The stakes have never been higher for gaining customers who are obtaining new or used automotive loans. The goldmine of automotive seekers is out there. In fact, according to a CNN Money report, Experian and TransUnion "show record amounts of auto loans at the end of 2014. Not only were drivers buying more cars than any year since 2006, but they were spending more on each car they bought." How much more are people spending? From 2013 to 2014 the average new car loan payment was $482, up $11, and the average used car loan payment was $355, up $3.

The key demographic driving this growth: Millennials, or those born since 1981. Edmunds.com reports that Millennials have increased their total outstanding auto-loan balances by 23% in the past year, which is the biggest jump of any age group. Their average opening loan balances grew by 4.1% in 2014, up $18,678 from $17,942 in 2013. The upper-age of Millennials are now creating young families, stepping into higher-paying jobs, and accessing information online to help them make purchasing decisions. Now is the time to engage those Millennials online, where they are doing their car shopping, to convince them to come to your credit union to get preapproved for a loan, prior to going to an automotive dealer.

Many Millennials are very familiar with online comparison shopping, having been introduced to the Internet at a very young age. Their behavior online has directly impacted the automotive industry and the way people shop for cars. In 2014, CNBC reported that the average buyer now visits just 1.6 dealerships while car shopping, down from 5 dealerships ten years ago. This means that car buyers are doing more of their own leg work online and spending much less time at the dealership.

When it comes to targeting Millennials you have to think like an auto dealership and start shifting your dollars to digital. Auto dealers use techniques that range from pay-per-click, to geo-targeted and behaviorally targeted display ads, Facebook, and video targeting. Since Millennials are one of the biggest consumers of videos online, targeting them with an educational ad advising them to visit their credit union prior to the auto dealer is a great way to get across your message. Auto dealers also behaviorally target their potential customers based on the types of cars they are researching as well as the frequency of keywords they are typing in online.

And if you aren't doing retargeting, you should start. Retargeting follows your current members around online after they've left your site, to encourage them to sign up for more products and services. This could include downloading your new app, refinancing their current auto loan, or taking out a home equity line of credit. Retargeting accounts for a large amount of online conversions. The Financial Brand said "retargeting continually reminds the consumer about the bank or credit union, increasing brand awareness with an increased chance of a conversion."

Getting a digital strategy to target Millennials in the automotive vertical should be a key priority for your credit union right now. Think about how this younger generation is consuming your message online and if you are everywhere you need to be to compete…because others are. Still not sold? Check out the 2015 trend graph on this page of the Financial Services Industry Digital Ad Spending in billions and the forecast for 2019. That double-digital growth is chasing what the Millennials are spending.

Megan Malone is senior partner of Vici Media, Inc.