Volkswagen: mobile comparison tool

Summer 2017

Mentors: Paolo Benvenuto,
Alex Vejnoska

Timeframe: 4 weeks



Shopping for a new car is no longer limited to a traditional, in-person dealership interaction and transaction. Six out of 10 potential car buyers enter the car buying process without knowing exactly what car they will buy.1 Mobile technology has made information access and consumer research ubiquitous, and more and more consumers turn to the internet for answers. It becomes imperative for automakers to have a digital presence to provide information beyond the showroom floor.

The comparison tool becomes an important asset within this shopping experience. For four weeks of my time at Deutsch LA, I was tasked to look into exactly how the Volkswagen web comparison tool within the VW.com product can help retain consumer interest from the beginning of the research process to the final purchasing. After the internship, I took what I learned and made a suggested improvements to the comparison tool.

Research—


I completed a competitive audit to see what is currently being used in the market by competitor automobile brands. The purpose of this was to see how other brands were positioning their comparison tools, and to compare how Volkswagen’s current features lined up.


In regards to the mobile experience, the key features I looked at included:
  1. The presence of a mobile-compatible comparison tool.
  2. Was navigation to the comparison tool on mobile consistent to desktop experience?
  3. Maximum number of cars that could be compared in the mobile comparison tool.
  4. Whether ability to compare between trims, models and competitors were offered.


A matrix comparing mobile features by OEM. I did one for an audit of desktop features as well. You can see it here for reference.

Findings—


Mobile-friendly, two-column layout.
Two-thirds of surveyed OEM’s, including Volkswagen, had a mobile-compatible comparison tool. Most OEM’s allow up to 2 cars to be compared for mobile comparison. I saw this as a way to maximize the use of a smaller, mobile screen real estate, as cars can easily be compared side by side.

Volkwagen’s current mobile tool is ideal for mobile, but the long scroll prevents it from accessing answers quickly.

















Information organization.
Something I liked about some of the OEM’s was that they used expandable categories to display comparable features. Expanding categories provides a more personalized approach to the comparison experience­; consumer can choose what to view at given time narrow down what is being compared. This also provides consumer agency to find answers according to predetermined “checklist.”

However, I felt Volkswagen’s usage of larger fonts and spacing presents more “breathing room”, making it easier to digest the compared features without feeling too cramped.





Navigation to comparison tool in mobile is similar to desktop navigation.
In the audit I completed for comparison tools on a desktop environment, many OEMs’ mobile sites inherited the same navigation logic as their desktop counterpart.

Currently, the Volkswagen compare tool is only found under individual car model pages, where most surveyed OEM’s have access to a comparison tool from the home page as well.




Simple information presentation.
The large amount of information presented in a comparison tool should be presented in a way that is easy to understand. Comparison tool information should be limited to symbols or 5 words or less descriptions.

Volkswagen currently does this by using both symbols and minimal text. I particularly found their “yes/no” approach through blue-colored check marks and grey-colored “X’s” to indicate feature availability. It made it easy to scroll down the information and quickly see what each model was capable of.

Some examples of the information display used by VW.
 

Minimum need for comparison between models and trims.
As reflected in Volkswagen’s current comparison tool and the matrix comparison, a tool to compare between models and trims is more common than competitor comparison in the mobile experience.

Something I thought about, though, was how the Volkswagen comparison tool could be a universal comparison tool if a competitor comparison function was available. Compared to many of the OEM’s surveyed, Volkswagen stands out as a tool that is clear when communicating comparative information. Adding a competitor factor in the comparison tool would provide the brand with more opportunities to retain buyers and interest through a well-designed shopping tool that can be used for all car buying needs.




Challenge—

How do we allow car buyers to access comparative information easily and conveniently through the mobile car shopping experience?

Based on the audit I completed, I had some time to quickly think about and mock up what features could be added or modified to the comparison tool experience.

I knew I wanted suggest for a redesign of tool that had:
  1. A two-column scroll 
  2. Expandable categories while comparing between vehicles
  3. Comparison capacity between trims and competitor brands
  4. A higher-level view of Volkswagen advantages, especially when undertaking a competitive comparison. This would add the aforementioned competitive factor when compared to the comparison tools of other OEM’s.

*to be updated.
Navigation, sketch brainstorming












Based on time constraints of the quick exercise, the highlighted portion of the tool in the context of the VW website is what I focused on.
Exploring different ways of showing comparisons beyond text.
Selected screens and interactions

I chose to use a radar chart to provide a higher level summary of the VW trims, in this case, and later between VW models and their competitors. This provides a simple and very visual way to highlight advantages and set the first impression in the comparison experience.
Albeit a bit wordy and repetitive, I decided to keep the two column scroll, but implement a feature for expandable categories, making the information presented less overwhelming and easier to navigate through.  
VW currently does not have a competitive analysis feature in place, and based on my competitive audit, I suggested a implementing an option to compare other competitors through the exisiting comparison tool.
To further highlight advantages in the detail view, I proposed keeping the symbol for unavailable features consistent to the visual language from the earlier presented radar graph.

Thoughts—

Although this was definitely a short project, I’m thankful to have been able to get my hands a little dirty in exploring a tool that is ubiquitous within society. If I had more time, I would have liked to look into and addressed:

  1. Methods of informing people about a certain feature beyond the listed name. Many of the surveyed OEM’s had pictures within the comparison tool, but I found it hard to easily compare between cars, especially on a mobile environment.
  2. Creation of custom lists. Based on external research, I learned that car-purchasing decision making is highly customized to the specific questions consumers are looking forward to answer by buying a new car. It would interesting to look into making a custom comparison list based on specific features consumers are most interested in.

Please note that the proposed executions served as a personal design exercise to bridge familarity with software and to exercise the research I officially completed during my internship.
© Hilary Lai, 2017