Buying blindly – a thing of the past


When I and my friends were in our late teens and needed a job, it seemed like we had three options: McDonald’s, work in the family business, or work as a telemarketer. Most of us pursued a (brief) career in telemarketing, selling everything from magazines to laundry detergent.

The worst product I ever heard of being telemarketed is what my friend Johan used to sell back in the 90’s: Subscriptions of sweaters! He was literally calling people to sell a monthly subscription of sweaters that he could only describe over the phone:

”Well, sir, I am holding one of the sweaters here in front of me and what can I say…it is a blue sweater in a sort of marine blue color with stripes on the shoulders. It is 90% cotton and has soft, yet stretchy feeling to it. It is a great looking sweater and I am sure you would look handsome in it. What do you say? Should we sign you up for a monthly subscription of these high-quality sweaters?”.


I am not only surprised someone thought of this as a good idea to market, but also the fact that he actually did sell these subscriptions on occasion! Being able to see what you buy is, of course, important in cases like the above. You need to be sure you buy what you think you buy! Being able to get it right is especially important for built-to-order products. So, instead of the sweaters, let me give you an example of more complex, configurable, product that benefit greatly from visual configuration: Elevator cars.

Elevator cars often have different measurements, interiors, button designs and so forth. The configurator will make sure everything can be produced and will work together, but a visual display of the product during configuration will give crucial feedback on things like workflow.


In our example, the elevator is mainly used to transport boxes from the production floor to the delivery hall in a company. The Production Department fills the elevator with boxes through the south end into the tightly fitted elevator car, selects the floor and send it up. At the delivery hall, the elevator opens through the north end where the boxes are removed, after which it is sent down to production again.

Everything is there and is perfectly fitted, but the elevator buttons are accidentally put on the north (wrong) end of the elevator car causing production having to first walk in into the elevator, select a floor and then go outside to fetch the boxes, while making sure the elevator doors doesn’t close! This is something that could rather easily be found out while configuring the elevator car with the help of a visual tool, but may be forgotten without.


An error like this could cause a conflict between the customer and the seller. Often the seller will resolve the conflict (to keep the customer) by re-designing the elevator for free or at a reduced cost, causing a loss in profit margin. Visual configuration will greatly reduce these type of order returns!

3D-visualization of configurable products have gone from a ”nice to have”-tool requested by the marketing department to a very important tool to reduce order returns and create up-selling, requested by sales and quality department. I expect the days of buying products blindly are coming to an end – in everything from elevator cars to sweaters!

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