Online in the real world

This week I had the honour of being shortlisted for an Online Retail Industry Award (ORIAs) for Industry Recognition. It was such a buzz to be a finalist among some of the online world’s movers and shakers. Such recognition was a milestone for me personally as well as for loans.com.au because it shows how far we have come. Loans.com.au took early steps to cement its place in online finance when the sector was yet to establish itself as a legitimate market force. Yet now, time has rushed by and technology has brought big advances to the home lending space in just a few years.

We have been very pleased with our strong growth from the outset and this style of recognition tells me that we are doing something right. It will drive loans.com.au to keep innovating and keep the pressure on the big banks to lower interest rates and rein in their fees.

When we initially entered the market in 2011 there were overtones of pushback from some observers who predicted resistance to change in the banking industry. Only a few short years ago, it was inconceivable that a consumer would apply for a home loan without visiting a bank branch or sitting in front of a broker. Now, financial institutions are falling over themselves to catch up to the online finance revolution; the big banks are pouring millions of dollars into online projects to gain a share of the market we created.

Finance is a comfortable fit for an online marketplace, considering how prevalent money management advice is on the net and how readily armchair reviewers rank their banks. Never before has it been so easy to conduct product comparisons and research lenders. Trust is not born standing in a queue at a bank branch; it comes from delivering good customer service and offering a better product suite than your competitors. And the online space certainly gives customers a forum to voice their satisfaction or grievances to thousands.

The Online Retail conference, home of the ORIAs, has been in existence for five years now. It focuses on the Australian online retail industry and acts as a touch point for the broad array of industry sectors to step out of their virtual realm and meet face to face. It highlights the impressive nature of online innovators in Australia who are keeping pace with the rate at which online retail is growing.

Growth in the sector last year was greater than 10 percent with online retail sales estimated to be $14.6 billion in the 12 months to November 2013. And the success stories keep coming, from the amazing growth of group buying sites such as Catch of the Day, to the appliances buying megastore Appliances Online, and this year’s ORIA winner, Shoes of Prey.

For loans.com.au the trend is consistent. A FY12/13 to FY13/14 comparison shows lead growth of 160 percent and a 153 percent increase in loan applications. In terms of sales performance, loans.com.au’s online-only presence has delivered 187 percent growth in loan volume and a 200 percent increase in loan amounts.

We will keep doing what we do, and doing it well.

By Marie Mortimer. You can follow Marie on Google+

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