Just think about it – you can pinpoint exactly the type of BMW 3 Series you want, right down to the colour, specification and engine size.
But what happens when you have no idea of the car you want to buy? At this point, the websites begin to show some weaknesses.
While there were constraints on the number of cars that could be listed in the old Auto Trader magazine, it was helpfully divided into sections to give a bit of direction for car buyers with no car knowledge. But with the rise of the internet, the magazine was old hat – circulation plummeted from 368,000 in 2000 to just 27,000 in April 2013 – and the decision was made to cull it in favour of the Auto Trader website.
This week, Auto Trader revealed a new ‘simplified logo’ and marketing campaign to attract more people to their site.
Jon Williams, Auto Trader’s marketing manager, told me just days before the announcement that the redesign solved a number of problems. He said: ‘The old logo was primarily designed for the magazine, and with there now being no printed Auto Trader, that had to change.
‘We also thought the old logo was a bit too masculine and looked like it was the type of logo associated with experts who were au fait with cars.’
Changing the logo is one thing, but why is there no change in the functionality? America knows how to do it. Edmonds.com has a handy search feature right at the top of its website that allows users to search for car type rather than just for a specific car.
It is a problem Auto Trader’s new CEO is aware of though – and, more importantly, wants to change. Speaking to me two weeks ago, Trevor Mather said: ‘Not only am I not from the car industry, but I’m also not very familiar with cars. I find our website quite frustrating because I need to know I want a BMW 318i in order to find the right car.’
He added: ‘Consumers don’t use Auto Trader as their first port of call – they use manufacturer websites and many others to make their minds up and then come to Auto Trader to look for a specific car. Why don’t we keep people in the same place? We’ve got to cater for unknown search.’
Mather said Auto Trader is looking to address this – but he could not confirm when the website will change.
But the company may want to take a look at Motors.co.uk. Coincidentally, at the same time Auto Trader was showing Car Dealer its new logo and television advert, Motors.co.uk’s brand new identity was going live.
Motors.co.uk, which holds second place in the used car classified market, decided it needed to have a cleaner and clearer look – and it has changed its website to embrace ‘unknown search’.
The new homepage now has a handy tool called Smart Search that allows car buyers to search for cars by lifestyle and much more – and not just a specific car like a BMW 318i.
It’s a quirky little tool, but it could be easier to use just like Edmonds.com’s service.
With Auto Trader and Motors.co.uk unveiling big plans for 2014, we can all expect there to be a host of changes to make dealers’ and consumers’ lives easier. But while a new logo and refreshed website are great ideas, perhaps the industry should be looking at the basics a little more. And that is helping non-petrolheads buy a new car.