If your credit union isn’t offering members the ability to apply for, receive approval for, and check status of an auto loan from anywhere, you may be missing out on sales. As times and purchase habits change, our industry must adapt and stay on the cutting edge of technology. These days, that means conducting business by smartphone, tablet, and mobile device.

According to Pew Research, 77% of Americans across all age groups now own and use a smartphone! That means almost 250 million people in this country are accustomed to accessing information and ordering products and services instantly, anywhere they go. They demand information and services on the spot, and they have a long list of potential new vendors seeking their business. The ease of doing business across the country over mobile devices has positioned your members as easier bait for the competition—banks, out-of-state credit unions, financial startups, and other competitors—to find and steal.

Driving change

Let’s consider the entire auto purchase process and how it’s changed over the last 50 years. In the 1960s, customers had little choice but to visit a car dealership to buy a new car. Information was limited to the salesperson’s take on a vehicle, recommendations from friends or neighbors, and perhaps, some printed magazines and flyers. Today’s buyer doesn’t even have to set foot in a showroom. She can access loads of information online, search models and features in smartphone apps, and research opinions from millions of people instantly through social media. Once she’s narrowed down her choice, she can order the vehicle on the web, submit a purchase through her phone, or even receive the car from an automobile vending machine.

As the auto purchase process changes, of course lending must change with it. If customers are no longer visiting showrooms, they’re far less likely to get their auto loans through a dealership. Just like their auto purchase research, they’ll use their smartphone or tablet to search for auto loans, compare rates and application processes, and select a lender with a good rate and convenient application. If your credit union doesn’t offer the ability to apply for and receive an auto loan in customers’ preferred mobile manner and customize to their needs, you risk being overlooked while other financial institutions and online lenders step in to take that business.

Here are some tips to meet or exceed your members’ and prospects’ expectations for mobile auto loans:

  • Make sure your sites and apps are attractive, clear, easy to navigate, and easy to use.
  • Include all information an applicant would want or need to apply for a loan immediately.
  • Allow prospects to run a high-level, preliminary check before formally submitting an application requiring a credit check.
  • Offer calculators that display how monthly payments change with the loan amount and term.
  • Explain timing of the process from beginning to end, as simply as possible.

Don’t get left in the rearview mirror

There are always plenty of legitimate reasons why changing to keep up with, let alone stay ahead of, technology and the industry are too difficult or feels impossible. Unfortunately, we have only two choices: get in the driver’s seat and make the adjustments needed or get left behind, in the rearview mirror. There are numerous examples of companies that were hugely successful in their time but stubbornly refused to recognize the need for change. Consider BlackBerry®. Ten years ago, BlackBerry made more than half the mobile phones used in the United States. Unfortunately, company officials assumed BlackBerry would always be on top and chose to ignore signs the market was shifting. As a result, BlackBerry was left in the dust when Apple introduced the iPhone and made touchscreens the norm.

We can and should learn from others’ mistakes: times have changed, and lenders who don’t take control of the wheel now will be left behind. Perform an inspection of your credit union’s systems and technology today, and create a checklist of new parts and repairs needed to ensure your credit union can compete with every other lender on the road.