Lessons Learned: Going All-in on Digital Retailing Improves F&I

A Little History

Over the past few months, you may have heard the digital retailing buzz. Some dealers wonder if it will impact F&I profits.

In a recent article published in F&I and Showroom’s online magazine, Nick Waddell, General Manager of Central Florida’s Peterson Toyota of Sarasota, believes that dealers succeed by creating a “measurable difference” in customer experience.

Nick has been in the automotive business for nearly 25-years primarily under the Toyota brand. Having a background as a finance director, he became a General Sales Manager, setting monthly records and credits the mentorship of great GM’s at Toyota.  

As Nick stated in his F&I article, creating a “measurable difference” makes a lasting impression in the customer’s mind.

Why Use Digital Tools?

Credit F&I and Showroom Magazine

A digital retail tool goes the extra mile. It creates memorable and lasting experiences. Giving customers what they want improves referrals and repeat business.  

Nick focuses on the future and is all-in on digital sales. Intending to sell 300 cars a month, he uses every tool to support reaching the finish line. After researching digital retail options Nick and his management team decided to use AutoFi.

Nick chose AutoFi because the platform is user-friendly for both customers and his dealership.

Using the AutoFi solution, visitors to Toyota of Sarasota’s website can select a vehicle, structure their deal, connect to a salesperson, value a trade-in, submit a credit application, and include aftermarket products. When the customer comes in to sign documents, the online process makes it easier for the F&I manager to continue the conversation.

Article Highlights

  • After shopping online, the F&I team appreciates the credibility built into in-person meetings
  • 5% – 12% of customers who start on AutoFi, make an appointment at the end of the funnel
  • Customers like feeling in control
  • 5% – 12% of customers initiate and complete their sales and F&I transactions

Article Quotes

The tool helps build credibility, and the pathway to close becomes more clear.

“I believe that anytime you can have information in front of a customer, on their own computer, the level of credibility goes up when it comes to        products,” Nick adds.

When asked if F&I professionals worry about their jobs, here’s Nick’s reply.

“No. We are still a people business, and people buy from people they like. I see AutoFi as a process enhancement, not a replacement.”

Stick with Customer Success

At times the auto industry failed its customers. Prospects had to come into the dealership for necessary information. When simple information isn’t easy to get, they call another dealer instead.

Peterson Toyota of Sarasota embraces digital innovations.

“The culture I want to build is one where, if the customer asks for the price, we need to give them the price, and it needs to be the real price. In today’s market, customers believe they’re going to go into a store and get the runaround — ‘internet price, plus fees.’ My team will give them everything they want to get.”

Nick advises fence-sitters to look at digital retailing as an opportunity to engage with customers where they live, work or shop.

“And if the reply is, ‘That’s not how we do things around here,’ I would say that, if the way you do things were working, you wouldn’t be shopping for something that’s going to work better,” he says. “There are times where a little bit of blind faith in technology can go a long way.”

One Tool Leads to Many Opportunities

Digital retail provides an opportunity to sell additional cars. For example, selling cars online adds a new channel that reaches an otherwise overlooked customer base.

Adding a digital retail solution to improve sales performance increases the likelihood of up-selling F&I products, accessories, and service the customer in a more meaningful way.

Digital retail opens the door to build rapport for future sales and sets the stage for vehicle service revenue.

“If a customer buys from Peterson Toyota, and they tell a friend, ‘They treated me really nicely,’ we appreciate that. But it goes in one ear and out the other,” Waddell says. “If they say, ‘They have this thing on their website. I found the car myself, got myself approved, and went down and picked it up,’ that’s a measurable difference.  

We’re certainly glad Nick chose AutoFi.

Credits to Tariq Kamal, author of an article in F&I and Showroom entitled, Digital F&I Makes a Measurable Difference at Peterson Toyota of Sarasota posted on February 7, 2019.

Photos by Eric Tillotson Photography