3 Steps for Lenders to Manage and Track a Digital Footprint

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Thanks to the recent Amazon Prime Day and the barrage of promotions, many consumers have nearly completed their Christmas shopping. It’s likely that these purchases were fully researched, including checking the price on multiple sites, investigating customer reviews and ratings, and reading the small print on the product description.

These consumers are not alone in their habits. An Ernst & Young study showed that over 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 car than any other online purchase.

In fact, a recent Cox Automotive study found that 43% 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 customers contact a financial institution to pre-qualify for an auto loan? Have lenders run the numbers on their conversion rates between website page views, completed applications, and actual loans finalized? How often do consumers “shop” a lenders site for auto loan rates? If a company doesn’t have the answers to these questions, it’s likely they are losing money on their digital footprint. Let’s look at some of the areas lenders should track and manage.

Brand Is Everything

For today’s digital consumer, brand is everything. Customers should always think of the financial institution prior to purchasing a vehicle. Is the brand associated with auto loans? Before a lender jumps up to yell, “yes!”, think about it. Are the majority of 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 car-buying mindset. So, it makes sense that the majority of your messages revolve around financial products that are more top-of-mind.

However, considering that vehicles are most consumer’s second-largest investment, shouldn’t they also think of the institution first, before even shopping for a car? What are lenders doing to educate consumers that are in the car-buying mindset? Is the auto lending section of the website built out with more tools than just a finance application? Does it provide education on how to determine how much car consumers can afford, or how to determine and save for their down payment? These features are low-hanging fruit that can go a long way towards 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 a lenders auto finance products. If the brand is not closely linked with auto loans and the lender wants to increase its book in this area, consider doing some digital re-branding work aimed at the target demographics. Is the competition securing the majority of the loans? Do some research and see how they are positioning their loans.

Get Social

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,  the majority of lenders have adopted social media into their marketing outreach. But, once again, it’s important to take a look at the content for these platforms. Do lenders provide auto loan educational content on social media? Do lenders give consumers easy-to-reference infographics on vehicle affordability and down payments? Are the people managing the social media presence educated in the lenders auto loan products to 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 provided. In addition, it requires open, two-way communication with consumers. When they have questions, social media managers need to be equipped to answer them quickly and efficiently.

Reputation Counts

As referenced by the Amazon shopping example, consumers 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 reviews are requested. Are the loan officers trained to make the ask at the end of closing a loan? Do marketing emails include links to leave a review on third-party sites like Google? We live in a service economy and if lenders provide better service than the competition, they should tout that advantage online.

Having a solid digital footprint is a great equalizer. Whether it’s running a large institution or a smaller operation, perception is reality in marketing speak. Lenders can meet their customers where they live – online – with a very accessible strategy.

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