A couple of quick confessions. I love to shop online, but I hate to wait for things to be shipped to me.
A couple years ago, for example, I reluctantly bought a new laptop bag online as my family was getting ready to go away on vacation. I had to buy it online because it wasn't available in a store. I chose the most expedited shipping service because we were leaving for vacation the next afternoon. As it happens, my house tends to be in the area where the UPS truck hits last before heading back to the warehouse at the end of the day, so I ended up delaying the start of our vacation by a few hours because I waited for the bag to be delivered. Standing there in my garage, looking up and down the block waiting for the UPS truck to make the turn and stop in front of our house, was interminable. I'm too impatient to wait for something I want to be dropped off by a truck and driver who's paid by the hour.
There's a dynamic -- or epidemic, depending on how you look at it -- called showrooming, where people go into a retail store, find an item they like, and then go online to purchase it, because they can usually find it cheaper. But a lot of people are like me and don't want to wait for it or to pay shipping. So retailers are getting smart. More retailers are offering services to buy items online and then pick them up in the store, often on the same day. It's part of a strategy meant to get customers back into the store and to try to keep them coming back.
What struck me most about the article is a quote from the chief executive of Walmart.com:
"…You can either fight these trends that are happening… or you can embrace them," he said. "We have a lot of assets, but they're only assets if you embrace the trends of the customers."
Walmart is even seeing a significant number of customers who buy something online, indicating that they are going to pay cash for it when they get to the store, and then use a credit or debit card when they pick up their purchase. The customers are reluctant to use their credit or debit cards online because of worries about hackers and identity thieves.
Auto lenders and auto dealers are subject to the same trends and whims of their customers. Yes, I know I've argued that car dealerships are not entirely necessary, but they do serve a purpose for a large segment of the population. And lenders and dealers need to adapt to the shifting behaviors of their clients. If people are looking for an opportunity to start a transaction online and then finish it in person, where they're more comfortable, then lenders should offer that option. Can I start an application online and then complete it in a bank branch or credit union?
My kids' youth soccer league just started to use a new online league management system for handling registrations. This is the first time the league has offered this kind of service, and as a board member for the league, I'm curious how it will be received. One of the questions I asked the software provider was if we could get a breakdown of the number of registrations that were started -- but not completed. Sadly, they don't offer that particular data point, but I think that request speaks to the heart of the trend. I want to know if someone starts, but doesn't finish, registering, so I can learn why that person stopped and if there's something that can be done to make sure the registration is completed.
Yes, the world is moving more business online. And yes, lenders need to be on top of that evolution. But those people who are reluctant to do business online, or unable to, still require service, too.