So where is tablet menu adoption? I guess I ask that every year, and every year I offer my gut feeling on its progress based on what I hear from F&I pros and read on social media. And, well, based on the discussions I’m privy to, it does seem to be growing, but not by much.

Last month, eLEND Solutions delivered to my inbox results of a dealer study it conducted in the fourth quarter of 2016. The headline pretty much gave away the conclusion: “Dealerships Say Mobile Devices Save Time, But Adoption Hampered by Resistance to Change.”

“Resistance to change” was actually the No. 2 reason (45%) cited by the 100-plus dealers surveyed. The No. 1 reason was “cost” at 55%. “Undefined ROI” was No. 3 at 39%. The study notes, by the way, that 60% of dealer respondents who aren’t using tablets say they are not even considering adoption. Thirty-seven percent said that’s the case for sales and 50% said the same for F&I.

The good news for tablet menu makers is that half the dealers surveyed either are using (17%) or are actively considering using (33%) a tablet in the F&I office. Of the dealers already using mobile tablets, the No. 1 realized benefit cited was “speeding up the sales process” at 44%, followed by “improved CSI” at 39% and “process consistency and efficiency” at 50%.

As for dealers not using tablets, the perceived benefits are the same as those realized by users, and in the same order. “Dealers say that mobile tablets offer potential for improvements — even those who aren’t using them suggest that they will speed up transaction times — yet half of those surveyed are not even considering implementing them in their F&I departments because of cost and staff resistance to change,” said eLEND CEO Pete MacInnis.

I’ve seen plenty of the latter on the F&I forums I belong to. “Don’t scratch me where I don’t itch” is the standard response to anyone who challenges their stance. Still, I have to believe all this digital retailing talk is impacting tablet adoption. I mean, at $400 a pop, which is where the eLEND study put the average cost for a tablet, I think I’d be a little change resistant, too — at least until I knew for sure where things are headed.

The first tablet F&I solution I saw was back in January 2011 at Mercedes-Benz of San Francisco. The tool, which was more of an electronic brochure dealers could hand to customers as they waited in the showroom to get into F&I, was developed by the automaker’s captive. I was convinced it was the future, although the captive never took the next step.

Tablet F&I technology has come a long way since then. The one solution that keeps popping up in those F&I manager forums I frequent is Darwin Automotive. It was introduced last year, but I finally got to see it in New Orleans at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA)’s convention last month. It uses an algorithm that merges a customer’s answers to an ownership survey with purchase history data stored in the DMS and other external data points to identify products that are most likely to resonate with the buyer.

By the way, the tool doesn’t just work on a tablet; paper lovers can print it out, too.
I spoke with Jeff Stafford, the company’s sales and marketing executive, at the convention. He revealed that the “prescriptive selling” system, as the company calls it, is being employed by Sonic’s one-touch managers under its “One Sonic – One Experience” initiative. We also talked about two major announcements the company made in the days leading up to NADA 2017.

On Jan. 24, the company announced the release of a new F&I selling system it developed with CDK Global. Marketed as CDK MenuVantage Platinum, the system employs Darwin’s prescriptive selling technology. The firm announced the next day a similar partnership with DMS provider Advent Resources.

And I’m guessing RouteOne has big plans for MaximTrak’s FLITE system after it acquired the company in December. The tablet-compatible system provides customers with a personal risk analysis and product recommendations based on their answers to an ownership survey as well as other data points. Zurich, by the way, recently updated its “illuminate” tablet menu, which also tailors the F&I product presentation based on a customer survey.

My point is tablets aren’t going anywhere. In fact, even makers of those digital retailing systems say tablets will serve as the bridge between the online experience their solutions provide and the showroom. All they have to do now is define the ROI.

About the author
Gregory Arroyo

Gregory Arroyo

Editorial Director

Gregory Arroyo is the former editorial director of Bobit Business Media's Dealer Group.

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