Product Configurator Tools: A Manufacturer’s Guide to Product Customization to Maximize Sales
Personalization is often discussed in ecommerce and retail, but every industry must provide customized experiences. It is more essential than traditional manufacturing. After all, the latest business statistics reveal that 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that can provide this experience.
Your customers expect to craft complex products easily, so creating a self-serve purchasing experience makes sense. Incorporating Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) software into your pipeline is an ideal starting point, but adding an online product configurator enables your suite to reach its full potential.
So, what is product configuration, and how can a product configurator tool benefit your manufacturing business?
What is a Product Configurator?
CPQ is a tool designed for the manufacturing industry to streamline ordering by providing accurate, error-free quoting for complex products.
This guided selling tool presents accurate quotes as customers select different options and benefits businesses by offering streamlined quoting and flexibility. On the other hand, product configurator software takes CPQ technology one step further by visually rendering customized products.
Configurator software can offer 2D, 3D, and even Augmented Reality (AR) visualization to give customers a complete 360-degree experience of their orders. Manufacturers seeking to provide high levels of customization and complex products offer customers the answers to questions like:
- What will my product look like after it’s been manufactured?
- Is this the product that’s right for my business?
- Will my order be viable for the manufacturer?
- Does this order fit into my budget?
- How do different options affect both the final product and its pricing?
The core advantage of including a configurator within CPQ solutions is that no human intervention is required on behalf of the manufacturer. Customers can answer their questions and receive accurate pricing without waiting for your sales team to contact your production and engineering teams to get back to them.
Types of Configurators
Most products are customizable, but as a manufacturer, you must consider product type, technical feasibility, and functionality when choosing a suitable configurator.
Today’s solutions are split into three categories:
- Knowledge-Based Engineering (KBE) – KBE configurators are used to design and build complex equipment under Configure-to-Order (CTO), Assembly-to-Order (ATO), and Engineer-to-Order (ETO) rules.
- ERP Modules – These configurator modules provide manufacturers with the data to benefit downstream processes.
- Visualization Solutions – Visualization is now a baseline requirement for the modern customer. At Tacton, you can incorporate your visualization solution into an existing site to let customers personalize and place their orders.
What Does a Product Configurator Do?
Product configurator software offers various features that fit in with your existing CPQ suite to enhance the purchasing experience. Over time, these tools have become more advanced, making purchasing, preparing technical documents, and avoiding quoting mistakes even simpler.
So what can you expect from a product configurator tool?
All configurators aim to provide transparency to customers throughout the ordering process. Customers who choose from various options while building their products receive real-time quotes.
Customers control the project by updating the product’s price throughout the configuration process. Simultaneously, a flexible product engine ensures that whatever a customer creates is always viable for your manufacturing brand.
Provide a 360-Degree View
As manufacturers move to incorporate ever more complex products into their catalogs, customers themselves may need help to visualize what they are ordering. The risk of mistakes made by a loss of detail as salespeople coordinate with other teams can lead to dissatisfied customers and million-dollar mistakes.
With 23% of all downtime in manufacturing resulting from human error, simple mistakes during the sales process can cause severe disruption if your production lines need to shut down mid-run.
Configurators remove this risk by mimicking the experience of a retail store. Customers are sure of the product they are ordering. They know what it looks like. And the manufacturer has all the details required to make their vision a reality.
Educate Customers Throughout the Purchasing Process
Manufacturers shouldn’t assume that their buyers are informed about the manufacturing process and what goes into creating a product.
Adding product manufacturing software to your existing CPQ setup lets you provide the necessary information about each option to help them make their purchase. They can also pause their orders to liaise with their teams before returning to where they left off.
Furthermore, it helps to reduce the strain on your sales team because they no longer need to field repetitive questions about various product and manufacturing details.
Transform Orders into Solutions
Customers, agents, and partners may be unequipped with the technical knowledge required to convert an order into a technical solution. Within manufacturing, orders must come with 100% correct Bill-of-Material to create error-free products.
Our website product configurator automatically generates the technical documentation required for the engineering team to review and send an order into production. For example, if your group requires CAD documentation, the configurator will generate it after a customer confirms their order.
Validate the Finished Product
Finally, configurators can validate, simulate, and calculate products within an external system before presenting them for approval. Ensuring a product matches the performance expectations set by the customer is critical to maintaining long-term relationships with your buyers.
Validation also allows customers to recalibrate their products and offer updated pricing before giving the green light for production.
