Rapid innovation in the car buying experience


How Auto Trader worked with Idean to help buyers find the best car for them

Buying a car is one of the most stressful processes in a person’s life. Yet millions of people do it every year.

Just like buying a house, it’s stressful because you can’t be an expert in every car (or property) you might want to buy. But there’s always someone who is.

Auto Trader aims to help people navigate the complexities of buying a vehicle. By priding itself on transparency and trust, it’s the 12th most visited website in the UK.

What makes Auto Trader so successful is that they’re always looking for innovative ways to improve their products and services – mindful of new entrants and existing competitors.

“Everything we do is designed to make car buying easier and help buyers find the right vehicle as quickly as possible.”
Ben Smith — Head of Product at Auto Trader

When Auto Trader came to Idean, they’d been thinking for a while about how to remove friction in the car buying experience. They came to us for an outside perspective and fresh thinking on a new proposition.


Give customers the right information, at the right time, to help them make a good decision

Our starting point was: when searching for your perfect used car, how do you enable customers with the right information, at the right time, so they can make a good decision?

Over four weeks we ran an accelerated product discovery project to create Auto Trader’s new proposition, and find effective ways to communicate it.

The focus of our proposition development was on Auto Trader’s price indicator system which sits on the car details page. This indicator helps customers understand if a car is fairly priced, in relation to other similar cars in their marketplace. The indicator had been introduced a few years ago but it was felt it didn’t work as hard as it could in helping people choose the right car for them.


1. Listen to all your customers

Auto Trader’s site serves two distinct audiences: car buyers and car sellers. When your site has two users with potentially conflicting interests, you need to make sure you’re listening to both sets of needs.

We ran customer interviews to test our early thinking. But we needed to get Auto Trader’s retailers on board with our proposed changes to the price indicator system. So we also set up workshops with car dealers, giving them the opportunity to input into the design process.


Workshopping side by side with the client as we test early concepts.


2. Use insight to come up with robust solutions

Auto Trader has more data on cars than any other website in the UK. From our research, we were able to work out what matters to its customers and how to visualise those insights in a way that customers can understand. Not only does that help customers make informed decisions, it also builds trust so they’re more likely to return to the site.

A key piece of insight was around the notion of “value for money” and the relationship between the value of a car and the price of a car. Value is highly subjective when buying a vehicle and means different things to different types of people. The lowest priced car available might not be the best value due to its high mileage or poor specification. Conversely, a high-priced car might actually be great value because it has low mileage and a great spec.


We attacked this problem from two sides: copywriting and visual design.

From a design perspective, working together with Auto Trader, we came up with two routes which help visualise the subjective decisions people make around value for money, defining the future of two of their core digital features.

Thanks to our research and ideation, Auto Trader now surface smart insights and reveal the data that sits behind them, such as picking out any features of the car which are additional to the standard, and a new mileage indicator.

The new price indicator dial, alongside smart insights and retailer information.


3. Challenge your thinking

For any business, conversations around value present an ongoing challenge. At Idean, we find new ways to think about existing problems. That always starts with research and getting close to the customer pain points.

It also means working side-by-side with the client. With Auto Trader we sat together as one team, sitting in on user testing and running workshops together. It allowed us to get to the heart of the problem and challenge some of the routes they hadn’t explored yet.

Mapping value against the price of the car, the details of the car and the seller.


Auto Trader were able to take our designs and rationale from the customer and car dealer insights, and build some new customer-focused features:

  • We designed a new, more transparent price indicator system with a visual dial, to help customers better understand how the scale of ‘value’.
  • We added in full price transparency and information about the car’s retailer to address some of the biggest consumer pain points.

By making it easier to find more detailed information such as service history and the number of former owners, we’ve made it easier for customers to find a more objective “value for money”. Making a stressful process a little less difficult for everyone.

Check out this article from our fantastic client, Ben Smith at Auto Trader, on how they’re giving their customers more confidence in the car-buying process.


frog, part of Capgemini Invent is a global design and innovation firm. We transform businesses at scale by creating systems of brand, product and service that deliver a distinctly better experience. We strive to touch hearts and move markets. Our passion is to transform ideas into realities. We partner with clients to anticipate the future, evolve organizations and advance the human experience.

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