- and post-sale experience.
Digitalists versus Traditionalists
When we consider the sales methodology, I am a product of both.
My background is firmly established in the traditionalist model of sales however, it is my role to ensure that my team understands the importance of incorporating a digitalist perspective. At Byrider, this means equipping ourselves to recognize the potential embedded in a consumer through digital engagement.
A hybrid model means that, whilst we acknowledge that the traditionalist process still takes place, just later on down the line, digital is here, now. That is what we are seeing, a mixture of both approaches but a transition or shift in terms of the sequence of the engagement and process.
Although it will likely be two to five years before we see the full spectrum of digital adoption across the board, the facts remain, 85% of our engagement comes from digital, mobile specifically.
My role is really about the sales funnel, above the attributed lead or captured lead.
Leads are no longer what is in our CRM, those consumers landing on the website, looking for information - by definition, that is a lead. How do we get that customer more engaged in a sales funnel? The answer comes down to overall brand engagement. We are able to engage customers through sharing knowledge of who we are and what we do.
Byrider has 32 company stores and 46 individual franchises that account for over 114 rooftops. We come from many cloths including traditional dealerships, some have been key employees from traditional or captive finance, some come from entrepreneurial backgrounds and there is success in this combination. However digital is forcing traditional to realize you can no longer come at this from a purely traditional route. Consumers want to know if they are pre-approved, can they get approved, whether they qualify for the vehicle, all before they come see you. That is a digital mindset and a digital scope.
From the perspective of managing the anxiety that comes with a hybrid approach, training and development can ease the transition. Historically, we were able to deal with objections while a customer physically sat in our cubicle, we now find that we need to handle these objections from afar through telecommunication and digital channels. On the upside, those customers who are calling, are doing so because they have seen our vehicle online. Those submitting information to you, are showing deeper engagement from a consumer intent to purchase. In terms of managing the gap, Byrider has embraced web chat and by doing so, we work towards meeting the digital needs of our customers.
What we are focused on, is determining which communications with customers can be automated, what can we do to support the activities of our customers in order to make them comfortable to self-serve.
The ability to buy and get approval, the ability to finance, incorporating the reality of bad credit, new credit, no credit and facilitating real life scenarios such as job gaps, multiple jobs, non-traditional employment; these are all the things we can take into consideration. Through our in-house financing, we are the dealer, the underwriters, the service shop. All entities of our vertical integration are managed with the customer ownership experience in mind, and this is what makes Byrider different.
Our operations are uniquely set up to truly be there every step of the way and keep our customers on the road. Through these three pillars of vertical integration, sales, underwriting and service, we can support the customer at the most critical steps of their journey.
From start to end, Credit For Being You is an agile approach to an inclusive offering. The beauty of vertical integration is the agility that we can employ, we are able to consider the ability and willingness to pay which is not possible through a traditional model. We are able to consider our customers through a lens which is not afforded to them when it comes to an automated credit platform.
As Lewis and I neared the end of our conversation, we reflected on the sense of honor that came with working in a Company whose principle business operations meant that he could proactively play a role in people lives, knowing that the Team at Byrider are the reason that some families can get to work in the mornings. Themes of accessibility and the ability to approach the customer from an individualistic perspective, whilst driving business forward, is what happens when you apply agile thinking to a community driven industry.
We also got some crib notes on the “top secret ideas” that Lewis will be sharing at CXAUTO2022. We highly recommend seeing him in person.
See more about Lewis here