The one thing that is certain in life is change, especially in the fast-moving world of the internet. So it's not usually news when an automaker redesigns its website. However, Volkswagen of America just launched a major revamp of its site to try and make it a less intimidating way to research about and buy its cars. It's simple and clean, but the new look is drawing the ire of some few visitors because its minimalist design makes some information hard to find.

The goal was to "take away the intimidation and make buyers feel empowered."

The new site has a simplified, tablet-first concept that reduces the number of necessary clicks to find a car. The biggest change, though, is that it replaces the traditional configurator to build and price with "Find a Match." With it, users choose things like the model, color, engine and features they want, and the database finds corresponding models from nearby dealers. While it's a quick way to find a vehicle, you're searching for rather than creating a specific car. The system also obscures the cost of individual options and packages.

Paige Parrent, Digital Platforms Manager at Volkswagen Marketing, guided the design process for the new site. The goal was to "take away the intimidation and make buyers feel empowered," she told Autoblog. That meant making the build process more transparent and giving users immediate feedback. It's no longer about what's possible, but what's available. "We want to match people with the cars they love."

Online dating and e-commerce websites inspired the layout.

Users can still find prices by trim level, but it's an obtuse process. They have to go to the model page, select "Explore Trims," and then "View Trims." This section is also where a vehicle's full specs are located. Generally, the site only calls out basic technical data like fuel economy and power. Focus testing, says VW, showed those details were most important to buyers. At the moment, there is no way to view dealer-installed options on the car when finding a match, but Parrent said this feature would be added later.

Online dating and e-commerce websites inspired the layout. Like dating, logic plays a role in buying a car, but it's an emotional decision in the end, Parrent believes. Aesthetically, the site works well with quick load times and detailed images, and some users are responding well. "They appreciate the boldness of the design," said Parrent. That said, it might take time for the brand's enthusiasts to get used to the streamlined, less-technical flow.

Check out the gallery above for some examples of the new layout or just go to VW.com. Scroll down to read the automaker's press release about the revamp.
Show full PR text
MEET YOUR (AUTO) MATCH WITH THE ALL-NEW VW.COM

The redesigned VW.com website allows consumers to shop desired features and instantly connect to available vehicles at dealerships near them

Herndon, VA (April 28, 2014) - Volkswagen of America officially launched a newly redesigned VW.com (www.vw.com) today, following a soft launch late last week. This uses functionality influenced by online dating and e-commerce to let consumers easily shop for cars based on desired features, such as color or price, among the available inventory of more than 80,000 vehicles at Volkswagen dealerships nationwide.

"With the new VW.com experience, consumers don't need to know our product lineup to find a car that's right for them," said Vinay Shahani, Vice President, Brand Marketing, Volkswagen of America. "Consumers simply select the features they want, and VW.com instantly connects them to a range of options based on both their needs and available inventory in their area. We're excited to be at the forefront of this type of online innovation that utilizes a truly intuitive approach."

The newest inventory-led shopping experience in branded auto sites

Traditional branded car shopping sites invite consumers to configure cars to match their preferences - but those vehicles aren't always in stock. VW.com combines the buying and configuring tools at each stage of the shopping process, allowing consumers to shop for the features they want, and view a variety of cars available at dealerships near them. The site features more than 80,000 "profile" pages, playing off of popular online dating sites, for in- stock vehicles nationwide.

"Consumers who come to a dealership because of inventory online are twice as likely to make a purchase as those who came from a configurator that's not attached to accessible inventory," Shahani says. "VW.com helps connect people with cars that are actually available for sale."

VW.com puts the shopper first

Each individual car for sale has a comprehensive profile page with pictures, features, specs, limited warranty, awards, accessories and dealer information-as well as tools, such as a Payment Estimator, on the vehicle detail page where the consumer needs it. Additionally, VW.com was designed for the tablet first, so one of the first things a shopper will notice is a clean, image-rich design that makes it simple to navigate.

"Our goal was to put the consumer's needs first," says Winston Binch, Chief Digital Officer at Deutsch LA, Volkswagen's digital agency of record and the developer of VW.com. "We did that by keeping things radically simple, reducing clicks, and focusing on getting people to real cars quickly-not vehicle configurations that are hard to find in real life."

Features of the new VW.com

All of the images on a car model page reflect the exact colors and features of that particular
model. In addition to gallery imagery, 360-degree views and highlighted features, each model page has all available trims linkable to current inventory. Customers can "favorite" individual cars that interest them, and access those vehicles from the main navigation.

