How to take your online sales up a gear

Online Sales image

The pandemic has accelerated the digital shift in sales, but motor finance can be difficult to get right. Follow these tips to tune up your offering

Repeated lockdowns and the shift to online click-and-collect models mean that dealers and customers are putting online sales systems to the test like never before.

For many, the most complex part of the online sales process is motor finance, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are seven ideas to help you get your online proposition right.

1. Meet the customer’s expectations

In 2021, most consumers have a good idea of what they want from online purchasing. They expect the process to be fast and easy, and it should ideally follow some familiar e-commerce structures. Your digital motor finance offering, and the manner in which it fits into the customer’s overall car-buying journey, will need to follow these tenets. For example, nobody expects to spend an hour filling in forms online. If you’re asking potential customers to do this, I can tell you categorically that you are losing lots of them along the way.

2. Put the customer in charge

Probably the most attractive aspect of online motor finance for consumers is that it puts them in control of their own destiny. They can use tools such as finance calculators to work out how much they can afford. They can watch product information videos to choose between options such as hire purchase and personal contract purchase. They can pre-qualify themselves with specific lenders. And they can make their own application when they’re ready. Dealers that are successful at selling motor finance online offer some or all of these options.

3. Emphasise affordability

Most car-buyers decide based on their monthly budget rather than the windscreen price. Ensuring that finance examples are shown alongside specific cars at all times allows the customer to see, at a glance, whether a vehicle fits their financial needs.

4. Diversify your lenders

If you’re just offering one finance company’s products online, there’s a good chance that you aren’t meeting the needs of a large number of potential buyers. You should construct a lender panel that is fully digitally enabled and that can cater to the needs of all kinds of different credit profiles. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to online motor finance.

5. Sell new and used vehicles together

Most franchise dealer websites silo cars into new and used, with different finance products and offers for each. This is a false division – most car-buyers will not draw much or any distinction between a vehicle that is box-fresh and one that is anything up to a year old. Your online presence should combine the two as seamlessly as possible.

6. Make VAPs part of the customer journey

Value-added products (VAPs) such as warranties, paint protection and alloy wheel insurance are an essential part of dealer profitability. They should be part of the online journey that you create for the customer – and, crucially, their benefits should be emphasised. We’ve found that it’s highly effective to make them part of the complete digital deal that is presented to the customer.

7. Choose the right technology for you

Many dealers have completely rethought their technology in recent years in order to create the motor finance journeys that they need to provide to customers. If your systems are dictating your proposition rather than enabling what you want to offer, it might be time to make a change.

James Tew is the CEO of iVendi. Founded in 2009, it creates digital products to help customers buy vehicles and dealers sell them more efficiently, both online and in the showroom

This is an edited extract from IMI's new MotorPro magazine, received free as part of IMI membership. Time to find out more about becoming a member of the most influential community in UK automotive…?