by Kevin Coupe

Interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal about how car market Hyundai has decided to “shake up the way its dealers sell cars,” reasoning that in a world where consumer buying habits are rapidly changing, it cannot afford to do business the way it always has.

The program is called “Shopper Assurance,” and it starts by allowing car shoppers - many of whom don’t like going to car dealerships, and who have specific ideas about what they want to buy because of online research - to designate where and when they want to do their test drives; it can be near their homes, or near a local coffee shop, or at work. And, Hyundai also will offer a three-day money-back guarantee on all car purchases.

According to the story, “Hyundai also plans to be more transparent on the pricing published on dealer websites, and will work to speed transactions by allowing customers to complete most of the paperwork before stepping into the showroom.

“Dean Evans, chief marketing officer of Hyundai Motor America, said dealers aren’t forced to participate in Shopper Assurance, but he expects most will. The money-back guarantee has been tried in the industry before, but it isn’t a standard practice—most sales, in fact, are final.”

Evans says that the company has come to the realization that it needs to address issues other than quality, for which Hyundai has a good reputation. But that doesn’t seem to be enough - recent years have had stagnant sales, and US sales this year are down 13 percent. (Sales in general are off in the US car business, but at the moment they’re worse for Hyundai than for most other car companies.)

It is a good and Eye-Opening lesson for every kind of retailer. Now is not the time to do pretty much anything the way it used to be done. If your customers are encountering essentially the same shopping experience as they did one, two or five years ago, then you probably are missing an opportunity to drive new traffic and sales.