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Aug 27 2015

Over the years, online vehicle shopping has grown in popularity. For many consumers, it’s an easy way to educate themselves on current vehicle makes, models, and features, as well as what they should pay for each vehicle before ever stepping foot in the dealership. Still, there is plenty of room for improving the online vehicle shopping experience.

There are many vehicle shoppers that do not have brand loyalty to a certain manufacturer, and may not know a ton about cars. This large group of consumers often find the online vehicle shopping experience overwhelming. With hundreds of models and thousands of options to choose from, they don't know how to start searching for their next vehicle.

The vast majority of auto listing sites and dealership inventory search tools have rigid functionality with limited search filters, such as make, model, trim, body style and price range. This is not the way online shoppers are used to shopping.  When shopping for other products on the web, consumers expect to refine their searches by features, ratings, and other attributes that are most important to them. Some might refer to this as an "Amazon style" shopping experience.

Surprisingly, there are few online vehicle shopping tools that support this kind of shopping experience. This is a tremendous opportunity to differentiate your vehicle inventory listings from your competitors. In this post we've included 9 advanced search filters that will really enhance the vehicle shopping experience for all consumers, from enthusiast to non-enthusiast.

1. Safety Features

Safety is often an important criterion for many vehicle shoppers. Especially parents purchasing a vehicle for their newly licensed teen(s), or families with young children. 

The problem with shopping for vehicles with safety in mind is that there are so many more safety options available today than the basic safety equipment of the past. Many vehicles also offer adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation, backup cameras, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, parking sensors, and additional knee and rear side airbags as standard or optional equipment.

For quite some time many of these features were only available for luxury vehicles, but have since trickled down to the remainder of the vehicle market. With such a large number of consumers prioritizing vehicle safety, allowing shoppers to filter inventory by safety features should be a no-brainer.  

2. Fuel Economy

Aside from recent vehicle purchase statistics, fuel economy was a very high priority for many vehicle shoppers as the U.S. average cost of gas was up to $3.70 per/gal last year. Since the average cost of gas dropped to $2 per/gal this past Jan and has only increased to ~$2.60 per/gal currently, many vehicle shoppers have put aside hybrids and bought SUVs and trucks again.

However, there are still many drivers that commute long distances to work and would prefer a fuel efficient vehicle. Giving vehicle shoppers the option to sort their searches by fuel efficiency will eliminate additional research steps on other websites and could very well increase engagement on your website in return. 

3. Engine details

For the performance gearheads or fuel economy conscious, engine details are most likely high on their list of criteria. Consumers looking for a vehicle with a lot of power, but have no interest in an electric motor, may want to remove electric and hybrid vehicles from their search. Consumers that are looking for a vehicle that is more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly may want to filter out all vehicles that are not hybrid or fully electric.

This is a great filtering option to provide your vehicle shoppers and would save a ton of time in the process.   

4. Transmission

Manual transmission is becoming a rare option as we know it. According to a Fox News article written in Sept. 2014, roughly 10% of vehicles in the North American market have manual transmission. And according to IHS is likely to continue decreasing.

The woman interviewed in this article mentioned that manual transmission was her only requirement. In these scenarios, shopping for a new vehicle can't be too exciting, given the small percentage of manual vehicles. A vehicle inventory user interface that allows shoppers to filter by transmission would help narrow down the vehicle choices much quicker.

Though less and less shoppers are looking for a vehicle with manual transmission, it doesn't hurt to add this filter option for the traditional drivers. 

5. Drivetrain

If you were in Boston anytime from Jan-March 2015, you would understand why drivetrain is an important factor for us New Englanders. Those that did not have the luxury of either an all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicle this past winter may be considering these options for their next vehicle purchase. 

Driving in massive amounts of snow and other poor weather conditions are not the only reasons drivetrain is an important criterion for many vehicle shoppers. The drivetrain type also factors into vehicle price, handling, fuel economy, and towing capabilities.

It'd be nice to filter out all vehicles that do not match the shopper's drivetrain preference(s). This would avoid skimming through more vehicle detail pages than necessary. I'm sure there are many other vehicle shoppers that would agree.   

6. Entertainment

For Millennial vehicle shoppers in particular, vehicle entertainment is often the most important criterion of them all. With over 90% of Millennials owning smartphones, according to Pew Research Center, it's essential that car entertainment or infotainment systems are installed and can support all the functions of the iPhone and Android (accounting for ~95% of smartphone users). Check out some of the infotainment systems available or pending release here.

Since smartphone compatibility (ie. Bluetooth, navigation, messaging, and music streaming) could be a deal breaker for many vehicle shoppers, offering this as a filtering option on your vehicle inventory listing pages would be an easy way to win over many of your site visitors.  

7. Exterior Options

Sometimes it's those fancy exterior options that make a car stand out to shoppers. I'm talking about sunroofs, premium rims, advanced headlights, fog lights and etc.

After cracking open my sunroof and enjoying a nice breeze on the highway, rather than being blasted by a windstorm from the windows, it would be hard to go back to a closed-in roof. Though some of these features certainly aren't the nuts and bolts of a vehicle, they are important to many vehicle shoppers.

8. Luxury Features

When driving long distances or stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic (hopefully not simultaneously), a comfortable car can help take some of the edge off. I can't tell you how many times those heated leather seats have come in handy on frigid winter days. I can only imagine how wonderful ventilated seats must feel on a hot summer's day.

How about a car that's temperature never changes, regardless of the weather? Climate control is a great "set it and forget it" feature that will maintain your preferred temperature.

Again, to some vehicle shoppers, these features are not essential. But there are several that would put luxury features high on their priority list. Read more about the top current luxury vehicle features here.

9. Convenience

We live in a fast-paced world where a lot of value is placed on convenience.

Who has time to manually adjust or re-adjust the driver's seat setting? Even if the seats are powered, it's a pain to get the settings just right again. In situations where two different sized individuals share a vehicle, power driver and passenger seats with memory settings are nice features to have.

Though there is some controversy on the benefits of proximity entry and push button start technology, this is another convenience feature that many vehicle shoppers may want to include in their search filtering.

Offer your shoppers the best experience

The bottom line is that cars today have a great deal of options to choose from, and this causes anxiety for many vehicle shoppers. Adding some, if not all of these search filters to your inventory listing pages is a great way to provide your site visitors with a better shopping experience.

If your dealership or auto portal does not have the tools or bandwidth to support these advanced filtering options, among others, look to a vehicle data provider for creating this unique online vehicle shopping experience. With the right search tools, vehicle shopping can be a much easier and enjoyable process. 

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