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Improve the User Experience and Engagement When Online Vehicle Shopping with AI Virtual Assistants

Hand Of Man Driving Car On The Road.

Written in collaboration with Amanda Klinge


We have seen a major shift in how consumers shop for products online. From groceries to luxury goods, people rely heavily on the information readily available thanks to the convenience of their personal devices. Over the past few years, one industry stands out due to a notable shift in online shopping behavior: the automotive industry.

Not long ago, a consumer’s vehicle shopping experience included several dealer visits to obtain enough vehicle information to guide and complete their decision-making process. Today, consumers can access far more information about that same vehicle online before speaking with a dealer or sales representative. Technological advances for the user experience, such as for websites and digital interactions, have empowered consumers with the ability to configure vehicles, price out trim options, and locate a dealer near them at their convenience. Consumers have literally taken the driver’s seat in their car-buying experience, possessing the power to control their journey from the beginning.

While original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are moving towards a direct-to-consumer approach, the average consumer is not necessarily purchasing a vehicle sight unseen and entirely online. Rather, the pre-purchasing stage in the customer journey has evolved to be more digitally focused. Virtual showrooms and interactive shopping tools have been at the forefront of this evolution, and the future is bound to hold even more impressive technological features that enhance the vehicle shopping process.

At Perficient, we have been leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for many years across different verticals and industries. For our automotive clients, we’re working with a major OEM to help them create a unique and targeted consumer experience utilizing generative AI. In one execution, this approach took the form of a virtual assistant. This AI assistant helps consumers during their first steps in shopping for a vehicle. It guides them in finding a model that fits their needs based on different criteria such as size, budget, features, and trim options. Consumers can access this AI assistant on the OEM’s website from anywhere, at any time, and on any device. This innovation creates a personalized experience for the consumer to use at their convenience and equips them with information prior to engaging with a dealership. With this new-found confidence, consumers feel more in control of their car-buying experience.

This type of AI virtual assistant is not only beneficial to the consumer, but also offers great value to the OEM. In reviewing the data, we’ve seen improved average dwell times and high volumes of pageviews. Quantitative data has also shown us the following:

  • Increase in visitors on the OEM’s homepage
  • Deeper engagement throughout the website
  • More high value actions including considering different vehicle models and viewing available local inventory

Analyzing these metrics helps us make data-backed assumptions. For example, consumers are navigating deeper into the website, engaging with more detailed information, and exploring further options for vehicles, trim lines, and features.

With these engagement metrics, we are working to gain a deeper understanding into the consumer’s mindset during not only their initial online shopping research, but also when purchasing, owning, and returning to buy again. This knowledge can enhance the impact and functionality of the AI virtual assistant that is driven by the actual consumer behaviors. It also leads to a vast number of other OEM opportunities for improving the consumer’s shopping experience both online and offline, including:

  • Enhanced user flows within the AI virtual assistant containing predicative responses and personalized messages
  • Data-driven A/B testing campaigns and personalized experiences
  • Activation of persona and journey maps
  • Improved vehicle comparison tools
  • Enriched email and social media campaigns

The list of ideas is endless as more data becomes available through virtual assistance tools and the technologies and platforms with which they integrate. Down the road, there is potential to further humanize this OEM’s virtual assistance so that consumers have a more natural and personable assistant to connect with on the website and beyond.

Leveraging Perficient’s team and technology for our OEM partner, we have found that this virtual assistant helps drive a consumer to the next step in their customer journey. We encourage other OEMs to introduce an AI virtual assistant to their websites and digital experiences to enhance their consumers’ shopping experience. These virtual assistants are a game changer in connecting with your audiences and providing them with the information they need efficiently and conveniently. They also have the potential to help OEM’s customer service and dealership sales personnel by reducing initial questions during the consumer’s transition from the browsing stage to the actual purchase of their perfect vehicle.

For more information, please connect with us here at Perficient. We look forward to helping accelerate your digital transformation with a world class shopping virtual assistant and online shopping excellence.

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Keith Tomatore

A long-time senior executive in the auto industry who has held the position of SVP, Retail Marketing at Global Team Blue (GTB, a WPP Company) on the Ford Retail Business. In this role, Keith worked with the Ford Dealer Associations across the country to help them with their Precision Marketing and digital efforts. Also, he served as CEO of iFrog Marketing Solutions, which focused on Automotive advertising solutions for Tier 2 and Tier 3.

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