Customisation in practice: interactive product configurator
Customisation has been present for years in trends of the largest worldwide brands: Coca-Cola bottles and Nutella jars with your name on it or Burberry scarf with customised embroidered pattern are only a few examples of activities that fit this global trend. Every customer wants to be special and to have something that is going to be unique, customised and specific to them. In answer to this need, more and more brick-and-mortar and online stores customise their offer and employ interactive product configurators. Why?
The research and development department of PayU analyses each year a couple hundred publications and reports from the whole world, forecasting the most important trends including, among others, trends in online sales. Customisation has been the most frequently indicated and mentioned trend in 2017. Presently, the customers expect unique products adjusted to their individual needs and they also want to feel a special relationship with the brand. What does this mean in practice?
In the struggle to attract the customer's attention, the companies that change their way of thinking to be more customer-centric are going to become the new leaders.
In order to answer the current needs of customers better it is not necessary to refashion the whole business. The first step in that direction could the implementation of new technologies that would fit into the customisation trend, suggests Paweł Elbanowski, CEO of Programa™.
Example: an increasing number of companies abandon the standard offer presented in the form of a catalogue in favour of customised configurators that enable customers to create quickly the product that meets their expectations.
DIY, or how a configurator works and why both companies and their customers love it?
Customers buy with their eyes. Before they make a decision to make a purchase, they need to see the product and fall in love with it. A configurator answers not only this need, but also another one – the desire to adjust the product to one's own imagination and to have something unique. So, we have a 2-in-1 situation – an opportunity to see the product in multiple versions and to configure it on one's own, explains Michał Bień from the business development department of Programa™.
Interactive configurators help customers create the products from various elements. They prove to be successful both at brick-and-mortar stores, where a specialist helps the customer through the configuration process, and online, where the customer chooses individual elements on their own and creates a complete end result out of it. The main idea behind configurators is to present a finished product to customers, while at the same time being able to sell different elements. It is all about the customer not having to imagine the end result in their head and choose separately the elements with regard to which the customer cannot be sure whether they will fit well together.
Configurators turn out well in situations where a company has a range of different product and/or combined brands. Maciej Syroczyński from MEBLE VOX describes it as follows:
Benefits for companies
- an additional sales channel,
- speeding up of the sales process - visualisation of the final product has an impact on shortening the customer's decision-making process,
- optimisation and automation of the sales process - the company receives an order that is ready for execution by the production department,
- sales statistics - knowledge on which product sells when enables better production planning and promotion of specific articles,
- elimination of errors - the configurator's logic is going to enable designing only a product that can be manufactured,
- the innovation effect, the so-called "wow-factor" - configurators have been present on the Polish market for a relatively short time.
Additionally, if the company decides to make the interactive online configurator available, then:
- it will reduce the costs of product manufacturing, since a part of activities such as measurements, material selection and selection of accessories is transferred to the customer,
- it will enable selling products that, due to their specificity, were impossible to offer in traditional online stores or required several visits to a brick-and-mortar store (e.g. doors, furniture, roller-blinds, cars).
Benefits for customers
The interactive product configurator provides also a lot of benefits to the customer, including:
- complete customisation of the product by detailed definition of its characteristics,
- visualisation of the product chosen, e.g. roller-blinds made of specific material in a window- or door-frame with specific door handle and casing. The customer does not buy a pig in a poke.
- optimisation of purchases costs - the customer is able to look for the best configuration in terms of price.
What if the customer configures the product online? Then, additionally:
- they save time and money since they do not have to go to the brick-and-mortar store to complete the desired product,
- they have unlimited time for making a decision regarding change in configuration of the goods purchased,
- they gain access to offers that, until now, could be configured only in brick-and-mortar stores,
- the relationship between the customer and both the product and the company that enabled its remote configuration is strengthened.
Configurator - what kind of companies is it for? A couple of inspirations.
