The best luxury websites showcase brand quality and expertise. At every click, they deliver bespoke experiences to users. In the luxury automotive industry, where high prices and discerning clientele are a given, impeccable service and standing out from the crowd are absolute musts. But what digital features help brands achieve this online?
KIJO is a leading web design agency. We have been building bespoke websites for luxury brands in London and across the UK for years. In this series, we search for the best luxury websites in the automotive industry and analyse the effectiveness of their features. For any new luxury business creating a website, understanding the market and the most successful techniques currently being used offers invaluable insight.
To more accurately understand how luxury websites are faring against their competitors, we are putting comparable brands head to head in a digital standoff. This week we look at two high-end car brands appealing to a similar market: Lexus and Porsche.
Porsche and Lexus at a Glance
Before we get started on their websites, let’s take a quick look at the brands to see how they compare.
Established by Ferdinand Porsche in 1948, Porsche is a German car manufacturer that specialises in the production of high-performance sports cars, SUVs and sedans. Models cost anything north of £40,000 up to around £145,000. During World War Two, Ferdinand Porsche helped to design the Volkswagen Beetle, the ‘car for the people’ in Germany. Since then, while Volkswagen and Porsche have maintained close business ties they have ventured into wildly different markets, with Porsche focussing on high-end luxury.
Lexus is the luxury vehicle division of Japanese automotive titan, Toyota, and it is the country’s best-selling premium car brand. The Lexus brand began in 1983. Back then, Japanese car manufacturers had long been known for their high-quality, reliable models. However, they were yet to make a mark in the luxury market. A corporate project to design a world-leading luxury sedan ignited the industry. With strict speed, drag reduction and fuel efficiency benchmarks to hit, it was a challenging feat. Six years and billions of dollars later, the pioneering LS 400 model was created. The LS 400’s performance combined with its impeccable interior design convinced international audiences of the brand’s hard-earned position in the luxury market. Now, Lexus has a range of SUVs, sedans, convertibles and hybrid vehicles, costing between £26,000 and £100,000.
First Impressions: The Homepage with the Biggest Impact
Lexus website visitors are immediately grabbed by a video of an electric blue hybrid tearing through a salt flat. The car drives in a sweeping arc that effectively pulls users into the screen. The Lexus web designers have opted for quality over quantity; the image takes up the whole page and is a bold, singular statement that puts the product centre-stage.
Overlayed on the video is a ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Evening’ message, depending on the time of day. This mirrors the service you would get in a Lexus showroom and is a personalised touch that luxury brands must deliver if they are to impress their target markets online.
Porsche’s approach could not be more different. Their homepage focuses on displaying the wide variety of content available on the website. Users are first greeted with an image carousel that shows four of the latest Porsche models. The images are high-quality and varied, but without any movement, Porsche has missed an opportunity to create a dynamic experience for the user.
Scroll down and six further models are shown in a grid format, there is a call to action to ‘Build Your Own’ in each image. This is a custom feature that most luxury car dealers offer, Porsche makes it incredibly easy for users to access: personalised production is only a click away.
Below this is ‘Shopping Tools’, ‘Porsche Live’ and ‘Discover’. The homepage is a great jumping-off point for users, but it lacks the impressive vision of Lexus.
Most Effective Homepage: Lexus
The immersive advertising shoot combined with the personal greeting is a bold and minimalistic approach that has paid off for Lexus. The exquisite design showcases their bold brand vision. Porsche’s homepage, however, divides into multiple elements which fracture the overall impact.
Special Features: Bespoke Car Configuration and Personalised Recommendations
Completely customisable car creation is a frequent offering from top-end car manufacturers. It’s a feature that provides a substantial digital challenge. How can brands bring this service online?
The ‘Configure Your Car’ feature on the Lexus website provides ample options for customisation. However, as the top navigation pane takes up a significant portion of the screen users must repeatedly scroll up and down to view their results, which impedes the user experience.
Lexus has an additional ‘Help Me Choose’ tool where users input their preferences and are recommended the car model most suited to their needs. You can pick your ideal body type, number of passengers, price and CO2 emissions. An advanced feature like this provides the digital equivalent of a Lexus representative in a showroom, setting the brand apart from mid-range manufacturers.
Porsche’s ‘Build Your Own’ links open a separate window to the ‘Porsche Car Configurator’. It positions car images and the selection options side by side therefore users can easily see everything without scrolling. As you scroll down to customise more features such as tyres and interior, the car images remain anchored in place. Porsche’s layout provides a much smoother experience for the user compared to the Lexus feature.
To view the Porsche models, users can click through several images to see the car from every angle. On the Lexus website, customers use their mouse to rotate a 3D image instead. Not only is this a more advanced visual tool, but it offers a more immersive experience for the user.
Most Effective Special Features: Both
Porsche’s layout is by far the easiest to use. However, Lexus’ ‘Help Me Choose’ tool and more sophisticated image displays make it a tie.
User Experience: Who Offers the Smoothest Navigation?
The Lexus homepage includes two navigation panels. On the left, the focus is on products, with links to ‘Cars’, ‘Electrified’, and ‘Used Cars’. The navigation bar on the right provides quick access to services.
Using SPAs (single page applications), some elements of the Lexus navigation panel are configured so that users can ‘Find a Centre’ or ‘Book a Test Drive’ from the home screen, without the page reloading. A more sophisticated website design such as this provides the ultimate user experience that delivers the desired results most efficiently.
Porsche’s navigation uses more traditional dropdown menus. Although some of the menus include images, the overall effect is largely underwhelming. The sheer number of options presented to the user is overwhelming to a casual browser. However, for a Porsche aficionado with a clear goal in mind, the detailed navigation options make it easy to swiftly find what you’re looking for.
Most Effective User Experience: Lexus
Porsche has a far more diversified business than Lexus which impacts the website design. There are so many options available, creating a streamlined, uncomplicated journey for the user is a challenge. Lexus, on the other hand, offers slick transitions from the homepage to any service or product.
Visual Design: Detailed Product Displays
Product pages on the Lexus website make excellent use of white space that let the models speak for themselves. Individual product pages include all the detail a potential customer could want and include an array of dynamic design elements. The Lexus website includes infographics, moving images and scroll effects on every product page. Interactive images allow customers to discover technical information on individual vehicle components. The pages display the skill and finesse of the Lexus web design team and are as far as possible from a boring, static webpage.
Porsche’s product pages include a detailed filter panel on the left to help you easily find a specific model. Porsche’s web designers pack individual product pages full of technical information and interactive design elements. Users rarely see these features elsewhere on the website. If we have one criticism, it is that the pages are too crowded. It overloads customers with information, which isn’t the relaxed shopping experience you expect from a luxury car brand.
Most Effective Visual Design: Lexus
It was a close decision, but simply for the white space that gives the customer space to breathe, Lexus comes out on top. The level of detail Porsche provides cannot be faulted, but their design is too complicated.
Overall Best Luxury Website: Lexus
As a brand with a long heritage and older target market, it is potentially an intentional move by Porsche to maintain a more traditional website. However, the user experience, visual design impact and functionality of Lexus’s website wins in our comparison, hands down.
Lexus is a younger brand than Porsche with arguably much more to prove. Just as their first-ever LS 400 model delivered a leading performance for the time, so does their website. It’s in this way that the brand has always proved its worth in the luxury market.
We think that focusing on website performance and the latest digital design trends is a brilliant way for emerging brands to establish their position in the online luxury space. For us, Lexus is one of the best luxury websites, delivering outstanding results on both fronts. To discuss incorporating these features in your website design, get in touch with the KIJO team and we can begin carving out your brand’s digital platform.