What is a product configurator?

A product configurator is a piece of software that allows customers to design a product to their specification, sometimes referred to as knowledge-based configuration or product customisation. These tools are made up of a variety of components that allow for full or partial customisation of popular products such as cars and jewellery.

The customisation process, depending on the e-commerce platform, includes parts, options or services that combine to satisfy the customers needs. The option for customisation and making a product ‘unique’ is the attraction for shoppers, setting your brand aside from the rest.

The customer experience

Adding a product configurator to your online shop is all about improving the customer experience, which in turn, boosts sales and builds customer loyalty. The way the customer experience is being delivered today has been altered significantly by cultural changes such as social media. In an online world that has become increasingly competitive and about image, for some purchasing a product that is one-of-a-kind is highly desirable.

In the fashion world, high-end designer brands are well-sought after for a variety of reasons, but particularly because they are easily identified by the unique branding. However, for some customers, just sporting the iconic logo of their chosen brand isn’t enough – they want more for their money. Brands such as Gucci and Ray-Ban offer customisation with customer’s initials and choice of colour, making the already valuable products even more desirable.

Types of customers

Any marketing expert worth their salt can identify a retailer’s ideal customer. Targeting these people is never the problem, as strong social media promotion and brand awareness take care of that. Identifying customers that are likely to be interested in product customisation is a bit more involved, as it’s a luxury and specialised software. Understanding different types of customers and how they behave online is part of this process.

The first type of customer is someone who is a lover of brands and already has knowledge of them, so visits your website will be made with a definite intention to purchase. This person doesn’t need much encouragement to use the software and to covert. The second customer may not be familiar with this type of customisation, but is invested and even surprised by the opportunity. Finally, the third customer may find the configurator tool to be an obstacle to their purchase, finding it too complex to work with.

Why do I need one?

The retail industry is already facing a period of uncertainty and fierce competition. Put simply, a product configurator sets you aside from the rest. Customers look for something that makes them feel rewarded for their loyalty, or encouraged to make subsequent purchases. Examples of these rewards that are used widely by retailers are discount vouchers, limited edition products and giveaways.

Although these techniques work well both in store and online, to stand out and have the edge that retailers need, a product configurator is the ideal way to do it. According to an article by Shape Diver, in 2012, Google created a new step along the customer journey, called Zero Moment of Truth. This means that it’s become essential for retailers to intervene when a customer actively starts searching for a product. Using the three types of customers along with this concept is a way to identify the best time to introduce customisation.

How does the process work?

Part of the process in building a successful business in today’s digital world is moving with technological advances, and product configurators are just the beginning. Offering a small amount of customisation to begin with, for example a few colours to choose from, can develop into a varied selection of components.

Making a product configurator part of your marketing strategy is not only a way to be ahead of the curve, but to learn about your customers. Over time, you may discover that a particular colour customisation is popular and establish how much your customers are willing to spend on a unique version of your product. It’s all about offering more and demanding more from retail – some people just don’t like ‘off the peg’ products and will pay for the choice and luxury of making something their own.

Types of configurators vary, but they all do the same thing. They streamline sales, gather important information about your customers and save both parties time and money. The accuracy of product configurators means that there are fewer mistakes made and therefore, time spent fixing orders in production is reduced. This clever software is accessible across all popular devices, meaning that sales aren’t affected by customer location or availability. Finally, and most importantly, product configurators are no longer a singular software, they feed into CRM systems which allows price tracking, purchase history and customised recommendations for your customers.

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