What Van? has resurrected the Best Website category for 2014 after an initial outing in 2012, when Renault was victorious.
But this time it’s Volkswagen that has taken the crown with a dominant victory, gaining a score of 82% across our 10 criteria, 15 percentage points higher than the runner-up (see Highly Commended, below).
We looked at the top 10 light commercial vehicle manufacturers’ digital offerings, awarding marks from 10-1 on each of the 10 criteria.
VW’s resounding victory saw it lead the market in half the categories, taking top spot for accessibility and ease of use, the brochure download tool, telephone helpline, social media presence and site extras. In two other sectors – design and the dealer locator tool, we placed Volkswagen second, and it also scored a third for the speed of email response.
The clean and sensible layout makes navigation easy, which is the first priority of any website, while the brochure download is excellent. Unlike some others, there’s no need to enter contact details, and one click from the LCV homepage goes straight to the impressive and comprehensive download of pricing, spec and operational information.
But sometimes speaking to a person is the way forward, and it took just 18 seconds from dialing Volkswagen’s freephone number to get through to an actual human being, who had cheerily answered our query about Caddy service intervals before the minute was out. Only Vauxhall managed to get close.
VW’s presence on the growing powerhouse that is social media is also unrivalled in the van world. It hasits own Twitter and Facebook pages, which makes it the only manufacturer not piggy-backing vans onto its general car feed, while the site extras were also found to be most impressive of the top 10 LCV brands, drawing on its iconic van heritage and offering the latest news, as well as a wealth of finance, leasing and servicing information and plenty of advice on LCV conversions.
There are also case studies with videos of VW’s partnership with British Gas and Sky, and other nice little touches include a FAQs section.
As good as What Van? found VW’s site to be, it’s still not quite perfect though, which will be ominous for any rival seeking to knock it off its perch next year. The big weak spot is the absence of a van configurator tool. We know light commercials can have a complex line-up, but rivals have managed it – with Citroen judged by us to be most adept – so it is an omission on VW’s part. Also missing is a mobile website, and when the site is accessed via portable device, it just brings up the desktop version. Yes, it’s well-laid-out, but a specific mobile website would make navigation easier, and again, rivals have managed it.
But those two weaknesses aren’t very difficult to mend, so it will be interesting to see if anyone can take a big leap forward and challenge 12 months from now. But for 2014, the web’s dominant LCV force is Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.
Citroen’s online offering took the highly commended spot, comfortably fending off the likes of Ford and previous winner Renault to take second place. The van configure tool is industry leading in our opinion, accessibility and navigation are excellent, there’s a very good selection of extras on line, the mobile site is up with the best and the brochure download is straightforward.