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Complex Product Configurator

What is Complex Product Configurator?

A complex product configurator is a powerful tool that streamlines the configuration of complex products, from construction materials to biotech equipment and apartment blocks. These products stand out due to the vast array of options available, often in the thousands. Navigating these options–each with its own set of constraints–can be daunting for both customers and manufacturers. The configurator offers a comprehensive solution by considering all technical dependencies and presenting a user-friendly visual interface for option selection. It ensures error-free customization aligned with customer preferences, safety standards, and engineering requirements. With this tool, businesses can efficiently capture customer preferences, translate them into actionable configurations, and enhance the overall customer experience.

How Does a Product Configurator Work.

3D Product Configuration.

The most advanced product configurators let users configure complex products by interacting with 3D models. This 3D approach makes products easier to understand and, by extension, easier to purchase. Users can spin products around, zoom in and out, and drag and drop to change parts, colors, dimensions, and more. The immersive and transparent customer experience reduces purchase anxiety. This increases conversion rate and sale size by an average of 40% and 105%, respectively. Here’s why visual product configuration is so effective when selling complex products:

Enhanced Understanding.

Visual product configurators provide a clear and detailed view of the customizable product. This is crucial for complex products and intricate components. By allowing customers to interact with a 3D model, they can better understand the product's features, functions, and overall design.

Increased Confidence.

Real-time 3D visualization lets customers view their customized products, boosting their purchase confidence. They can–quite literally–see what they're getting, how different components fit together, and how changes to the configuration affect the final product. This transparent sales process reduces the risk of post-purchase dissatisfaction or returns.

Faster Sales Cycles.

Visual product configurators simplify the process of explaining complex products. Instead of relying on lengthy product descriptions or technical jargon, they visually demonstrate the product's features and customizations. Increased clarity leads to higher sales and greater customer satisfaction.

Fewer Production Errors.

A visual product configurator lets everyone, from customers to engineers, check configurations for design conflicts. This reduces the chances of production errors or miscommunications, saving time and resources for all parties.

Dynamic Pricing and Quotes.

Product configurator software improves much more than the configuration process. It also generates prices, quotes, proposals, and estimates, complete with sales drawings, which users can download with a single click. Epicor CPQ’s configurator calculates prices dynamically. Rather than pricing configurations based on a static cost-plus model, it tracks fluctuating factors and works them into pricing to maximize the margin on every deal. Factors include inventory level, demand, special customer agreements, and live competitor prices.

CAD and Design Automation.

Robust configurators also generate engineering and manufacturing files. These include CAD files, bills of materials (BOMs), additive manufacturing files, parts lists, and more. This automation frees up hours of engineering time that can be spent on higher-value tasks. A solution like Epicor CPQ, with its complex product configurator and engineering functionality, enables complete file-to-factory automation. Here’s how it looks:
  1. A customer configures their product online using the configurator embedded into the manufacturer’s website.
  2. The configurator generates a price, quote, and all relevant engineering documents and files, routing them to the appropriate person or machine.
  3. Production begins, and the final product is shipped faster than the competition.
Of course, this degree of automation is not feasible–or, indeed, desirable–for every manufacturer. Some may need humans to negotiate or approve prices. Others may need engineers to tweak or sign off on final designs. One thing’s for sure, however: whatever your setup, a complex product configurator will boost speed and improve accuracy significantly.

Robust Product Rules and Logic.

Product configuration software is built on a solid foundation of product rules and logic. This ensures configurations are valid and prices are correct from the outset. There’s no need for back and forth in the sales process or unnecessary checks and balances on the shop floor. Maintaining product rules can be challenging. With some configurators, it’s a job for IT experts. But the most user-friendly solutions have a no-code rules engine, which empowers non-technical employees to create rules–no coding experience required. A no-code rules engine enhances agility. Sellers can launch new products and conduct pricing experiments on the fly. They don’t have to wait for an overstretched IT department or expensive agency to do the work.

System Integration.

Although product configurators are robust standalone solutions, they're often most effective when integrated with other business systems. Here are the most crucial integrations.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM): Integration with CRM lets you track customer preferences, previous purchases, and potential future needs. With this data, you can tailor the configurator experience to individual customers, improving the conversion rate.
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP): Integration with your ERP system ensures your configurator is always up-to-date with the latest product information, pricing, and availability.
  • BI (Business Intelligence) Tools: Integration with BI tools helps you understand trends and patterns in your customers' product preferences. This can guide your product development efforts.
  • Marketing Automation Tools: Integration with your marketing platform lets you personalized messaging and retargeting based on data collected from your configurator. You can also use 3D product visuals for engaging, shareable ads.
  • eCommerce platform: Integration with your eCommerce platform is a potent growth lever for your business. We discuss why in the next section.

eCommerce Integration.

