E-Commerce

Create Experiences with Product Configurators

Myriam Nonnemann
23.08.2022
9 Min

Product Configurator – the Icing on the Cake for Your Online Shop

The purchasing patterns of consumers are undergoing a paradigm shift. Keywords such as “user experience” and “customer experience” are occupying center stage. The name of the game is to increase the customer conversion rate. 76 percent of companies surveyed have stated that they’re working on projects in the field of user experience in order to optimize their conversion. (Source: Statista DE) 

A battle-tested tool for maximizing your customers’ purchasing and product experience are so-called product configurators. In the B2C sector, individualized product configurators have long become indispensable. However, in B2B they’re starting to enjoy rapidly-increasing popularity, too. What may be the reasons for this? When would it make sense to integrate a product configurator yourself? And how can this plan be put into practice? Learn about this and more in our most recent blogpost. 

💡 What is a product configurator?
A product configurator is a software tool which enables users to set up individualized products simply by selecting some relevant product attributes. The result of such configuration is referred to as a product variant. In context to this, you may also occasionally stumble across related terms such as “variant configurator,” “offer configurator,” or “sales configurator,” and other synonyms.

💡 How does a product configurator function?
Equipped with a product configurator, your customers can create specific product variants themselves. To do so, they navigate a graphical web interface and select properties or components which hereby come together to form a product variant. Product configurators are particularly popular for complex products with many options, such as in the furniture and housing industries.

Purchasing a Kitchen Made Easy 

Let’s adopt the first-person perspective of Paul (purely fictitious entity). He needs a new kitchen. Yet after a long and tedious workday, he’s simply much too exhausted to stop by a kitchen studio to receive a configuration for his desired kitchen in person. Instead, Paul does his research and stumbles across a provider where he can configure his kitchen fully by himself. He selects a kitchen front, chooses his favorite drawers, and picks a work surface. At a glance, Paul notices that the desired kitchen work surface comes with a delivery delay. Easy peasy, he simply selects another work surface with shorter delivery times among the alternatives presented by the configurator.

Now, what electronics fits the configured cupboard best? Paul is worried about purchasing the wrong kind of oven. But no reason to get too warmed up about it, since the configurator only provides matching components which are fully compatible with one another. This way, the dynamic configurator allows even laypersons to set up complex products without any room for error whatsoever.

Once Paul is done configuring, he checks out the final result once more in the form of a 3D model for the intended room. He then proceeds by booking the kitchen assembly service and signs the purchasing contract at the click of a button. Immediately after, Paul receives an e-mail containing his kitchen as a 3D model together with a list of all ordered kitchen components. On the other end, the kitchen manufacturer and the warehouse do also receive a components list, allowing them to prepare his kitchen free from error. Paul is extremely happy about how the digital age makes his everyday life much simpler and eagerly awaits the arrival of his new kitchen.

Illustration mit Koch, der neben Küchen-Webseite mit Auswahlmenü steht | eggheads.net

The basis for a well-oiled product configurator is data, data, and, not to forget, data – for example on properties, components, building parts, services, variants, or configuration rules. All such data is gathered and managed in a Product Information Management system (PIM). With PIM, there’s no need to file data for every single variant and combination. You only manage the individual properties, components, and rules of how things can be put together. The actual putting-together, in turn, is processed with dynamics and automatisms. This comes with huge benefits, which is why more and more companies are putting their trust into the duo of PIM and configurator.

 

The 3 Most Important Advantages  

Manage Combinations More Efficiently

Product configurators are a must-have if your product offer consists of various combination options with multiple components. Some simple math best illustrates this point: If you have seven components and five different properties to offer, there’re already 78,125 possible variants to cover. Now, imagine creating all of these variants manually by hand, let alone maintaining and translating them – you don’t want to commit yourself to such menial labor. It’s much simpler to just register the seven components together with properties and combination rules in your PIM system and manage them centrally. On top of that, you also take care of any possible data redundancy.

24/7 Product Experience for Customers

Product configurators are crucial for the digitization of companies, especially since they provide customers with inspiring online experience and product visualizations. The concept is simple: A customer-oriented product approach translates into higher customer satisfaction rates, more sales, as well as lower return rates and, with all that, a substantial increase in revenue. On the other end, users benefit from simpler configurations, since the product finder is easy to operate – even for laypersons. After all, users can only combine compatible components with one another in their product config. This way, for example, Paul will never accidentally purchase the wrong oven. And the best thing is: Customers can configure your products around the clock 24h and make orders from anywhere they want. Neither do you have to invest personnel resources, nor do you need a physical store.

More Success in Product Sales and Lower Product Return Rates

Your sales team, too, will soon learn to cherish the merits of your new configurator. The offer creation can be fully automated. Your success rate increases. You save time, resources, and costs throughout all processes – from sales, through manufacturing, to logistics. With smooth process chains and exact components list, reliable price estimations will be generated together with the purchase offer. The overall error rate in production is minimized. As a result, the follow-up processes will bring in results with much less complaints and returns.

Illustration einer Frau, die ein Dropdown-Menü nutzt | eggheads.netWhen does the Use of Product Configurators Pay Off?  

In particular, a configurator will pay dividends in product portfolios with a lot of product variants. If you’re distributing high-quality products and want to provide your customers with an extravagant purchasing experience, the configurator is also the perfect go-to choice for your online shop in this use case. Even without physically holding the product in their own two hands, consumers will gain a perfect impression of what it is like to use your product thanks to the configurator.

 

Be it B2C or B2B – Product Configurators are Always a Welcome Sight 

Product configurators are most prominently represented in the B2C sector, with an ever-increasing tendency. Regardless of whether we’re looking for a replacement part for our car, buying a new bike, or booking vacations – in many of today’s online shops, we wish we would be able to simply configure our own dream product by ourselves instead of being presented with a fixed and static assortment. When purchasing a new computer, we select the memory size ourselves. When it comes to tours and travels, we select our preferred hotel room and catering service. Even the clothing industry is investing more and more into configurators. In the furniture and housing sector, they have long become indispensable. And this is how you and your business, too, can make things easy for your customers, significantly enhancing customer experience.

Especially when it comes to complex products, a configurator can support your customer in making the right purchase. For this reason, we also find more and more configurators in some fields of the B2B sector. Be it for driving shafts, connector sockets, warehouses, automation systems, hydraulics, or pneumatics. In fact, as consumers, we sometimes don’t even come to realize that the offer has been put together by a configurator. When it comes to complex products or companies that value customer retention, sales teams may even operate the configurator themselves. With this approach, too, the benefits clearly outweigh the investment.

 

This is How the Implementation Works 

In a first step, choose a suitable provider and specify your requirements. The software solution will be adjusted to your individual needs. To this end, you will receive support and counseling throughout the integration project to make sure that all technological requirements are realized as smoothly as possible. After checking the product configurator on the basis of usability tests, you can import actual product data into the system. For this project stage, you’ll need a PIM system. After all, PIM is what constitutes your company’s data basis. In this system, you define variants, rules, combination options, CAD data, videos, and images. In short, all data and information which your configurator requires.

With a PIM system, you can also benefit from optimized interfaces for centralizing and bulk-editing data. This, in turn, avoids data redundancy and additional effort when working on content and data quality. Last but not least, you can not only supply your configurator but all relevant e-commerce channels in real-time with the newest product data which you have approved and released as part of your built-in product information workflow. Our software, eggheads Suite, provides you with vital support as the central datahub for your company’s entire IT landscape.

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