Saturn Redefines the Car-buying Experience—Again.

Saturn needed a new retail metaphor to connect with customers and drive sales growth in support of its new line-up of vehicles


TWENTY YEARS AGO, SATURN MADE ITS NAME by being the world’s first people-friendly car company. With its no-dicker sticker pricing, Saturn flipped the script on an industry known for hardball negotiations. Saturn made such a splash, in fact, that every other car company on the planet copied its approach to sales. Jump and Saturn worked together to reclaim the car sales experience crown.

Boosting sales with a unique retail experience

Saturn made its name as the company that made buying a car fun. Starting in 1990, honest pricing, a family atmosphere and a commitment to openness helped Saturn change the car-buying experience from negative to friendly. But 15 years on, many of the company’s pioneering methods had been adopted by competitors. Saturn needed a new retail metaphor to connect with customers and drive sales growth. In 2005 it turned to Jump to help Saturn take a leap to the next level, crafting a retail experience that met the needs of its customers in a unique, proprietary way.

Moving customers from isolation to empowerment in car sales

Together, Saturn and Jump went to 30 of the most highly regarded retail stores in the country posing as shoppers, complete with shopping lists and back stories, and went through the entire retail experience. We pieced apart the metaphors, scripts and emotions they impart to visitors. Among many other discoveries, we learned that most car dealers seek to isolate their customers during the sales process so they become more susceptible to sales pressure. The team recommended that Saturn model its dealerships on an interactive museum to empower and engage visitors. The problem wasn’t design—it was the story being told by the retail environment. Like a play, brands have a story and emotions they want the audience to feel. Jump worked to combine the elements of cast, costumes, set, props and script together to reframe the customer experience—again.

Rolling out the results to a national network of retailers in record time

Saturn unveiled the retail vision at national events. The company enthusiastically embraced the new metaphor, extending the concept and refining it into a dealership redesign plan with the help of architecture firm Design Forum. The team created concepts for multimedia displays, improved interactions with sales staff, and conceived of large magnetic paint chips that help people envision their car in different colors. More importantly, the five essential design principles from the project are still in use at Saturn and have been guiding almost everything the company does when considering its customer experience. The first retailer to implement the new design enjoyed sales 20 percent higher than other dealers in its region.

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