The B2B eCommerce market is skyrocketing. According to Forrester, it will grow from $1.7 trillion in 2021 to $3 trillion in 2027. McKinsey & Company research shows B2B decision-makers prefer B2B eCommerce over any other sales channels. And 70% of decision-makers are willing to authorize eCommerce transactions of $500,000. SaaS configurator software integrates seamlessly with all major eCommerce platforms via APIs. Manufacturers can easily embed their visual configuration experience onto their websites, enabling buyers to research products and place orders without interacting with salespeople. As a result, manufacturers selling complex configurable products are flourishing online. They’re not only increasing revenue but enhancing operational efficiency and reducing costs. Here’s why:
  • Lower operating costs: There's no need for a physical showroom or sales team, which significantly reduces overheads.
  • Increased Order Accuracy: Automated systems minimize human error, increasing customer satisfaction.
  • 24/7 Availability: Online stores are always open, allowing a global customer base to place orders conveniently.
  • Scalability: B2B ecommerce platforms can handle “unlimited” transactions, allowing businesses to scale effortlessly.
  • Efficient Inventory Management: Integrated eCommerce platforms provide real-time inventory tracking, reducing the risk of overstocking or understocking.
  • Streamlined Payment Process: Online payments are faster and more efficient.
  • Reduced Admin: Digital transactions eliminate the need for physical paperwork and manual processes.
  • Central Source of Truth: All product and customer-related data is stored in one central, accessible location.

Next Steps.

A complex product configurator is a transformative tool for businesses dealing with complex configurable products. It simplifies product customization and enhances the customer's understanding and confidence in purchasing. By automating various processes, from pricing and quote generation to creating engineering and manufacturing files, a 3D product configurator increases efficiency and reduces the chances of errors. As the B2B eCommerce market grows, advanced configuration software is becoming essential, enabling businesses to increase revenue, enhance operational efficiency, and reduce costs. To learn more about how product configuration software can benefit your business, contact Epicor CPQ today.

FAQ.

What is a complex configuration?

A complex configuration is a product that has multiple options and dependencies. Take, for instance, a custom home construction company. They might offer a multitude of options ranging from the number of rooms, window styles, and bathroom fixtures to appliances and roofing materials. Suppose a customer chooses a larger kitchen layout. This choice could impact the total number of rooms that can fit within the given square footage. If they choose a specific roofing style, it might necessitate a minimum roof pitch. These scenarios quickly spiral into highly intricate situations requiring expert knowledge, coordination between sales and engineering, delays, and low customer satisfaction. This is where CPQ software with a 3D configurator comes into play. It simplifies the management of complex configurations by maintaining all options, rules, and dependencies. It ensures accurate and efficient quoting, regardless of the number of options.

What is a product configurator?

A product configurator is a tool that allows customers to design a custom product according to their specific needs or preferences. It's often used in eCommerce to provide a more personalized shopping experience. But it can also be used in B2B settings to sell highly complex, big-ticket items. There are several types of product configurator software.
  • Simple configuration software lets customers choose from limited predefined options, such as changing the color or size of a pair of sneakers.
  • A 3D configurator provides a 3D visual representation of the configured product so customers can see what the final product looks like.
  • CPQ software takes it a step further, automating the entire engineer-to-order process, from 3D product configuration to pricing, quote generation, engineering, and assembly.

What is an ERP product configurator?

CPQ integrates with ERP software, allowing product configurators to share real-time data. This removes the need for manual data entry and ensures consistent information across departments. Additionally, it offers precise product, pricing, and delivery details directly within the configurator, enhancing the customer experience.

What are the major features of a product configurator?

Different product configurators cater to different user profiles and, hence, have various features and components. Complex product configurators enable manufacturers to sell complex goods with many product variants, requiring more advanced features. These include:
  • Product visualization: Users can view and interact with a virtual 3D product during configuration, enhancing understanding and customer satisfaction.
  • Guided selling: As a feature of a CPQ solution, guided selling uses a set of predefined rules and prompts to navigate sales reps and customers through the intricate product configuration process. This ensures users identify the optimal product for potential customers.
  • Virtual and augmented reality: These innovative technologies elevate product visualization. Virtual reality allows users to interact with products within a highly immersive simulated environment, accessible via a VR headset. Augmented reality lets users visualize potential products in situ. Users simply aim their device's camera at the desired spot, and the configurator superimposes the 3D image onto the real-world view.

What are the benefits of a product configurator?

A product configurator enhances the customer experience by allowing the configuration of products to meet individual needs. It streamlines the sales process with guided selling, reduces order errors, and provides visual product presentations. It simplifies complex product options, leading to increased sales and customer satisfaction.

What is a configurator in eCommerce?

By integrating CPQ software with their eCommerce platform, manufacturers can embed a 3D configurator into their website. Visitors worldwide can test different product variants, receive instant pricing and quotes, and place an immediate order from anywhere, anytime, through any device.

What is an example of a complex product configurator?

Van Wijnen, a Dutch housing developer, is an example of a company with a complex 3D product configurator. Using the configurator, a sales rep can configure multi-million dollar construction projects comprising hundreds of units. The configurator automates pricing, quotes, CAD, and shop floor processes (file-to-factory automation.) With their configurator, the company can build 2,400 houses and apartments a year, all of which can be assembled within a single day.

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