David Winslow’s car-buying experience went pretty well, but not perfectly.

He spotted some flaws. For example, he detected a disconnect between his online research and off-line experience.

“Consumers want a fluid experience,” he says, adding that more work needs to be done to improve the online-offline transition.

Winslow is sensitive to such things as vice president-digital strategy for DealerTrack Technologies. 

“Sometimes you do a lot of research and shopping online, and then get to the store and feel like you are starting over,” he says, citing his recent car purchase.  

“I did all the research, got a lot of information from third-party automotive sites, but the dealership salesperson never heard of some of them,” Winslow tells WardsAuto.

Things got better when the sales manager got involved. “He showed me the price they paid for the car, and what their actual gross would be,” Winslow says. “He tried to be transparent about it. But the sale rep was like, ‘I don’t want to see third-party information.’”

Another disconnect is that too much pre-sale paperwork and such is done at the store when instead customers could do much of it online at their convenience.

That includes financing and trade-in valuation. Doing that at the front end would cut down on time spent at the dealership and benefit everyone involved.

 “We’ll see a lot more e-commerce enablement on the dealership websites,” he says. “We’ll see those sites move from just shopping to the point where most of the transaction can be completed online, so people essentially go in, sign the final paperwork, and get the keys.”

But before they drive off, dealership sales personnel, including finance and insurance managers, still would get face time, but to consult more and pitch less. Done right, the former can increase store revenue, Winslow says, pointing to  DealerTrack data.

DealerTrack, which started as a financial services website firm, recently bought Dealer.com, where Winslow was chief strategist. With DealerTrack, Winslow has gained more insight into dealership F&I operations.

“With DealerTrack, we’ve been able to see that when we enable an F&I manager or sales rep with an iPad containing all those service and product options, it actually drives gross up by letting the consumer choose.”

He likens it to Amazon.com. “They recommend more products as you’re going through the shopping, but you don’t feel like someone is selling you anything. “When a salesperson says, ‘Hey, you should buy this,’ and the consumer knows there’s an incentive model behind it, that’s challenging. And if you are presenting too much information, consumers can become fatigued and say, ‘I don’t want anything else.’

“But when you let consumers control it, they’ll probably buy more. We’re starting to see the data to prove it. It’s better if they are going through an iPad menu at leisure in the F&I office.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com