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The core products offered by companies don’t always match the requirements of customers. Some customers have specific or additional needs and want to customize a product accordingly. For example, a builder may want an additional insulation layer on an electric wire or a taxi fleet owner may want cars with sunroofs instead of non-detachable hardtops.
Product configurator software helps sales representatives demonstrate possible product customizations to customers and estimate the additional costs immediately without having to reach out to the engineering or design team. The software allows customers to alter an original product’s components or dimensions and visualize the customized product as a 2D or 3D model.
Manufacturing, electronics, automobile, construction, furniture, and interior designing are some industries that widely use this software to help customers visualize and place orders for customized versions of a core product.
In this guide, we’ve provided all the details you’ll need to choose a product configurator tool that works the best for your customers, sales, and manufacturing teams.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is product configurator software?
- Common features of product configurator software
- What type of buyer are you?
- Benefits of product configurator software
- Key considerations when selecting product configurator software
- Market trends to understand
What is product configurator software?
Product configurator software is a software tool that automatically designs and configures 2D or 3D models of products based on the components chosen to be included. It helps add new or change the existing functions and dimensions of a core product to build a customized version.
Product configurator software is generally offered as part of configure, price, quote (CPQ) software suites. It automatically generates product descriptions, bills of materials (BOMs), and cost estimates based on the required product customizations. The software is a handy tool for product-based companies to quickly configure build-to-order products and get them ready for production.
Common features of product configurator software
In this section, we’ve listed some of the common features buyers seek when purchasing product configurator software.
|Visual product configuration||Creates 2D/3D visualizations of products based on the custom options chosen. Users can zoom in or out and even rotate the visuals to view the product from different angles.|
|Rules/recommendation engine||Offers predefined rules and conditions to help configure products. These rules ensure that products are customized only to a limit that complies with physical laws.|
|Workflow management||Integrates with other systems, such as ERP software, to share product configuration data with all concerned stakeholders for faster approval of workflows.|
|Product catalog||Lists all the available product parts, grouped by categories. You can choose product parts from the catalog to configure custom products.|
|Proposal generation||Generates proposals and quotes based on the chosen product parts and specifications. It also provides line-item pricing and tax details.|
|Price management||Provides predefined pricing rules that allow for automatic price updates according to the product parts selected. It also considers discounts or loyalty points, if applicable.|
|Bill of materials||Generates the BOM (a list of required raw materials, subcomponents, etc.) for every product configuration.|
What type of buyer are you?
Based on business size, most buyers can be divided into the following categories:
- Small and midsize businesses (up to 999 employees): SMBs may not have the capacity to offer extensive customizations or product component options due to resource constraints. They’ll need product configurator tools that can help define error-free dependencies, constraints, and validation rules to prevent customers from choosing incompatible or unviable configurations. Another key aspect to look out for is the accuracy of the BOMs and quotes/proposals generated.
- Large enterprises (over 999 employees): Enterprise organizations offering multiple products and supporting extensive customizations need product configurator software that can handle complex rules. They require features to automate the creation of production drawings, manufacturing routing reports, and complex BOMs. The software should also be able to integrate with e-catalogs and other tools used at retail or ecommerce stores and shop floors.
Benefits of product configurator software
Here are some ways in which product configurator software can benefit your business:
- Reduces production time and errors: Right from the preliminary conception stage, the product configuration rules engine ensures that the product customizations selected can be achieved. The blueprint generated by the software reduces the chances of errors or iterations during manufacturing. With the product design and dimensions already in place, the manufacturing team can start the production process without any delay.
- Streamlines sales processes: Product configurator software allows sales representatives to visualize customized product models for clients and generate cost estimates on the spot. This helps reduce the time taken for matching customer requirements with what the business can offer, thus enabling sales teams to close deals faster.
- Improves customer experience: The self-service option offered by product configurator software lets customers customize and visualize a product according to their needs. It reduces the time customers spend explaining their needs to sales reps by offering them direct control. They can immediately visualize the changes they’ve made, without having to wait for the vendor to send them a blueprint.
Key considerations when selecting product configurator software
Besides software features, here are some factors you should consider when shortlisting product configurator software:
- Integration with other tools: You’ll not be able to realize the full value of product configurator software if it operates in silos. The tool should integrate with your existing ERP, product lifecycle management, CRM, and sales force automation systems for efficiencies to be effectively realized. Integration functionality will help share data with other teams, such as production, customer service, or finance, and reduce the manual work that would have otherwise been required. Check with vendors if their product configurator software can integrate with your existing systems. Also, inquire about API and custom integration policies to understand how you’ll be able to manage any future integration requirements.
- Mobile access: Your sales rep will likely be using the software from places outside of work. Check with vendors whether they offer mobile apps for different platforms: Android, iOS, and Windows. Understand their app support services, including frequency of updates, feature availability, and any additional costs. Also, check whether the app offers an offline mobile experience to provide an uninterrupted configuration experience for customers and sales executives.
Market trends to understand
In this section, we discuss some key trends impacting the product configurator software market.
- Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR): Software vendors are adding AR and VR capabilities to their product configurator tools to help buyers experience and validate the products they are customizing/building. AR and VR-equipped product configurator solutions provide a fully computerized virtual environment that allows customers to "try out" the configured product, thereby improving their purchase experience.
- Artificial intelligence (AI): AI-powered product configurator software collects and stores customer purchase history data to suggest relevant modifications the next time a client uses the software to configure products. It automatically configures a customer order based on past preferences, which saves time for the sales rep. AI technology also improves the accuracy and predictive power of the rules engine of product configurator software.
Note: The application selected in this article is an example to show a feature in context and is not intended as an endorsement or a recommendation. It has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.