I admit it. I fell victim to Amazon Prime Day. However, I still stuck to my guns and completed my due diligence for every purchase. For me, that included researching the price on multiple sites, checking out customer reviews and ratings, and reading the small print on the product description.
I’m not alone in my habits. An Ernst & Young study showed that more than two-thirds of customers now spend less than 10 hours to research their vehicle purchase – down from 15 hours in 2016. This same study showed that consumers spend more time online researching a vehicle than any other online purchase!
In fact, a recent Cox Automotive study found that 43 percent of consumers want to apply for financing or pre-qualify for a loan online. Furthermore, the amount of time spent completing a car purchase is the primary complaint for consumers. Less than half of the car-buyers surveyed were satisfied with the length of the car buying process.
How frequently do your customers contact your financial institution to pre-qualify for an auto loan? Have you run the numbers on your conversion rates between website page views, completed applications, and actual loans finalized? How often do consumers “shop” your site for auto loan rates? If you don’t have the answers to these questions, it’s likely you are losing money on your digital footprint. Let’s look at some of the areas you should track and manage.
Your Brand Is Everything
For today’s digital consumer, brand is everything. Your customers should always think of your financial institution prior to purchasing a vehicle. Is your brand associated with auto loans? Before you jump up to yell, “Yes!”, think about it. Are the majority of your marketing messages for revolving credit cards and bank accounts? The majority of consumers don’t even think about auto loans until they are in the vehicle-buying mindset. So, it makes sense that the majority of your messages revolve around financial products that are more top-of-mind, more often.
However, considering that vehicles are most consumers’ second-largest investment, shouldn’t they also think of your institution first, before even shopping for a car? What are you doing to educate consumers that are in the vehicle-buying mindset? Is the auto lending section of your website built out with more tools than just a finance application? Do you provide education on how to determine how much consumers can afford, or how to determine and save for their vehicle down payment? These features are low-hanging fruit that can go a long way toward building trust in your auto loan products and increasing auto loans.
It’s also important to remember that by 2020, Millennials will be the largest vehicle purchasing population in the United States. Providing education and transparency with this demographic is critical to building lasting consumer relationships with your auto finance products. If your brand is not closely linked with auto loans and you want to increase your book in this area, consider doing some digital re-branding work aimed at your target demographics. Is your competition securing the majority of the loans? Do some research and see how they are positioning their loans.
Your Millennial customers are online all the time for both work and personal use. They manage their own digital footprint across multiple social media platforms and sites. In the last few years, we’ve seen the majority of lenders adopt social media into their marketing outreach. But, once again, it’s important to take a look at your content for these platforms. Do you provide educational auto loan content on social media? Do you give consumers easy-to-reference infographics on vehicle affordability and down payments? Are the people managing your social media presence educated in your auto loan products, and can they speak intelligently about them when consumer questions arise?
Having a good social media presence is more than just creating a Facebook page. It takes content development around all of the financial products and services you provide. In addition, it requires open, two-way communication with consumers. When they have questions, your social media managers need to be equipped to answer them quickly and accurately.
Your Reputation Counts
As I mentioned during my online shopping example, I place high value in reviews and ratings. What used to be known as “word of mouth” is now viewed as reputation management. A personal referral or recommendation wields more power than any type of television ad or promotion. Take a look at how you manage your online reputation. Do you ask for reviews? You’d be surprised how many lending institutions do not. Are your loan officers trained to make the ask at the end of closing a loan? Do your marketing emails include links to leave a review on third-party sites like Google? We live in a service economy, and if your loan officers provide better service than the competition, you should tout that advantage online.
Having a solid digital footprint is a great equalizer. Whether you run a large institution or a smaller operation, perception is reality in marketing speak. You can meet your customers where they live – online – with a very accessible strategy.