Traditional online vehicle searches which demand that car buyers select a car manufacturer brand first are “too limiting”, according to iVendi.
Research conducted by the online motor finance specialist shows that where online used car buyers are given the option to type into a free field rather than using old-style drop down boxes, fewer than half will specify a manufacturer and model.
James Tew, iVendi’s chief executive, said that that only 45% of customer would search for a particular car while 27% made a lifestyle search such as “small SUV” and 15% would choose a mixture of the two such as “BMW convertible”.
The thinking reflects that behind cinch, BCA’s new consumer-facing online car retail platform launched earlier this year, which aims to prioritise car buyers lifestyle to tailor an online search.
Tew said: “In the past few years, there has only really been one key innovation in online search – the ability to search by monthly payment. Otherwise, most dealer web sites and car portals are still using drop down boxes.
“The fact is that, unless someone looking for a used car knows exactly what they want, it’s not a good way of finding something. So for those who want a Ford Fiesta and know they can afford one that is three years old, it works. For others, it is likely to be a frustrating process that delivers many, many useless results.
“The challenge for future search technology is really to provide highly relevant results for car buyers who have a much less defined idea about what they want.”
Tew said that many traditional online searches deliver too many irrelevant results for these people instead of a small number of targeted outcomes, an issue that iVendi hopes to address with a forthcoming software development.
“The three fundamental factors that drive the majority of car purchasing journeys are vehicle choice, location and affordability. Good search should be all about helping larger numbers of customers find results that meet their needs in all of those areas.
“One way of doing this is the use of intuitive, lifestyle language that is closer to the way a significant number of consumers conceive of their car buying preferences. For example, searches could be made for ‘German prestige SUVs’ or ‘cheap family car’.
“However, it is also potentially possible to use the search history of a customer online to predict their likes. The phrases ‘fast coupe or ‘practical family car’ have very different meanings to different people. The technology could be used to ascertain much more closely what the person in question is looking for.
“There are also innovations to be made in how finance and location are integrated into the results, again with the intention of putting the right car on the screen in front of the customer earlier in the process. It’s an exciting area.”