Research showing that there are “almost 900” different terms for a key safety feature highlights the difficulties that car buyers can encounter when it comes to finding the vehicle they want online, says iVendi.

The company states that its analysis shows there are 889 different car manufacturer descriptions or classifications for lane keep assist as individual equipment or within options packs – and almost three-quarters of them don’t contain the word “lane.”

Similarly, when it comes to satellite navigation, the word “nav” was only present in 71% of a sample of 1,587 manufacturer descriptions. Also, for keyless entry, there are 16 distinctive terms across the top 20 manufacturers, from Comfort Access and Smart Key to Open-and-Go, Smart Entry and Keyless Drive.

The findings are included in a new white paper titled “Using Search To Power Sales” that is being released by the company this week.

Rob Severs, VP of product at iVendi, said: “Traditional vehicle search technology, combined with the many different marketing terms that manufacturers create for their products, simply make it difficult for car buyers to find what they want.

“People typing straightforward search terms such as ‘nav’, ‘lane assist’ and ‘keyless entry’ into a portal or dealer web site on their laptop or smartphone are unlikely to be guided towards large numbers of cars that have those features.

“This a fundamental failing. Potential customers using accepted language to find the vehicle they want will not be presented with a full range of results. There’s a disconnect between the search and the results, which does not impress consumers accustomed to slick Amazon and John Lewis-style online experiences. Having almost 900 different terms for a feature such as lane assist shows the problems car buyers face.”

Rob said that the answer lay in the adoption of more advanced search technology that allowed car buyers to base their searches on natural language.

“We’ve been looking at this area for some time and it is now incorporated into our latest generation of products, allowing consumers to more easily and accurately find results that match their needs based on both the vehicle and its features.

“Our approach is inspired by research that shows six out of 10 people enter the market without knowing the vehicle they want to buy and uses advanced technology to offer a much more intuitive and effective approach to finding the right outcome.

“Traditional vehicle search has barely moved on since the earliest days of the internet. It is largely driven by the idea that you already know what you want. If you’re looking for a 2018 Fiesta Zetec in blue with Ford Key Free and less than 20,000 miles, it works well for you. However, if you just know that you want a small hatchback with keyless entry and have £200 a month to spend, it is much, much less successful.

“What we have done with our technology is to turn the process on its head. Customers can type – or speak – into the search bar to search in a more natural way. You could enter ‘small hatch with keyless entry’ and set a £200 monthly budget and it would deliver a range of viable options immediately.”

Rob added that retailers also needed to realise that vehicle search effectively fulfilled the same role as the “meet and greet and qualification” element of a traditional showroom experience.

“Search is both the customer’s first experience of the kind of service offered by your dealership and your opportunity to set the sales process in motion by correctly identifying their needs. That’s why getting it wrong or offering clunky and outdated technology that cannot fulfil these essential functions is so damaging.”

He said that the “Using Search To Power Sales” white paper was designed to take car retailers through the latest thinking on search. It consists of five progressive steps against which they can assess their businesses, seeing how they measure up when it comes to the newest best practice ideas.

“Most dealers will find that they have strategies in place for some of the steps but very few will be employing all, especially the later stages. The whole process should take readers no more than a few minutes and could have a profound effect on how successfully customers can search their stock – and therefore on their sales.”