BMW in the United States, unlike most car manufactures defined as a combination of series, bodystyle, engine size, and drivetrain, instead of trim lines. Thus, BMW has six 3 Series Sedan models (three engine sizes crossed with 2 drivetrain options) while Audi’s equivalent A4 Sedan counts as a single model. Since BMW had launched in the USA back in the 70s as a sports car enthusiast brand, they had maintained a very granular model nomenclature unique to this market. In the 2000s BMW began introducing new series and bodystyles as well as more engine options, causing there to be almost a hundred models being detailed on a website designed for a third that number.
The BMW client came to our team and asked that the vehicle highlights template on BMWUSA.com for each model be redesigned to be more compelling. Looking at the metrics, we could see that there was significant drop-off before customers reached the key selling points on the highlights page. breaking down the user flow, a significant problem became immediately obvious- the information being presented to the user was organized completely backwards. The site structure required potential customers to navigate to a specific vehicle before they could obtain any information about if it fit their needs. The model highlights, which were the strongest selling points of the vehicle, were buried on the lowest level of the site.
The team’s official recommendation to the client was for a much more significant redesign of the site’s product pages, along with a paring down of the information.
The first step was user interviews, to determine what information they typically have top of mind when first arriving on the site, and how they view the BMW vehicle lineup. We determined that customers can have a variety of criteria top of mind (price, number of doors, bodystyle, engine fuel type, etc) and usually start their search in Google. Second we found only BMW enthusiasts thought of the vehicles in terms of their model designation- everyone else (i.e. the customers needing more assistance and most likely to abandon if they get lost,) thought of them as a series or series bodystyle. (e.g. a BMW 3 Series or BMW 3 Sedan, and not a BMW 328i with xDrive.) Third, when interviewing the BMW dealers we found that they generally only had certain models on the lot, which frustrated customers who had become sold on other specific models.
For this I redesigned the product section architecture to remove the model pages, and instead have one page for each series bodystyle combination. Additionally I created a page for each series. The series level page the series brand image, and provided enough information for a customer to decide if they wanted to go deeper into one of the bodystyle options for that series, or move laterally to a different series. The Series-Bodystyle page was the ‘real’ product page, and talked about all of the models that clustered under it as a single product. They were redesigned to be a long scrolling, responsive-friendly page, with the vehicle highlights being pushed up to be the first thing seen as the user scrolls down. Customers were then driven to become a sales lead at that level, giving the sales associate more flexibility with the vehicles they show. I also created special landing pages for alternate fuel types (Diesel, hybrid and electric) as well as for the high performance “M Models” and the SUV-type “X Models”, based on google search term analytics. This allowed users searching by terms related to those clusters of models to have a landing page that cleanly laid out all those vehicles and their unique selling points, regardless of their series or bodystyle associations.
In our competitive survey we found that unlike BMW, other luxury automakers sold themselves as a brand, not just their products. So I added to the site taxonomy the “Inside BMW” page which introduced all of BMW’s strengths in terms of design and technology.
All of this was going to have a radical impact on the site’s navigation obviously. With all of the old model links in the top navigation, there were almost 300 links across all the series and 11 categories. We did research into what options users look for the most when car shopping, with card sorting and task analysis. I then designed a new navigation system that moved everything that was not associated with selling cars to the footer, and was able to reduce the primary navigation down to present the five most important option to the user.
Site metrics also showed that other than the “Build Your Own” configurator, customers could not find the sales tools, (Payment estimator, compare, special offers, etc.) as they were spread across the site. So a special “Sales Tools” flyout was created to consolidate them all into one prominent location.
By this point the redesign of the product page had been re-scoped to be a full site redesign. In order to not get held up by this now larger project, the changes described above were launched in early 2015. In that state the site was kind of a Frankenstein, with pages on old and new templates, divided between two technology stacks. However despite this, J.D. Power awarded BMWUSA first place for the Summer 2015 review out of 33 automakers, up from last place from winter of 2013 just before the project started. Verbatims from the site testers specifically cited the new navigation as the easiest to use.