At the helm of marketing efforts for one of the largest captives in the nation — boasting a near $80 billion portfolio — Will Stacy, executive vice president and chief marketing and digital officer has led the charge to define and promote the GMF brand, establishing a clear path forward while presenting the captive’s value proposition to its customers.
Stacy leads a team responsible for consumer- and dealer facing marketing communication through web, mobile, video, social media and print. His team also provides oversight and guidance for corporate branding, employee communications and media relations.
As the industry faces the struggles of a global pandemic, digital customizations are more vital than ever.
“The challenge, as an industry and as a company, we will face is with customers and their expectations,” Stacy said, noting that the captive’s call center strategy will hinge on technology tools. “With technologies, we can help customers get their answers quicker, especially given the novel coronavirus.”
To that end, Stacy shared with Auto Finance News his primary focus on digital tools and his expectations for the marketing landscape in 2020. What follows is an edited version of Stacy’s conversation with AFN during the Auto Finance Sales & Marketing Summit on March 9.
Auto Finance News: When it comes to industry wide marketing trends, what does the landscape look like today?
Will Stacy: I have dual reporting at GM Financial, which means I report to our President of North American Operations Kyle Birch and Deborah Wahl, global chief marketing officer at General Motors. What I’m seeing, especially in the captives space, is the merging of the captive and manufacturer.
Many captives like Toyota Financial Services and others never had a split like GMF did, so they’ve always operated as one. But for us, we had that split with AmeriCredit. We were two different companies and still are two linear companies. We are working more and more to provide a customer experience as one company.
In the marketing landscape, it’s figuring out how to make the experience better for the consumer. Consumers don’t really understand the split between the dealership, manufacturer and lender. To them, they think of it as one — it’s all Chevrolet. Knowing that, how do we make that experience as seamless as possible across all the different entities consumers contact?
So, the immersion of the experience is No. 1. Also, onboarding — today it can take 10-15 days after the loan is born to onboard the customer. We have to figure out a way onboard at the same time a customer buys a car.
Another trend includes mobile-only experiences because there are consumers that have never touched a desktop. Voice is also a trend — there are projections that by 2025 voice search will outbid what you see on search engines. It’s hard to believe, but possible. We have an updated IVR [interactive voice response] system that is in the process of moving quickly to upgrade to incorporate Alexa, Siri and Google Home. We have to make voice very easy and practical because customers expect to see that.
AFN: Can you share what inspired this change as you lead the charge toward this strategy shift?
WS: General Motors is one of the largest purchasers of software in the world. We looked at what General Motors was using that GMF could use for cheap or free — and that was the Adobe Experience Cloud, which is a collection of integrated online marketing and web analytic tools by Adobe Systems. With the platform, we can send specialized campaigns and push notifications to customers.
For example, if a Chevy customer logs on we can send them a Chevy ad. Also, this Adobe stack of tools allows us to stay in line with what General Motors does.
Finally, experience with the mobile app is top of mind. People want to be able to have the full experience on their phone, where self-verification is thumb or face ID. We incorporated that into our mobile app last year on iOS and Android. We now have more than 1.3 million users on the mobile app.
AFN: You mentioned GMF is revamping its IVR system?
WS: I’ve been taking a deep dive into Amazon Connect, and I’m in the middle of trying to set up a pilot this year to see what we can do with Amazon. It’s really remarkable what you can do with these cloud-based platforms. It’s also more cost effective than a traditional IVR system. Marketing for us is not necessarily having a huge brand campaign. My work is the experience — if you have a good experience for the customer, that’s going to drive loyalty. Working on GMF’s digital platform, that’s really what we focus on.
AFN: What headwinds will the industry face that may hinder marketing strategies?
WS: GMF has been in growth mode, and we still are as we try to surpass our competitors. With that said, we are being compared with industry veterans in the captive space for how our cost per customer is. In 2020 and beyond, we need to be more efficient and oftentimes that means cost-cutting. For my department that means ingesting resources because if we invest in digital the less we have to invest in big call centers. So I’ve actually been given some more budget this year to help the organization lower costs around our digital transformation for consumers or dealers — optimization and operating expenses is a big key to that.
AFN: What final piece of advice would you share with readers looking to enhance marketing initiatives?
WS: I encourage colleagues to be a customer of your company. Experience your company on a mobile phone — don’t use a web browser on a desktop — and try making calls as a customer. I also encourage viewing customer complaint data every day. I see it as a gift. I get reviews and comments from the mobile app from the iOS, Android and Google Play store. That feedback from customers is a gift and we should use it.
Editor’s note: This article was originally featured in the April issue of Auto Finance News, out now.