The online offerings from manufacturers are becoming more and more crucial in terms of both information resource and interaction with a brand, but in truth there’s a huge variance in quality of experience.

What Van? undertook a widespread investigation of the top 10 van manufacturers’ websites, covering a range of 10 different criteria to establish which is best serving the marketplace, and it was citroen that topped the table by a decent distance. That’s a step up from the silver medal a year ago.

Having been redesigned in the past 12 months, the citroen LcV website was a clear winner, helped by it being found to top the list in three of our 10 categories – ease of use, the van configuring tool and its mobile site – while in design, brochure download and phone help it ranked in the top three.

Ease of use is vital to an organisation’s website, and we found some of citroen’s rivals turned us off by defaulting to the car side, making van visitors seem second-class, while the basic requirement of making the useful stuff easy to spot at a glance was something Citroen succeeded with.

The site’s van configuring tool was also unique in enabling users to search by characteristics they require such as payload or volume of load required, and then helping highlight that a larger or smaller van may be more appropriate. The best any rival could offer was configuring by model, rather than opening a customer’s eyes to another vehicle that could better suit their needs.

And as What Van? itself is witnessing, increasing traffic is coming from mobile devices rather than traditional desktop or laptop computers. That means the need for an optimised site that can
give the basics on a small screen as well as looking good on larger screens. Citroen’s mobile site, while not perfect, offers by far the best mobile-specific portal, and the firm should be commended for leading the field. It’s an area that all could, though, strive to improve.

The design of the site has been improved next to the simple layout of the previous homepage, although there is room for criticism for using a european picture, with the number plate on the Relay reading Jumpy – the van’s name in mainland europe. The citroen LcV website is now, however, an elegant-looking yet still user-friendly portal.

Downloading a brochure is also an area crucial to buyers, and the quality and information you get is good, although it’s a shame the van site defaults to cars when you go to download the PdF. But otherwise, it’s another example of the user- friendly nature of the site.

Even though the website is, in our opinion, the industry’s leader, it doesn’t mean it’s without potential for improvement. Taking three days to reply to our email request was a bit longer than we’d like, though some other manufacturers couldn’t even manage that, and it would be nice to see some van-specific activity on Facebook or Twitter, rather than the car-orientated content. Other sites also do a much better job of offering extra information, appeal or engagement with users.

So there’s still room for the best to get better, but overall citroen’s online offering is the one that puts it top of the class and is currently best- serving the light commercial vehicle industry. So well done citroen, and hopefully we’ll see improvements across the board during 2015 to provide a stiffer challenge for what is comfortably the best van manufacturer’s website in 2014.


Did you know?

In What Van?’s investigation of the top 10 manufacturers’ websites citroen scored 72% compared with bottom-placed Peugeot’s 38%.

Highly Commended

Fiat Professional’s website is not only the runner-up for 2014, but it’s also the most improved by some distance, jumping from seventh in 2013 to take second place this year. Predictably laced with Italian style, the site is nonetheless still to our eye user-friendly and easily navigable, while the van configuring tool and social media activity were both top-two standard. But it was the extras that really scored a hit for Fiat, as it’s the only LCV manufacturer to have a specific app. Packed with useful information and features, the app includes a handbook for the Fiorino and Ducato models, reminders of key service and insurance dates and a navigation tool to help you find your way back to where your vehicle is parked.