retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

As all businesses struggle to best delight and connect with shoppers in the new world of uber-convenient competition, it’s interesting to find examples of companies actively recreating some traditional experiences. Especially experiences that shoppers generally think suck.

For example, there’s probably no shopping experience worse than buying car tires. It’s expensive, always inconvenient, confusing and, to top it off, requires that you sit in a crappy waiting room for a far longer period than you have been promised.

Now, Goodyear seems to understand that it’s clearly an experience ripe for remaking. Or, dare I say, disruption.

A shopping mall near me (inexplicably, my part of Maryland seems to be ground zero for this experiment) has an unusual store called Roll. The store, in a typical mall space, has a wall decorated with car tires, but no service bays or anything else you’d expect in a tire shop.

As the lone employee explained to me, Roll is about reinventing the tire shopping experience.

Step 1: Either in the store or on-line (www.rollbygoodyear.com), you can select tires guided by information from Goodyear on what your car might actually need.

But then comes the change.

Step 2 is about choosing your method of installation. Goodyear will dispatch a mobile van to your house, office or wherever you are to install the tires right there. Alternatively you can drop off your car at a Goodyear location or Goodyear will come get your car and return it with new tires.

Step 3 is “do your own thing” or, as Goodyear says, “go enjoy your time while we change your tires.” No more sitting around that waiting room. Stay at home or in the office and Goodyear solves the problem for you.

Granted this is just an experiment and frankly, the Roll store isn’t packing them in at the Mall, but it’s worth considering. Anytime a company actively takes on a problem that shoppers hate strikes me as a potential big win.

The second great example or solving a sucky experience comes from Hyundai. The South Korean car maker you might recall did a masterful job of meeting customer needs back at the depths of the 2008 recession with its Assurance program that allowed customers to undo a new car purchase if they suddenly had a major (negative) economic turn of events. In other words, if you lost your job suddenly, Hyundai would take your car back.

The program worked. Hyundai was the only car company to record sales gains during the downturn.

Now Hyundai is going at all the miserable parts of the car buying experience with Shoppers Assurance, a program CNet.com says completely overhauls the process and looks like a winner. As CNet reports: Shopper Assurance improves the experience four ways. First, it allows customers to find all the pricing information on Hyundai cars on line so the entire process of haggling and hunting for deals disappears and everything becomes transparent.

Then, Hyundai offers a “flexible test drive,” which allows the shopper to book a test drive and have the car brought to them. Third, if the shopper likes the car all the paperwork can be done on line for simplicity. And fourth, if the customer has second thoughts, he or she can cancel the purchase at no cost and return the car for three days after buying it. CNet reports that initial surveys show fantastic satisfaction among shoppers and clear signs that the program is convincing them to consider and buy a Hyundai.

Both these programs are worth thinking about, regardless of your business, because both are clear signs of businesses recognizing how their shoppers can be overwhelmed or put off by interactions that can be improved.

Time to ask yourself how you too can fix those things that suck.


Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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