Features of the new VW.com include:
● Inventory-led shopping experience: Customers can specify desired features and find
cars near them that match their needs from the VW.com inventory of more than
80,000 vehicle profiles.
● Non-linear shopping flow: Customers can find cars through a variety of search
capabilities, from style and color ("red convertible") to specific features ("premium sound"), and each car has its own profile page−not dissimilar from popular dating site profile pages as well.
● Contextual information and tools: Tools such as the Payment Estimator are built into the shopping experience so users don't need to leave the profile page to get to them.
● Full model line information: Each model page has all available trims linkable to current inventory.
● Feature-focused inventory pages: Certain high-profile features such as Fender® Premium Audio System have their own pages, which also display inventory.
● Real-time feed with Volkswagen news: All VW social content is aggregated into a single interface, so users can keep their finger on the brand's pulse. Content can be sorted by model.
DealerMatch

The buying process has also become more streamlined for Volkswagen dealers. VW recently partnered with DealerMatch to create an online marketplace where Volkswagen dealers can buy and sell used vehicles among themselves.

About Volkswagen of America, Inc.

Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc., an operating unit of Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (VWoA) is headquartered in Herndon, Virginia. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. VWoA's operations in the United States include research and development, parts and vehicle processing, parts distribution centers, sales, marketing and service offices, financial service centers, and its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Volkswagen Group is one of the world's largest producers of passenger cars and Europe's largest automaker. VWoA sells the Beetle, Beetle Convertible, Eos, Golf, GTI, Jetta, Jetta SportWagen, Passat, CC, Tiguan, and Touareg vehicles through approximately 640 independent U.S. dealers.

Notes:
This press release is available at media.vw.com. Follow us @VWNews
"VW", "Volkswagen", all model names and the Volkswagen logo are registered trademarks of Volkswagen AG.

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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 56 Comments
      scott o.
      • 7 Months Ago
      The new website is atrocious. It's totally dumbed down for people, I am guessing, who come to the site with no idea what kind of car they want. However, for enthusiasts, or even just decently educated peopled, the site is a total insult to their intelligence. There is no way to preview what a certain model looks like with certain exterior colors or interior trims, is totally lacking the matrices that enable one to thoroughly compare different trims on the same vehicle, and--I kid you not--has no place where it will just tell you the complete technical specifications for a car. It's a perfect example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. They simplified the initial browsing experience at the cost of getting entirely rid of actual detailed factual data that any intelligent person *needs* to make decisions about a car purchase. In addition to all that, by entirely limiting the "Build Your Own" process to seeing *only* what cars are at your local lot, they completely cater to the dimwits who show up to car dealers and think they have to pick from what is there. My last 5 new vehicle purchases were all ordered cars, not from the lot, so this new website is literally useless to me. And since we all know that dealerships almost never know anything about the cars they sell, that leaves VW of NA essentially leaving it to enthusiast car forums to provide people with actual knowledge about VW cars. Of course, those are the same places where people find out that they are getting ripped off by their local dealer and where and how to get fair deals on cars, so I suspect this whole effort from VW to funnel you into the snakes at your local dealership will backfire in a fair number of cases. It'll be interesting to see how long the site lasts in it's current state, as I imagine this will really weaken sales pretty quickly.
        shephrd
        • 2 Months Ago
        @scott o.

        VW...Please fire Paige Parrent and bring back the build and price configurator. Thanks.

