A customer relationship management platform for handling lead transactions, and more are needed.  -  IMAGE: Pexels/Erik McIean

A customer relationship management platform for handling lead transactions, and more are needed.

IMAGE: Pexels/Erik McIean

There has been a dynamic shift in marketing, and there are steps that can be taken to mitigate load balancing to keep a dealership at the forefront and fully discoverable by potential customers. For example, are you fully utilizing your website landing pages to market every product that you sell to consumers? Can people find the products and services you sell on your website, or are they searching and going elsewhere, leading to a lost sale?

A TIME FOR CHANGE

Why is the automotive industry changing but the F&I model of only selling in-house remaining steadfast? It also needs to evolve.

You need a customer relationship management platform for handling lead transactions, as well as a systematic way to follow up with open quotes and manage leads. The success of an online lead is the speed that you get back to them with information, and this means automation at all hours of the day. When capturing leads through websites, how many dealerships are following up with a solid customer journey? Is the first point of contact with the prospect taking place within 15 minutes of the lead being generated? It needs to be fast and responsive. The experience you create should include all relevant digital and traditional marketing touchpoints. Let the prospective customer know you want to earn their business and that they can rely on you to take care of them.

That’s what today’s savvy consumers are looking for, and that’s what successful dealers will deliver on.

DIGITAL SELLING IS A NECESSITY

Digital selling of F&I products sounds awesome and even easy, but it’s not as easy as one would hope. As with everything else, it takes strategy, work, and other considerations must be factored into the equation. You need to have a strategy that addresses competing with third-party marketers, a process for your online reputation management, and a process to handle online sales.

Dealers have their plate full managing inventory, sales and processes within the dealership. An ideal situation is to partner with vendors who offer a dynamic solution that plugs F&I products into your website and efficiently processes orders, while providing you with a reporting system that keeps you fully aware of how well the products are performing. You also need to realize and find where digital makes sense for your dealership and continue to balance traditional marketing methods and integrate them into digital marketing.

Your dealership’s landing pages are critical for capturing customer leads, and yet remain underutilized. You must show consumers what you have to offer, and that means vehicles, but it should also include your other products. For example, most dealers don’t speak to their service contract products on their websites. If dealers were showing consumers their options, your customers wouldn’t be off buying inferior third-party vehicle service contracts. Consumers are searching for these products and finding them listed only on third-party marketing sites, and they therefore don’t understand that they can buy them from their dealership post-sale. If dealerships were promoting and enabling the sales, that would raise profits and help shield your customers from vendors that are selling inferior products to them.

Beyond your website landing pages, are you offering your customers an app that directly connects them to your dealership? An app will help you track your customers’ interests, and collect information on what they are considering and what they use. You can provide them with special offers for your service drive, push reminders for service appointments, and so much more. Your F&I products can be available for them to purchase through the app. Like your website, the app can serve up a dynamic customer experience that reflects positively on your brand and your profits.

TRAINING STAFF ON DIGITAL PROCESSES

You likely have a dedicated online sales division that monitors your automotive digital sales process. It is not structured for F&I sales, and for some dealerships this represents another transactional shift. It requires an organized process that offers an on-demand response, with focused customer service follow-up that allows you to connect with the customer and give them a more personalized experience.

It really comes down to training your staff on the tools you are utilizing to provide these digital solutions, getting them comfortable with F&I online sales, and providing customers with the best seamless shopping experience for F&I products. The F&I manager’s role has become more consultative, and good managers will embrace the opportunity to expand into digital retail solutions.

MORE PROFITS AND BETTER SERVICE

Overall, providing your customers with both in-store and online solutions will help you present the best road to the sales experience. Having your F&I products available on your website just makes sense. Updating your website with these products, like online vehicle service contracts, allows you to expand your opportunities for sales.

Look for service providers and partners that can give you connectivity between inventory, pricing data, and product solutions that make sense. You want seamless integrations with consistent reporting metrics that make it easy for you to see exactly what the customers are purchasing, the questions they have, and what your profits are.

The time has come to stop losing your sales and profits to third-party companies that won’t provide the service that your customers have come to expect. It’s time for your F&I products to join the digital narrative.

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