The Benefits of Using a Product Configurator Tool
Manufacturers are increasingly moving away from standardized product lines. Unfortunately, incorporating variation-rich products into your catalog places tremendous strain on every department and increases the risk of costly mistakes.
Configurators are designed to streamline the process of building a product while making your employees more effective at what they do. With a tool that can handle consumer and capital goods, manufacturers stand to gain from adding a configurator to their CPQ solutions.
So, what are the advantages of a web-based product configurator?
Handle Complex Products with Ease
Manufactured goods can have infinite variations ranging from colors to sizes and features. While minor customizations pose few problems, customers often expect to make substantial changes between the different models and editions they sell.
Thankfully, configurators can house thousands of variables without strain. Through the guided selling process, customers find it simple to build products from scratch that meet their needs.
Remember, your sales team may need to gain more familiarity with the technical side of your products, so they may need help to field in-depth queries on the product creation process. This isn’t a problem because the configurator provides customers with everything they need to build complicated products independently.
The Customer Gets What They Want
Ultimately, the goal of your manufacturing company is to give your buyers precisely what they want. A product configurator is the first step towards achieving full customer centricity
Exchanging information over the phone, email, or even in-person offers countless opportunities for miscommunication and misunderstanding. Unlike retail, resolving manufacturing mistakes cannot consist of returning the product and asking for another one from the storage room.
With a product configurator, you avoid costly mistakes because the customer designed the product. With 3D and AR visualizations, there is no room for misunderstandings.
It’s why a Harris poll revealed that businesses offering 3D/AR visualization saw 60% of consumers saying they were likelier to complete their orders. On the manufacturing side, configurators also account for technical viability and the materials you have available because they’re receiving real-time information from the rest of your business.
Reduce Lead Time
Lead time measures the time it takes to create customer quotes, receive a response, take payment, and launch the production process.
Time is critical in a sales environment, with fast responders winning 50% of all sales. However, if your sales team is being crushed or you are doing business in multiple time zones, acting quickly is easier said than done.
Product configurators are a tool that forms part of the automation revolution. Automating the quote-to-production process lowers your lead time because the configurator already has the data required to process an order.
Make Your Sales Team More Effective
Manufacturing sales teams often have to pass customer queries to other employees. When dealing with complex products, engineering teams may need to be called directly to provide answers, which takes time. It’s a reality that lends itself to an 85% prospect on-the-phone dissatisfaction rate among businesses.
Unfortunately, short of hiring engineers and production managers to act as your sales team, there’s no way around this with legacy solutions. Instead, our configurator solutions support your sales team because it already has the information to inform and educate your customers.
Moreover, if your agents need to call in an expert, data from the configurator can be submitted directly to relevant personnel, allowing them to provide an informed response.
Free Up Your Agents
Answering questions, requesting technical documents, and providing updated quotes are tasks your sales team handles instead of building customer relationships.
The problem is that your sales team should spend more time selling. These routine tasks take away from that time and make your sales department less effective at targeting prospects and turning them into paying customers.
By using a product configurator tool, sales teams automate much of the purchasing process and enhance the customer experience while freeing themselves to focus on other essential tasks.
Automate the Purchasing Process
Did you know that 60% of customers prefer automated self-service for simple tasks?
While a segment of your customers may want to speak to one of your sales reps, many avoid picking up the phone to place an order. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that many customers find these interactions tedious, time-consuming, and ineffective.
This is why one of the most significant benefits of a product configurator tool is that your customers can design their products without your help. They can get creatively invested in their products as part of an enjoyable experience that allows them to create, design, and change their orders 24/7.
Easy Third-Party Integration
At Tacton, we offer a configurator that pairs with our premier CPQ solution. However, you may be worried about integrations if you’re already using other tools to improve the customer experience and support the purchasing process.
Most configurators can integrate easily with third-party software and even entire purchasing platforms. If you’ve already created a digital manufacturing platform, you can attach your configurator to manage inventory and stock lines simultaneously.
With manufacturing solutions like Tacton, including built-in product configurators, integration worries are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Optimize Your Business with CPQ Solutions from Tacton Systems
Product configurators are designed to form part of an industry-leading CPQ solution that improves every aspect of the sales, purchasing, and production processes.
By removing errors, providing transparent quotes, and reducing lead times, you empower your customers to place their orders independently. If you’re ready to enhance your digital transformation, now is the time.