By Jim Maxim, Jr. – In 2008, in the award-winning film about entrepreneurialism and greed There Will be Blood, actor Daniel Day-Lewis won an Academy Award for his menacing portrayal of oil miner Daniel Plainview. In a pivotal scene, Plainview describes how he uses diagonal drilling — like angling a drinking straw from his claim underground to his competitors’ — to drain away their oil and selling it as his, exclaiming, “I drink your milkshake!”
Who’s drinking your milkshake?
There is a breed of company, known as “fintechs,” making big moves by responding to the shifting retail paradigm driven by consumers through new technologies. FintechWeekly.com describes them as businesses competing directly with banks to sell financial services and solutions to consumers – and by extension (my words), siphoning away a share of your customers’ wallet.
Dealers have one or two options in the face of this new competition. One, do nothing and watch your revenue drain away or, two, embrace fintechs as your business partners who will route more warm leads to your door. Do so by collaborating with them through a partnership with your digital sales and F&I technology providers. They can help you leverage fintechs’ consumer appeal, so you can also capture a share of this growing opportunity.
Please understand that the fintech challenge isn’t a pure technology-driven one. Instead, it’s a response to your customers, who’ve asked for more accessible, more transparent, and more flexible ways to do business with dealers – and the industry’s response hasn’t met consumer expectations.
Of course, our industry is responding – and in meaningful and significant ways. One example is the emerging digital retail automotive ecosystem that helps dealers to deliver an end-to-end digital sales and F&I experience.
If you ignore Mr. Plainview’s strategy for your dealership consumer channels now, it may be too late for you to benefit from these revenue flows. Unbridled fintechs will continue to nibble nimbly at your operation using apps, interactive ads, and in-game experiences and embedded technologies all along your customers’ car-shopping journey. They’ll grab their attention and revenue from their earliest touch points, via media, online search and other channels — and right into your sales and service departments.
Don’t let them do that.
Noted Bank Innovation magazine, “Dealer channels are a vital source in such a business [as auto dealerships]; customer buying behavior is evolving, and this poses a challenge to the existing norm. As direct channels emerge, this will affect the buying behavior of cars. Challenges can emerge when the journey of a dealer and end customer is reimagined.”
The correlation to the car business may not be precisely parallel in the following example, but a report out of Ireland offers some cautions. Independent.IE believes Irish financial services firms could experience revenue losses of up to 40 percent to fintech operators over the next three to five years.
Forbes discussed the threat four years ago: “Transparent online and mobile platforms will not only empower borrowers to access the best products available to them in the market, but they will also cut out the spreads that dealers currently layer on finance and insurance products.”
In the meantime, the industry is watching TrueCar, Carvana, and now “Cars as a Service” (CaaS) startups like FlexDrive, Clutch, and others redefine the dealership model — forcing (the more agile) dealers to innovate quickly to respond and compete.
You want to be alert to fintech’s reach into your pockets. Here are a few applications used by fintechs that may be doing that, but which you can utilize to keep those activities yours:
- Credit application apps
- Trade appraisal apps
- Finance and leasing apps
- F&I insurance product apps
- CaaS (Cars as a Service) apps
- End-to-end buy, sell, and finance via smartphone apps
Partners in the new paradigm
You can respond proactively to this challenge. Start dialoguing about this today with your technology providers — those who have demonstrated loyalty and commitment to the auto industry, your dealership, and your customers.
The right partners will also understand how potential fintech technologies threaten your business. Their expertise can help you instead leverage the same digital mechanisms so that the customers and business those apps threaten will remain yours.
Ideal partners for this most-urgent competitive response will bring to the table:
- Deep digital experience with end-to-end sales and F&I channels
- A senior-level working knowledge of changing consumer behaviors, lifestyles and their purchasing needs, interests, and how they want to engage with you and other retailers
- The track record, platform, apps, and tools to fast-track your infrastructure and culture to deliver highly functional, customer-interactive, predictive analysis-based consumer applications that help you brand your store along the customer journey to pull more consumers’ transportation dollars into your store
- A broad industry perspective coupled with a clear vision of how to help you utilize those fintech providers that make sense for you — and how to put into place those same technologies for you and focus them to your win-win advantage
Give the following urgent consideration:
- Recognize where your customers’ eyes are. That is where their decisions and transactions are happening.
- What decisions are consumers making ahead of meeting you?
- Partner with technology companies who can help capture those eyes, engage them — wherever they are in their shopping journey — and keep the revenue stream flowing to you.
Customer competition is not going away. The consumer controls retail today; put into motion processes that reach buyers where they are, with the right messages, solutions, and products to earn their trust, establish brand awareness, and make it easier for them to do business with you, both online and in your store.
About the author
Jim Maxim, Jr. is president of MaximTrak, a RouteOne company, and chief digital officer for RouteOne, a provider of digital F&I platforms for dealers. He is an F&I visionary recognized by CIO Review magazine, a frequent panelist and speaker at various F&I conferences and summits, and a contributor to automotive retail media about evolving F&I technologies. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Brainwave Technologies. “Embedded Digital Technologies Will Transform Auto Finance Originations,” Bank Innovation, July 16, 2018, https://bankinnovation.net/2018/07/embedded-digital-technologies-will-transform-auto-finance-originations/
 Colm Kelpie. “Financial Services Firms Fear a 40pc Revenue Hit from Fintech,” Independent.IE, June 20, 2017, https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/news/financial-services-firms-fear-a-40pc-revenue-hit-from-fintech-35844499.html
 Arjan Schütte. “Disrupting Auto Finance,” Forbes blog, October 31, 2014, https://www.forbes.com/sites/arjanschutte/2014/10/31/disrupting-auto-finance/#6492e027201e