Top of search, top of mind

Dealers wary of placing F&I product information online, prepare to be hidden from potential customers.

Keeping products offline could be driving business to third-party sites or competitors already sharing that information.

Online shoppers typically start with the vehicle they are looking to purchase or lease and turn to the web to compare prices and customer experiences at dealerships closest to them. When customers search for F&I information, however, they won’t be directed to a dealership site unless that dealer has chosen to advertise its F&I products.

John Tabar, director of training for United Development Systems, says dealers should keep in mind terms that a customer would be likely to type into the search bar at home.

“If I Google search a 2014 vehicle service contract on my Toyota Camry, dealers don’t come up. It’s the third-party sites that sell them come up,” Tabar told Automotive News.

From a dealer’s perspective, he says, “I want them to call me, have them buy my products and then come to my service department.”

F&I product reviews could also help customers end up on a dealership’s website. Tabar says dealerships that encourage customers to explain a positive service department experience following the purchase of an F&I product should share their stories online, further drawing attention to the store.

For better or worse, customers trust the algorithms that organize search results, and sites near the top are considered more reputable sources for information and product offerings. Online shoppers aren’t likely to scroll through pages of a search to find a dealership that offers what they’re looking for — they’ll look to the top sites first. Savvy dealers should work to carve a path that takes consumers from the initial Internet search to the dealership website for F&I product information.

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