Only 2 percent of auto dealerships contacted by mystery shoppers online in the second half of 2022 provided any information when customers asked about car payments, financing or leasing.
By John Huetter
May 6, 2023
Dealers are overwhelmingly unresponsive to online consumer inquiries related to financing, payments or leasing, a mystery shopper study by DAS Technology found.
Only 2 percent of dealerships contacted provided any information when customers asked about these core finance-and-insurance topics, according to the marketing firm. DAS Technology sent more than 1,850 mystery shopper inquiries out to dealerships during the third and fourth quarters of 2022 using channels including dealership websites and Facebook pages.
“What we found was a significant gap of what was asked for versus what was presented back,” DAS Technology COO Jason Barrie told Automotive News in January.
DAS Technology didn’t credit dealerships for offering financial information to the consumer passively, such as including payment sliders on a homepage. If a customer reached out about financing and heard nothing back, the store was counted as unresponsive, Barrie said.
Barrie characterized the lack of communication on F&I as another instance of dealers being hesitant to put information online before relenting.
“I think it’s an evolution as an industry that we’ve been through,” he said. Other research from 2022 supports the notion of meeting shoppers with F&I outside the store.
A CarGurus-GfK spring 2022 poll found 56 percent of recent car buyers want to handle financing online, and a Capital One October 2022 survey of 2,210 recent or impending vehicle buyers found 77 percent of shoppers want more upfront information about pricing and financing, and 34 percent want to understand their financing before visiting the dealership.
DAS Technology saw F&I as a “tremendous growth opportunity” and had invested significant effort in this area throughout 2022 and the second half of 2021, Barrie said. He demonstrated technology from his company allowing a lender and dealer to be co-branded on a webpage for a vehicle considered by a consumer online.
“There’s marketing value in that partnership,” he said.
The DAS Technology mystery shoppers revealed other areas of communication dealerships might wish to improve. The company said 62 percent of dealer responses were automatic, “with no specific vehicle information or pricing despite questions asking about those areas,” and 78 percent of responses “didn’t include alternative vehicles yet most consumers purchase an alternate vehicle or buy after the inquired vehicle is sold.”