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AI-aided browsers could change how customers search for cars online, says motor sales tech firm boss

  • Natural speech responses could transform approaches to online search, says iVendi
  • Traditional car search portals could be sidestepped
  • Consumers could be taken straight from search to dealer
  • CEO of iVendi urges people to try out ChatGPT

Time 4:21 pm, February 23, 2023

How customers search for cars online could be permanently changed by new browsers that make use of artificial intelligence technology.

That’s according to motor retail tech company iVendi, which said AI was now being incorporated into Microsoft’s Edge browser and Bing search engine, as well as the long-established Opera browser.

It added that Google will soon make more use of AI via its Bard chatbot.

James Tew, CEO of iVendi, said: ‘Many people are now familiar with ChatGPT, which was launched late last year and has created a definite stir in terms of showing what AI is now capable of.

‘Essentially, it delivers long-form, natural-speech responses to all kinds of questions rather than just listing website links in the same way as a traditional browser.

‘It has definite potential to bring new approaches to online search.’

He added: ‘Microsoft has licensed ChatGPT technology to be incorporated into its search and browser products.

‘While no-one is talking seriously about Google’s grasp on this part of the market being threatened, AI does represent the first potential step-change in online search technology for many years, perhaps decades.

‘It’s still very much unclear whether AI-enhanced search will provide an experience that is good enough to persuade customers to change their preferred search engine.

‘But there is also the chance that if it does prove effective, it could change how users approach retail, including cars.’

Tew urged people who hadn’t tried ChatGPT to sign up and experience the free technology to get a feel for its strengths and weaknesses.

‘Most people who have tried ChatGPT agree that it is in some ways deeply impressive and, in others, quite flawed.

‘Its answers to all kinds of questions are very detailed and the language used is generally quite clear.

‘However, it uses information drawn from the internet as a database, so it is only as accurate as its source data, which is quite often wrong.

‘Currently, if you ask it a specific question about looking for a car – for example, a particular model of a particular age in a particular area – you will receive only generic responses about shopping for a used vehicle.

‘However, it is clear that the format is, at least in theory, capable of answering detailed queries of this kind in a format attractive to customers.

‘It’ll be very much a question of where the people creating the AI want to take the technology in the future.’

Tew said the biggest change resulting from AI would be if searches allowed a browser to be used to effectively answer questions such as ‘Find me a 2018 Ford Fiesta within 15 miles of Cardiff’ or ‘Find me cars that can carry seven people with finance at less than £300 a month’.

He said: ‘If AI-enhanced search at some point produces meaningful responses to these questions, it will allow traditional car search portals to be potentially sidestepped, taking the consumer straight from the search to the dealer.

‘This would obviously change the journey currently undertaken by many customers.’

He said iVendi’s natural-language online car search, which is now being used in more than half of instances where it is offered by dealers, had proved successful.

It lets users employ everyday phrases in place of traditional drop-down menus.

Tew acknowledged that it wasn’t, strictly speaking, an AI product. However, he said it did provide a genuine progression from old-school car searches.

‘It gets customers to a selection of cars likely to meet their needs faster and more effectively, and consumers have relatively quickly started using it in preference to a drop-down menu search.

‘It shows that there is an appetite for effective search experiences that use everyday language, which is where AI is likely to be able to deliver progress.’

Pictured at top is ChatGPT’s icon

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John Bowman's avatar

John has been with Car Dealer since 2013 after spending 25 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter then a sub-editor/assistant chief sub-editor on regional and national titles. John is chief sub-editor in the editorial department, working on Car Dealer, as well as handling social media.

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