TREND Financial’s Online portal Insights Proves Giving Consumer Control Increases Car Sales.08/29/2017 04:19 pm | Posted by Admin
Insights gleaned after a full year with TREND Financial’s online portal
Eric Kaplan - Finance Columnist
How does one envision the future of automotive sales?
Will consumers take control of their transactional process and move the power away from the dealership completely?
While no one has the answer, the single assurance is that any major alteration to the retail model will be facilitated by technology.
From past speaking events, it is clear dealers’ dominion over the transactional process is in full force. This refusal to give up control is related to the dealer’s interest in maximizing profits. Unfortunately for them, evolution that might be best for the consumer may equate to less profit for the dealership.
Although many dealers want to maintain control of the transaction, this does not guarantee dealers can restrict the changes brought on by the evolving consumer behaviour. Just ask a former Blockbuster franchisee about trying to stem change in buying dynamics.
All of that said, we have seen exactly how changes in consumer behaviour and technology may actually increase your F&I sales and the entire bottom line of the dealership.
Roughly a year ago, TREND Financial launched an online portal for dealerships to increase efficiency and automate tasks. Key features allowed dealers to submit their loan applications online, receive instant approvals and allowed both parties to negotiate the terms of the sale instantly.
With 12 months of data under our belts, we now have significant evidence of the positive impacts technology has on the dealerships that have embraced the platform and given more control to the consumer.
Enhanced Customer Experience
Consumers can now go to a dealership, enter in their credit application (with or without the assistance of the dealership) and instantly get an approval. Although this may not sound unique, the devil is in the details.
This system guarantees an approval for every customer, regardless of his or her credit. That means near prime and subprime consumers get access to technology that has traditionally only been available to prime consumers.
Once the consumer has their approval, they can see all of the approval conditions, view a pre-approval (should they decide to change a vehicle) along with instantly being able to negotiate the loan themselves, without the assistance of the dealership.
Users can play with the lease term, payment, deposit and interest to structure the loan based on what they feel is most suitable for them.
Ultimately, there have been two noticeable changes seen in this market. First, we have noticed that consumers like the ability to work directly with the tools that is usually only provided to the dealer to use.
It has also been quite noticeable that consumers have a greater trust working directly with a technology platform, as opposed to a salesperson directly.
TREND Financial has offered additional loan products to the consumer in order to help them get into the vehicle of their choice.
One of the products is known as the Payment Reduction Program (or “PRP” for short). In essence, once the system generates an approval, the consumer will be aware of the security deposit they are required to provide in order to continue with the lease. For some consumers, they may have the cash flow but may not have all of the funds available at that time. This is where the PRP program comes in.
The PRP is a short-term loan for three to 18 months to borrow a portion of the funds in order to pay for the security deposit.
Prior to the launch of the platform, PRP was rarely used as it can be difficult to explain to the consumer the exact benefits of the program. But once the platform was launched with an easy-to-use interface that informs a consumer of all of their options, the PRP program usage had a three-figure percentage increase.
This led to a significant increase of the dealership’s funding ratio.
Although the consumer had more control of the transaction, the usage of technology allowed them to view all of the products relevant to them.
More Deals, Same Headcount
One of the rarely mentioned benefits of a digital retailing strategy is the cost reduction in staff.
If you have the same number of customers doing more of the transaction online or on their own, do you need the same number of staffers on the showroom floor?
Use of technology means a reduction in human resources required by the dealership in order to close a deal.
Less effort by the dealer to close a deal means more deals can be handled per salesperson, which ultimately, increases the dealership’s bottom line.
Technology has dramatically altered the business landscape. And while the lending sector has avoided the FINTECH revolution so far, that won’t last forever.
Disruption is progress and adaptability is the name of the game.
Whatever the outcome, it is certain that no dealership will escape or have the power to slow down change. Instead of fighting the inventible FINTECH revolution, my advice for dealerships that want to stay on top is to evolve your business models. Aim to understand your new breed of customers and invest in your dealership’s social media footprint.
The evolvement of the industry doesn’t necessarily equate to less profit. Dealers and dealerships that cultivate technology practices will thrive and be successful.