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Hyundai launches digital showroom on Amazon

Hyundai has launched a digital showroom on the Amazon Vehicles research hub, the first automaker to create such a page on the massive shopping site.

Amazon became a potential competitor to third-party auto shopping guides in August 2016 when it unveiled the research site. While vehicle detail pages didn't connect consumers to dealers initially, they housed extensive product information one would expect to see on sites such as Cars.com and Autotrader.

Hyundai hopes to separate itself from other manufacturers by building upon the Amazon platform with its own showroom that provides a portal to schedule test drives, a pricing calculator, inventory listings and a dealership locator on Hyundaiusa.com. The showroom also features informational videos on Hyundai's Shopper Assurance program that seeks to add convenience to the shopping process, and the Hyundai Blue Link connected car service's integration with virtual assistant Amazon Alexa.

The ability to send consumers to Hyundai web portals outside of Amazon is a distinct change from typical vehicle pages, which normally keep researchers on the site. Other brands such as Toyota and Honda route users to dealer locators from the detail pages as well.

Hyundai and Amazon have aligned brand values stemming from the automaker's Shopper Assurance initiative -- such as transparent pricing -- that helped make the showroom a reality, said Dean Evans, Hyundai Motor America's chief marketing officer. Shopper Assurance is built around fair-market price listings online, flexible test drives, the ability to handle more of the transaction online and a three-day money-back guarantee on newly purchased vehicles.

"Over time, as consumers learn that Amazon has an auto section worth utilizing, the traffic [will] continue to grow. We think that Amazon autos will become the No. 1 auto research destination you can go to online," Evans said.

Evans said Amazon didn't want to link its consumers to shopping experiences on an automaker's website or at dealerships that weren't customer centric.

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For instance, Evans said it would've been against Amazon's philosophy to send consumers to sites where consumers can't see a legitimate price. So Hyundai's focus on presenting market pricing that accounted for rebates and incentives through Shopper Assurance, Evans said, was a key factor in piquing Amazon's interest in moving forward.

The Hyundai showroom is a continuation of an ongoing relationship with Amazon.

'Prime Now'

The automaker partnered with Amazon in 2016 for an on-demand test-drive program called "Prime Now. Drive Now." for the 2017 Elantra in Los Angeles and Orange County, Calif. People were able to book 45- to 60-minute test drives through Amazon's Prime Now service, which is widely known for delivering groceries and other household items. Under the program, vehicles could be delivered to a person's front door, office or even local coffee shops.

The test-drive program prompted the companies to explore auto retailing on Amazon. The shopping giant didn't bite on Hyundai's initial pitch to drive more traffic to the automaker's web portals.

"Our first approach was pre-Shopper Assurance. After having a quick discussion with them about dropping their customers into our environments, whether that was a website or a dealer's showroom, there wasn't a lot of love for that," Evans said.

"We circled back a few months later and proposed the Shopper Assurance initiative we were rolling out, and it lit up the room. They're looking for brands that want to meet them halfway to ensure that the customer experience at retail is up to their standards."

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