      Quest
      • 7 Months Ago
      They can't kill it soon enough.
      Terry Actill
      • 7 Months Ago
      I'll buy what the hell I want and this silly game is annoying. Unless VW buyers are simpletons which most are not. They have a very young demographic base who are way more savvy than this game is designed for. Drop it VW.
      over9000
      • 7 Months Ago
      Oh my god... it's so dumbed down that I can't even find the information I want. It looks more like a giant advertising site than anything else.
      weaponx180
      • 7 Months Ago
      I discovered this change a couple days ago and though, it looks pretty, not having the ability to build and price your vehicle takes away 90% of the fun of visiting these sites. Personalizing your car isn't just about checking prices and options, but it's also about day dreaming and endless possibilities. With VW sales as they are in the states, allowing someone to dream about their GTI or Passat (I guess?) could certainly help improve their bottom line.
      aaronbartelt
      • 7 Months Ago
      I just had my wife try the site, as a non-car geek and a woman, to see if she could navigate it. Within 2 minutes, she was frustrated and called it stupid. Way to go, VW. I noticed this change on their site a few days ago and chatted with someone on their site to voice my complaints. He said they were going to hear from people and maybe make changes from there. Yeah, right...
      ycnexu
      • 7 Months Ago
      I need a configurator to get information to make an informed decision. Not to be fed with a "solution" by VW marketing, dealerships, or computers.
      razorpit
      • 7 Months Ago
      Lets see, considering our choices here in the U.S. are basically Jetta, Passat, and an occasional Beetle (good luck finding anything else) is a website even needed?
      jonnybimmer
      • 7 Months Ago
      Definitely feels "easier" to find a car in your area, but you no longer get to see how the vehicle looks with various options/colors which was most of the fun of these configuration sites. I'm not sure what about the older versions was "intimidating" but perhaps it's because as a car enthusiast, I have no idea what it'd be like to be completely clueless (and unwilling to do a little research) about them. It'll probably be a better experience for some people, but I definitely miss seeing what the car will look like as you build it and overall I question the "greater transparency".
        James Dailey
        • 7 Months Ago
        @jonnybimmer
        It's easier to find a car in your area if one exists optioned the way you want. Otherwise, there's no way to know exactly what the options you do want will cost you. Seems really strange and unfriendly to the user. I get that VW wants to drive what's in inventory, but I've simply never bought a car off the lot and never will.
      cadetgray
      • 7 Months Ago
      Well I visited their site again to see if my first negative comment was a knee jerk reaction to change as I had be charged by one individual. I wanted to see what the experience would be like if I were unfamiliar with the brand or their product offerings. Here was I saw and felt within 5 minutes: Two broken images links on the top page!!! (Find a Dealer and Special Offers). I wanted to see about a sporty sedan with a manual transmission, so it appeared they offered a Jetta GLI that would fit the bill. I got down to 1 offering in my area by the time I chose the transmission so I then go to color selection. Here I got caught in a mind-numbing loop of change your selection when I choose a blue interior combo. Thinking it may have been my exterior color choice I changed it to White since that color is usually paired with most interior color offerings by manufacturers. Well no deal. I then return to the exterior color selector and now it doesn't move. I hit the back arrow on the browser and it takes me to the top page of the site. At this point I would have left, but I plodded on to see what Jetta has this elusive blue color. I see the download brochure link and upon reading it, I learn that the blue is not offered in the Jetta line....why then do they have it in the color selector for the Jetta? I then visit the Beetle page because I recall a nice light blue one parks where I work. The results are encouraging because on the Beetle page they show a red/black interior so after the first frustration with the color selector I just bypass the technology that is to "take away the intimidation" and just download the brochure. Well, instead of the 2014 Beetle brochure it downloads the 2013 VW full line brochure. ARRRGGGHHH but wait, I noticed in that document a pretty Glacier Blue for the Passat, so I decide to see if that car has the blue interior that I first saw available for the Jetta. Guess what? the exterior color selector shows no Glacier Blue for the Passat. By then I'm frustrated because I really like light blue colors like the Glacier or Denim Blue by VW yet even if I could find that is it possible, apparently I would be driven mad to find if one is even available. So, as an average consumer did this new site make me WANT to buy a VW....NO! As an autogeek would I want to buy a VW....maybe because from sources other than VW I really like the upcoming GTI, I think a friend's Glacier Blue Passat diesel is beautiful (though they've dropped the color) and that Denim blue Beetle with the baby moon wheels is still a nicely done retro take on a classic. Volkswagen, its a good thing some of us still have a soft spot for you, but the goodwill can be fading. You need to do some serious house cleaning, and I'd begin with Paige Parrent because the woman appears to be over her head. The aesthetics maybe there but as a car shopping tool the new site is as functional as wearing a pair of Manolo Blahniks on a hiking trail.
      ferps
      • 7 Months Ago
      I like the ability to explore inventory, but that shouldn't mean getting rid of the configurator. What if you want to order a car?
      Jason
      • 7 Months Ago
      Tried it, It totally sucks, it takes away the ability to spec out a car the way you want it, not the way the nearest dealer ordered it. Trying to find specs on the car and putting on performance parts is out of the question. In fact at this very moment (5-6-2014 at 11:48 pm eastern time) I cannot even look at a GTI it's as if they do not even sell the car. It's not an option in the Model line up.
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