Auto-complete is one of the hottest things to happen in search-engine results.  It’s commonplace on large retail websites. However, one of the most advanced applications is on some dealer sites.

When a shopper starts to enter something in a search tool that then facilitates the search by offering a list of probable complete search terms as the shopper is typing, that’s auto-complete. 

Google’s auto-complete feature rolled out five years ago as Google Suggest. It is wildly popular and continues to improve. The results can influence which website shoppers visit.

Amazon provides auto-complete on its search tool, but the results are simply text links to various search-result pages. Walmart.com functions in a similar way, as do many major retail sites. Amazon recently received a patient for auto shipping. This seems rather futuristic, but the idea is to prepare to ship a product while you are still shopping for it, in anticipation you will buy it.

Closer to home and offering immediate practicality, hundreds of dealer sites have an advanced site search tool. It produces a consideration set of links, like Google or Amazon. When shopping for something such as “brake service” the search results can be a combination of related page links, videos and coupons.

The same feature offers a consideration set of actual vehicle listings, with photos, when searching for something like “Hyundai Sonata Limited.” As the shopper types, the results become increasingly refined and relevant for both new and used vehicles. Testimonials relevant to the vehicle being searched also may be included. Clicking on any of these listings takes the shopper directly to a vehicle-details page. Essentially, the auto-complete results are a search-results page, much like what a shopper would get by going through a make-and-model search of inventory. However, the results can be much more specific to the shopper’s needs.

For example, a search for “BMW 7 Series cold weather package” produces results with 7 Series vehicles containing the cold-weather package at the top of the list.

Sears.com offers a similar feature, but it is less useful because results contain up to only five products with images. That’s far fewer than the dozens of relevant vehicle listings showing up on some dealer sites.

If the vehicle is not the right one, the shopper can enjoy the same search experience from the vehicle-details page or any other on the site. That is not the case on Sears.com. The shopper first would need to return to the home page in order to repeat or modify the search.

Of course, this enhanced type of search isn’t for every shopper. But for those who prefer this type of shopping experience, dealers providing it have a fantastic advantage.

The probability the customer will find the right consideration set of vehicles is greatly increased. Whether the dealership is chosen may depend on having the one right vehicle or being the store with a selection of acceptable offerings.

Either way, helping shoppers find what they are looking for on a dealership website is an essential first step.

For those shoppers preferring to do a make/model search, the time honored search-results page is improving as well.

The old method was to refresh the site after every selection the shopper made to refine the search. These tools only allowed the shopper to look at one model at a time and only one price range at a time. Today, advanced sites provide a wide range of query options and allow the shopper to select any combination of vehicles for their consideration set. You get two sets of search results on the same page.

The shopper may want to look at both Toyota Camry and Corollas in black or silver under $30,000. They can select both models, both colors and all price ranges.

How revolutionary are these two search solutions? Imagine your website as a search engine in and of itself. All content is indexed each night and the results of the site search are changed daily based on the inventory, coupons, testimonials, videos, content pages and other information available on your site.

That is already the reality on the best dealer sites. Shoppers use these search tools the same way they do on Google and major shopping sites. The results are beyond their expectations.

I’ve been asked for years whether sites can contain too much content. The answer is no. More content is better, provided you offer navigational tools that help shoppers quickly get to what’s exactly right for them.

Some shoppers want to get to their consideration set of vehicles by typing in text, and others want it by clicking on menus. The best dealer sites provide the optimal shopping experience to both these shopping segments.

Much has been written about the importance of vehicle-details pages, but the path to the right ones may never be found with an antiquated website. Today, leading dealers provide two outstanding search solutions, deliver superior shopping experiences and enjoy high conversion opportunities.

Dennis Galbraith is Chief Marketing Officer of Dealer E-Process, a digital marketer and website designer. He is at 877-551-2555 and dennis.galbraith@dealereprocess.com.