I'm a big believer in chaos theory. You've heard the analogy used to describe chaos theory: a butterfly flaps its wings in China, and in Central Park it starts to rain.
As I see it, one of the primary tenets of chaos theory is connectivity. Everything is connected to everything else. Call it six degrees of separation, call it the facebooking of the world, but I like to believe that if I get up at the same time every morning and follow the same routine, then whatever happened yesterday will happen today. If I followed a routine this morning and didn't get hit by a bus, then I won't get hit by a bus tomorrow if I do the same thing.
My mind works in very silly ways sometimes, but I wanted to use this brief insight into my inner workings to set the table for a report that has absolutely nothing to do with auto finance, but from which lenders could learn a lot.
A study released earlier this month by iPerceptions, a Montreal-based research consultancy, surveyed more than 41,000 people who had visited the websites of car manufacturers during the fourth quarter of 2011.
Of most interest to lenders is the key finding of the report, which is that vehicle pricing -- more than comparing models or researching vehicles -- is the primary concern consumers visit a carmaker's website.
And yet even though price was on the minds of so many consumers, the purchase horizon for new cars is getting further away. Just more than 31% of the respondents were planning to purchase a vehicle in the next three months, down from 33.5% in the third quarter of 2011. The percentage of people who were either not in the market or who were not planning to buy for at least six months increased to 51.8%, from 50.3%.
What lenders should take away from these results is to adjust the messaging on their sites to focus more on the soft sell instead of the "Hurry in today for a great deal" message.
One final takeaway from the study is that manufacturers -- and lenders -- should pay more attention to their search-engine optimization efforts. For the second straight quarter, more respondents accessed these websites via a search engine than by any other means.
This doesn't mean that everyone should run to Google AdWords and buy "car loans" search results by the bucketful. It means that lenders should be using their sites more as an educational tool than a marketing vehicle. By posting content on a regular basis and linking to legitimate articles on other websites, they can help make sure they appear on the first page of organic search results.
You don't need to believe in chaos theory to see the connection between an effective marketing campaign and how it can lead to more loan originations.