Auto loan campaigns have been the bread and butter of credit union marketers for as long as we have worked with credit unions. We would be hard-pressed to find a credit union that is not interested in advertising their auto loans and doesn't consider them a high priority.
But suddenly, auto loan campaigns aren't effective and it's not the campaign's fault. The current vehicle shortage caused by the semiconductor chip shortage means that there is very limited inventory for those who do want to purchase. Thus, even a perfectly optimized campaign is going to struggle to result in auto loan applications (especially those that result in funded loans).
Credit unions have to consider their options in such a tricky time and decide how best to proceed.
A vehicle shortage like this one hasn't been such a serious issue since the 1980s, long before marketers would have had to decide how to proceed with their digital marketing strategy. Credit union marketers are now in unchartered waters forced to strategize a new plan.
How is the Semiconductor Chip Shortage Affecting Credit Unions?
We have a front-row seat to how the vehicle shorage is affecting credit unions as we speak with multiple credit unions every day. Here are some recent experiences that are worth sharing:
- Some auto dealerships are rejecting customers coming with preapprovals in hand, requiring that buyers use dealership financing.
- Dealerships are charging up to $10,000 over MSRP on select new vehicles due to the demand. This, of course, is a deterrent to buyers. If a buyer can wait for more inventory to become available, this additional charge is certainly an incentive to do so.
- Credit unions are heavy on deposits right now due to unemployment benefits and stimulus checks. They have increased pressure to loan that money out but are struggling to do so without cars available for members to purchase.
What Should Credit Union Marketers Do?
Many credit unions have run auto loan campaigns for years. But if the applications that result from existing auto loan campaigns are leading to few funded loans is there a point of continuing?
Let's look at your options:
- Keep running existing auto loan campaigns
- Change ad messaging to refinancing
- Put together an extremely competitive offer
- Pivot campaigns to promote another product
Each of these options comes with pros and cons—let's talk through those.
If you keep running your existing auto loan campaign:
- Members might apply to have a preapproval in hand when inventory is available.
- You can give the creative an update.
- You should be prepared to see the rate of funded loans go down, at least for the time being.
- In the digital marketing space, resisting change doesn't usually yield the best results.
If you change ad messaging to refinancing:
- You are likely to have more bites on the campaign than traditional auto loan campaigns right now.
- You will be doing a service to your members who can save money by refinancing.
- Many financial organizations are doing this which makes competition (and cost) extremely high in the advertising space.
- Most members who have wanted to refinance have likely already done so.
- It does not fill the gap of a regular (typically successful) auto loan campaign.
If you put together an extremely competitive offer:
- This is a member experience play. Existing members appreciate generous offers (we've seen "drop your rate by 2%" and "up to $500 cash back").
- Competitive offers will attract new members.
- Not all credit unions have the assets necessary to make such offers.
- Other departments may need to collaborate with the marketing team to determine what to offer.
If you switch advertising to another product:
- The products that you don't normally focus on can get some extra attention (i.e. credit cards or personal loans).
- These other products are often smaller loans.
- Unsecured loans (like most credit cards and personal loans) are riskier to the credit union.
This is a tricky time to market credit union auto loans. You will need to think strategically about which direction makes the most sense in your situation. The answer is not going to be the same for every organization.
When Will the Semiconductor Chip Shortage End?
The short answer is we don't know.
The long answer is that some experts predict that the semiconductor chips will be in greater supply by the end of 2021 or early 2022. That said, vehicles aren't the only products that use semiconductor chips (they are in everything from smartphones to washing machines) so the auto industry won't instantly recover with the increased supply of chips. The newly produced chips will need to work their way into the supply chain. Intel CEO Patrick Gelsinger predicts that the impact of the shortage might still be felt in 2023.
While this news is not music to the ears of credit union marketers, we are not calling it doomsday either. Now is a time for flexibility and creative, strategic thinking.
We are watching this situation closely and looking for the best solutions as it continues to develop. If you want to talk through how your credit union may need to pivot auto loan campaigns with our digital marketing experts, please reach out.