A functional, well-planned and well-designed interactive configurator can provide a lot of benefits to a company - from increasing sales to strengthening the relationship with customers. Which enterprises should include configurator implementation in their strategy? The configurator is going to support the actions of your company if you are characterised by one of the features below:
- you have a well-developed range of products that can be combined in various ways and/or you offer them for sale only online
If you have many easily configurable products that can be combined in many ways, but they can only be purchased from you only separately and without any possibility to see them in a set in advance, a configurator is going to be a perfect solution for you. It is going to enable your customers to become fully accustomed with your offer and to make it easier for them to decide on purchasing multiple products at the same time.
- you sell your products through independent salons
Providing external specialist with a functional and innovative tool is a good way of encouraging them to present exactly your products during the sale process. Thanks to a configurator it is going to be easier for them to make a good impression on a customer and help them visualise your product in their immediate surroundings and, as a result, to complete the transaction.
- you want the contact with your brand to be an important and exceptional experience for the customer
According to the study conducted by the AgileOne company that deals in analysis of consumer behaviour, 70% of American and British people expect more customised "experience" during online shopping. The configurator thanks to which they create unique and personal products is going to provide them with value they desire and encourage contact with the brand in the future.
We have also chosen 3 companies from different branches of industry that implemented interactive product configurators and gained tangible benefits from them. Below you can find the description of their solutions, together with their most important functions.
The companies from the automotive industry have one of the most advanced and functional wizards available on the market. One of them is BMW's configurator.
What is interesting in that configurator?
- An intuitive path of car parameter selection - from general issues to details. First, we choose the most important car parameters, such as engine power and drive type, then the colour of its exterior and interior and in the end, we choose the details.
- High quality photographs and live preview – when configuring the car, we have very good quality photographs at our disposal – the visualisations thanks to which we see how the car is going to look like in reality. Additionally, we have the opportunity to see the changes introduced in the 360 degrees mode.
- Hints, suggestions – thanks to the system of hints and suggestions, we learn the functions of systems implemented in cars and receive valuable tips, e.g. which elements can be purchased at less expense in a set.
Interactive configurators work very well in furniture and interior equipment industry, where the look of the product is one of the main factors having impact on whether such product is purchased or not. The VOX Group is a trailblazer when it comes to innovative product presentation solutions.
What is interesting in that configurator?
- High degree of customisation – when configuring the door, we do not focus only on choosing the model or colours, but we also choose the door handle or establish the casing parameters (wall thickness, direction, hinge colour, etc.). We also have the possibility of purchasing additional elements – hooks or hangers.
- Quick buying online and PDF printing – after configuring the product we receive a detailed summary of our order in the form of a PDF file, including all the elements together with their visualisation. We can also skip to the store right away and send our order for execution.
- Manual – guides the customer through the configurator functions step by step.
Another industry that benefits a lot thanks to interactive configurators is the fashion industry. We can now find online an increasing number of clothing companies that do not have brick-and-mortar salons and accept online orders only, e.g. orders made through the wizard available at their website that enables designing a dress on one's own. Interactive solutions are sought after also by global brands – such as NIKE.
What is interesting in that configurator?
- Inspirations – if we have a hard time unleashing our creativity, we can become inspired with example original designs available in the configurator and creation our own design on their basis.
- Special effects – the high degree of footwear customisation encompasses also additional special effects, e.g. fluorescence, which can be seen in the additional view provided by the configurator.
- Magnifying glass – the configurator enables getting a closer look at a given product and checking all of its details.
Customisation is presently the most important trend, both for brick-and-mortar stores and online stores. It relies on the assumption that everyone is more eager to buy products that are unique and adjusted to one's individual needs. One of the tools that fit this trend well is the interactive configurator. Its main advantage lies in the possibility of creating a fully customised product, designed before the customer's eyes. A functional configurator is a tool that brings the customer closer to your company and allows them to get to know your offer better, increasing the volume of your sales as a result.
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