For some car shoppers, a veil of anonymity is one of digital retail's perks.
They appreciate configuring a deal on their own, without pressure from the dealership -- at least at first.
That's been the experience of Annette Sykora, dealer principal of Smith South Plains Ford in Levelland, Texas, who uses Express Checkout, an online shopping and financing tool by AutoFi and Ford Credit.
Rather than flood those customers with requests to come into the store, dealers and F&I managers should consider letting those shoppers take the online process as far as they wish, and when the customer is ready to finish the deal in the store, the dealership staff should be prepared to pick up the transaction right where the customer left off.
Many customers using Express Checkout aren't looking for financing help from the store just yet. Sykora, who was chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association in 2008, told Automotive News that the tool allows the customer to do almost everything by themselves.
"The consumer can essentially work their own deal with the tool, choose their terms, their down payment, do their trade-in," Sykora said. All that's left to do in person is sign and take delivery, she said.
However, that doesn't mean customers don't want help. Many want to handle just a portion of the transaction on their own, said Sykora, but most of them don't want to finalize the sale solo. Though they can complete much of the transaction independently, most will reach out to the dealer when they're ready to finish up in-store.
Customers who want to purchase a vehicle without any dealership involvement make up only a small percentage of those using digital financing and retailing tools. Still, offering an online shopping and financing tool allows customers to come to the dealership with most of the work taken care of, shaving time off the in-store transaction and increasing customer satisfaction.
Customer preference varies, but with online shopping and financing tools, dealers should follow the customer's lead.