Protective Asset Protection wanted to get a reading about how COVID-19 impacted dealers and their efforts to quickly implement digital tools and resources available to consumers shopping for vehicles and F&I product options.

So, the provider of F&I programs, services and dealer owned warranty company programs commissioned an online survey of nearly 400 dealership executives.

According to the survey results released this week, Protective found that the COVID-19 pandemic forced many dealers to quickly implement digital retailing options, resulting in 68% of respondents saying they’re now offering F&I product selection and pricing online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many dealers to quickly implement digital retailing options.

The company reported only 58% of respondents said they were making these F&I options available online before the pandemic. Another 68% of participants said they’re now offering financing options/finance applications online, compared with 55% before the pandemic.

Protective Asset Protection also indicated that digital tools now made available to customers online has certainly had a positive impact for many dealers.

Roughly one in five dealers said their sales have increased as much as 10% since the pandemic went into effect, with dealers leveraging more digital tools.

Looking forward, while 19% of dealers believe their digital retail sales will remain flat, Protective discovered nearly a third — 29% to be exact — said they believe their digital sales will increase slightly.

With more digital retail resources now available, dealers say they will plan further updates and implementations in the coming months:

• Research/review F&I products/protection plans online (65%)

• Purchase F&I products online (55%)

• Select F&I products online (55%)

• Complete the F&I process (all paperwork) online (54%)

• Complete financing application online (47%)

Of those dealers saying they have implemented digital retailing tools online for F&I products, Protective Asset Protection indicated 63% of surveyed dealers said their customers purchased exterior appearance protection and tire and wheel protection.

Another 59% said their customers are purchasing GAP and vehicle service contracts.

“Creating a digital retailing environment with access to F&I product options is paramount to the success of any online retailing strategy,” said Rick Kurtz, senior vice president distribution at Protective Asset Protection.

“Customers today are accustomed to shopping online, and even leveraging online channels for researching financing options for a variety of other purchases,” Kurtz continued in a news release. “It’s important that dealers realize that better online availability will lead to a more educated and comfortable customer earlier in the shopping process, which ultimately improves the chance of a sale.”