In 2007, in the award-winning film about entrepreneurialism and greed There Will Be Blood, actor Daniel Day-Lewis earned an Academy Award for his menacing portrayal of oil prospector Daniel Plainview.
In a pivotal scene, Plainview describes how he uses diagonal drilling—comparing it to angling a drinking straw from his claim underground to his competitors’ to drain away their oil and sell it as his—exclaiming, “I drink your milkshake!”
Who’s diagonally drilling into your business?
There is a breed of company, known as fintechs, making big moves by responding to the shifting retail paradigm driven by consumers through new technologies. FintechWeekly.com describes them as businesses competing directly with banks to sell financial services and solutions to consumers—and by extension (my words), siphoning away a share of your customers’ wallet.
As a dealer, you have one of two options in the face of this new competition: One, do nothing and watch your revenue drain away or, two, embrace fintechs as business partners who will route more warm leads to your door.
You can do the latter by collaborating with them through a partnership with your digital sales and F&I technology providers. They can help you leverage fintechs’ consumer appeal, so you can also capture a share of this growing opportunity.
Understand that the fintech challenge isn’t a pure technology-driven one. Instead, it’s a response to your customers, who’ve asked for more accessible, more transparent, and more flexible ways to do business with dealers—and the industry’s response hasn’t met consumer expectations.
Of course, our industry is responding in meaningful and significant ways. One example is the emerging digital retail automotive ecosystem that helps dealers to deliver an end-to-end digital sales and F&I experience.
If you ignore Mr. Plainview’s strategy for your dealership consumer channels now, it may be too late for you to benefit from these revenue flows.
Unbridled fintechs will continue to nibble nimbly at your operation using apps, interactive ads, and in-game experiences and embedded technologies all along your customers’ car-shopping journey. They’ll grab their attention and revenue from their earliest touch points, via media, online search, and other channels—and right into your sales and service departments.
Don’t let them do it.
Bank Innovation magazine notes, “Dealer channels are a vital source in such a business [as auto dealerships]; customer buying behavior is evolving, and this poses a challenge to the existing norm. As direct channels emerge, this will affect the buying behavior of cars. Challenges can emerge when the journey of a dealer and end customer is reimagined.”
The correlation to the car business may not be precisely parallel, but a report out of Ireland offers some cautions. Independent.IE believes Irish financial services firms could experience revenue losses of up to 40% to fintech operators over the next three to five years.
Forbes discussed the threat four years ago: “Transparent online and mobile platforms will not only empower borrowers to access the best products available to them in the market, but they will also cut out the spreads that dealers currently layer on finance and insurance products.”
In the meantime, the industry is watching TrueCar, Carvana, and now cars as a service (CaaS) startups like Flexdrive, Clutch, and others redefining the dealership model, forcing more-agile dealers to innovate quickly to respond and compete.
You want to be alert to fintech’s reach into your pockets. Here are a few applications used by fintechs that may be doing that, but which you can utilize to keep those activities yours:
- Credit application apps
- Trade appraisal apps
- Finance and leasing apps
- F&I insurance product apps
- CaaS apps
- End-to-end buy, sell, and finance via smartphone apps
Partners in the new paradigm
You can respond proactively to this challenge. Start discussing this today with your technology providers—those that have demonstrated loyalty and commitment to the auto industry, your dealership, and your customers.
The right partners will also understand how potential fintech technologies threaten your business. Their expertise can help you leverage the same digital mechanisms so that the customers and their business that those apps threaten will remain yours.
Ideal partners for this most-urgent competitive response will bring to the table:
- Deep digital experience with end-to-end sales and F&I channels.
- A senior-level working knowledge of changing consumer behaviors, lifestyles, and purchasing needs, interests, and how they want to engage with you and other retailers.
- The track record, platform, apps, and tools to fast-track your infrastructure and culture to deliver highly functional, customer-interactive, predictive analysis–based consumer applications that help you brand your store along the customer journey to pull in more consumers’ transportation dollars.
- A broad industry perspective coupled with a clear vision of how to help you utilize the fintech providers that make sense for you—and how to put into place their technologies and focus them to your win-win advantage.
Give the following urgent consideration:
- Recognize where your customers’ eyes are. That is where their decisions and transactions are happening.
- What decisions are consumers making ahead of meeting you?
- Partner with technology companies that can help capture those eyes, engage them—wherever they are in their shopping journey—and keep the revenue stream flowing to you.
Customer competition is not going away. The consumer controls retail today, so put into motion processes that reach buyers where they are, with the right messages, solutions, and products to earn their trust, establish brand awareness, and make it easier for them to do business with you—both online and in your store.
Jim Maxim, Jr. is president of MaximTrak, a RouteOne company, and chief digital officer for RouteOne, a provider of digital F&I platforms for dealers. He is an F&I visionary recognized by CIO Review magazine, a frequent panelist and speaker at various F&I conferences and summits, and a contributor to automotive retail media about evolving F&I technologies. Reach him at [email protected].
From 2003 to 2019, he helmed MaximTrak, a digital F&I platform, which he founded and sold to RouteOne LLC in 2016. Until late 2019, he continued aspresident of MaximTrak and as chief digital officer for RouteOne, bringing to market solutions trusted by dealers around the world.
Jim is widely regarded as a thought leader in business technologies and wealth-building strategies for entrepreneurs and F o rtune 500 companies alike.
He is a graduate of the Babson F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business of Babson College, Babson Park, MA. He is married, with two children.
Latest posts by Jim Maxim, Jr.
- A Better 5-Step Plan to Product Sales Success - March 9, 2020
- Plan, People and Profitability: A Lesson in Chicken - January 12, 2020
- Digitize Your Dealership Operations Now to Be Ready for 2020—and Beyond - October 12, 2018