Will that be paper or electronic?

Donna Harris covers automotive retailing for Automotive News
The finance and insurance industry is divided on how to present a widely used merchandising tactic: menu selling.

No one seems to doubt the value of selling F&I products from an easy-to-read menu. The question is whether that menu should be on paper or a computer screen.

The pro-paper group says electronic menu software is a waste of money. One respected consultant even told me electronic menus don’t work as a sales tool. Many talented F&I managers also have been using paper menus for years, and they’re uncomfortable switching.

But those who favor electronic menus say this is the future. They like to chuckle at the use of paper menus. The technology can allow F&I managers to group products in packages that appeal to a specific consumer’s needs. Electronic menus also can capture product sales data. Its proponents say the static paper menu is much less effective at merchandising products.

Gary Allgeier, director of finance for the Suburban Collection in suburban Detroit, uses both paper and electronic menus. Allgeier says the younger customers often prefer the computer screen. But the older customers -- he wouldn’t give me an age cutoff -- tend to like a paper menu they can hold as they study it.

In some cases, age seems to have nothing to do with the customer’s preference, he says. They just think one or the other is easier to read.

This business is all about pleasing customers. So go ahead and adopt the new technology. But it would be smart -- and not all that difficult -- to keep a paper menu on hand as well.