It’s the second year in a row that VW has picked up the Website of the Year Award, and since our previous analysis in 2016 it has introduced an incredibly user-friendly, all-new proposition.
Thanks to the new site at volkswagen-vans.co.uk, which looks fresher and is even more functional, van buyers can now arrive armed full of knowledge when they come through the showroom doors to face the hard sell.
It enables customers to search for the right vehicle for their needs, quickly and easily, from a stock that includes around 2,000 used commercial vehicles across the network as well as the new LCV line-up. Once the perfect van is found, they can access contact details and a map for the selling Van Centre.
It’s true that some manufacturers do a much better job at creating these virtual showrooms than others, and Volkswagen once again performed consistently well across all 10 categories of the judging criteria that we examined.
A notable benefit is that every single Volkswagen model’s brochure and price list is one, obviously signposted, click away from the homepage, with a layout that is clean and no-fuss. The dealer finder, which is totally van-specific and displays each centre’s specialities, is also a single click away.
The best thing about the site is that it’s easy to use, covering a wide range of products and points of customer interest, as well as being unique and separate from the manufacturer’s passenger car offering – not bolted on as an afterthought like some van sites.
Customers can also take advantage of the new ‘Reserve Online’ feature, which allows them to reserve vehicles by paying a deposit securely online via PayPal. The vehicle will then be held for them until they can arrange the purchase. This means that even if the perfect van is over 100 miles away, it will be reserved until they are in a position to buy.
If they’re not ready to commit, there’s also now the facility to ‘Make an Offer’. In this case the selling Van Centre is notified that someone is interested in purchasing a particular van, allowing contact to be made and negotiations to start. A Watch List function is also enabled, showing the customer how many other people are also interested in the vehicle.
The website features a new live chat facility, revised conversion section, dealer quotation function, used van buying section and more. Thankfully, the mobile site is as slick and savvy as the desktop one.
We were very impressed by the response we received to a simple question we emailed to the manufacturer – in fact, we received an incredibly detailed response in 10 minutes flat. The phone operatives were also very pleasant and we had a definitive answer in five minutes.
Social media is often overlooked on van sites but Volkswagen is making a real effort, with bespoke LCV feeds and lifestyle content to promote its line-up on these platforms.
Overall, this site was a clear winner, with VW having put a great deal of thought and effort into creating the most useful and relevant of online offerings.
While little has changed since 2016, the Toyota site (www.toyota.co.uk/lcvs) is still strong in several areas, such as the great mobile site. You do have to scroll down a bit to find what you’re looking for, but that doesn’t mean key information is hard to find. The homepage, too, is a bit plain, but the Hilux and Proace pages both make up for it with great photography and videos aplenty.
The van configurator is smart and comprehensive enough to rival car configurators, and the brochure download is just clicks from the homepage and no longer asks for personal details. The brochure is a bit on the long side, but all of the relevant information is there.
One particular area of strength is customer service. What Van? received a reply within 24 hours with an exact price, additional information and links, while over the phone we got a very comprehensive answer within five minutes.
Toyota also has a big UK social media presence, with a smattering of pick-ups and Land Cruiser content.