Last week my colleague, Megan Lester, shared insight into our expectations for the LendIt conference leading up to the show. Megan and I just returned from the event earlier this week, and we wanted to recap what was a very fun and informative event.
First, we were surprised by the size of LendIt and how well it was run. As direct marketers we love data, so let’s start with some stats: There were 3,500 attendees from 49 countries. Of those, 34% were from lending platforms, 32% were investors, 28% were service providers and 6% were media. There were 150 booths and the expo floor was constantly busy.
Just as importantly, the sessions were very informative and well attended. The keynote presentations were standing room only and most of the other educational sessions were at capacity. When I took a break from the sessions to walk the expo floor, I was surprised at how active it was. Attendees were looking to engage in conversations to better their businesses and the online lending industry.
Online Lending Industry Looks to Earn Greater Trust, Adapt to Change
Perhaps the best presentation I attended was the first day keynote from Renaud Laplanche, founder and CEO of Lending Club. He was extremely informative about the current state of the industry and described that while it is still in the early adopter stage, it is quickly moving into the early majority stage of an industry lifecycle. He also provided an overview on the newly created Marketplace Lending Association and explained they are welcoming input from regulators to increase the level of trust in the industry and to establish high operating standards. His take on the future of the industry and how it’s disrupting the way we do traditional banking was also very instructive. He referenced a recent survey that shows 50% of millennials expect tech startups to change the way they bank and that 33% think they will not need a bank at all soon.
The session on “Direct Mail in a Modern Era” was the biggest surprise of the show for me. It was a packed house with people standing along the walls and in the hall because there wasn’t enough room (Megan actually couldn’t find a seat and ended up standing). I wish that LendIt would have responded to our request to sit on this panel as we could have given the room a lot of insight into the use of direct mail. Despite the major players leading the way, the online lending industry doesn’t seem to fully understand how impactful direct mail can be to their customer acquisition efforts. However, we were encouraged when the moderator asked the room how many people were not leveraging direct mail but had it in their near-term plans – half the room raised their hands. Although the session was informative, I couldn’t help but feel we could have added a lot of valuable insight on the strategic use of direct mail for online lending. We hope to be on a similar panel next year.
Big Changes Ahead
It’s important to note that online lending has just scratched the surface of the overall consumer lending segment and is projected to increase 10x over the next 10 years. It was very interesting to find out that these FinTech companies had a large session dedicated to helping them utilize mobile to target their customers. 52% of customers say faster load speeds on mobile sites is important to brand loyalty, so marketing and IT departments need to work together even more closely in the future to address customer needs.
As Megan noted, growth is inevitable in this category. However, several organizations commented that raising capital has become more challenging and it’s increasingly important to diversify capital sources. There are greenfield opportunities to carve out new businesses in areas that aren’t already maxed out. Technology is serving this asset class well in allowing marketplace lenders to be responsive, adapt on the fly, easily organize and analyze data – something lacking in a traditional lending environment. Keynote speaker, Peter Thiel, stated “Big banks forgot about technology and new things. They’re culturally and politically geared against innovation.”
It will be increasingly important for marketplace lenders to differentiate their company and their product as the space becomes more crowded. Crafting a compelling message that clearly articulates the benefits across multiple marketing channels is key.
Based on our work with online lending clients, we were already confident about the power of direct mail for this industry. But LendIt reaffirmed our belief that the future is bright for both the industry and the channel. If you’d like to talk further about my thoughts on the show or strategies for using direct mail, please let me know.
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