Starts with a quiz
Cars.com used to start by asking buyers to select the vehicle make/model or body style they want -- and that option is still available. But the revised site has another option that begins with a quiz.
Users are guided through a series of questions, such as if they are looking for a "family taxi," "daily commuter," "fun and play companion" or "workhorse." Preferences are further narrowed with queries about what people value most, perhaps smartphone connectivity or luxury, as well as what they want to spend and where they live. Then users are presented with vehicles and asked to "like" the ones they prefer.
The search engine uses the data to display a final page of vehicle picks. But if a user "liked" only Hondas, the results are not limited to Hondas. Instead, the algorithm uses historical purchase data culled from Cars.com's 20-year archive to predict what other models might be suitable based on the user's criteria, as well as the shopping patterns of previous users. The algorithm shows vehicles "that are a match for what you've said you really need, your lifestyle, but you may not have ever thought of," says Tony Zolla, Cars.com's chief product officer.