Many financial institutions sell or auction repossessed vehicles to the public. However, not many use this by-product of installment lending as a prospecting tool on their homepage.
We came across this novel approach at Houston Federal Credit Union <houstonfcu.org> while putting together a presentation titled "Extreme Website Makeovers" for an upcoming American Bankers Associate conference. The first place we looked for inspiration was the client list of Trabian, a talented new website designer concentrating on the credit union market (grab a feed to their outstanding blog, OpenSourceCU here).
Trabian's client, HFCU, includes a link to its vehicle auctions on the right-side of its homepage (see screenshot below). Clicking on the box takes users to the main auction page where any registered user may bid on the vehicle (in this case, just a single motorcycle was up for auction).
Everyone loves a good deal, and unlike retailers who can drop a loss-leader on their homepage to generate excitement, financial institutions have far fewer options. Vehicle auctions provide an interesting way to encourage members to check back periodically to see if they could get a smoking hot deal on a used sedan, truck, or bass boat.
It's also a good prospecting tool. Nonmembers are allowed to register on the site and bid. This provides the credit union an immediate opportunity to make a sales pitch such as the "Wish your auto loan was at HFCU instead?" in the center of the page.
The email address supplied by the bidder also enables the CU to market to the nonmember in future emails. Finally, anyone who buys the auctioned vehicle is a great candidate for an HFCU loan, which are positioned in the upper-right of the auction page (see screenshot below).
Making it even better
We love the idea, and it works well even in its relatively simple form. It would be even better with a few additions:
- It would drive even more traffic with an email and RSS feed option for receiving information on new auction items and for monitoring bids.
- The credit union would generate more interest by including a variety of vehicles (even if they bought a few at auction to seed the site). Today's sole entry was a 2005 Suzuki motorcycle with a buy-it-now price of $6300.
- The auction format and tools are relatively crude by today's standards. For example, it wasn't obvious who the other bidders were, how long it had been up for auction, or what the next bid needed to be. There are numerous auction services that could provide a more eBay-like experience.
- It would be helpful to integrate the auction more closely with the loan center so users could easily calculate monthly payments, insurance costs, etc.