Is It Time to Make a Web-based Product Configurator?

You’ve seen them when shopping for clothes, gadgets, accessories, and countless other things found on the internet. Product configurators that allow you to customize and visualize a product before purchase have become very popular nowadays, and demand for product configurator services has shot through the roof. But how effective are these solutions?

After being deployed in online stores, brand websites, and e-marketplaces, product configurators have led to spectacular results. In fact, a study conducted by Aberdeen Group showed that businesses that applied the customization approach (configure-price-quote) saw an increase of 105% in sales.

If your business has an online element, there are clear benefits to be gained by implementing a web-based product configurator, and our article will guide you through the steps to give your business such a boost.

Why Choose Web for Your Product Configurator?

Choosing a platform for your solution is a big choice that will strongly impact who sees and uses your customizer (configurator).

Desktop apps are great for complex customizers with dozens of product models and parts, advanced features, and large file size. This is a helpful choice if you expect your target audience to spend a long time customizing their product and modifying every tiny detail.

Mobile apps may not have the same level of detail or performance as desktop apps, but tend to be more compact and lightweight. As long as your users have a mobile device, they can easily download an app from the marketplace, and tinker with the product they like when they have a spare minute. The downside here is that many users are not happy about downloading another app when they already have dozens.

Finally, web configurators are considered to be the superior option by many. Like the previous two options, this is an app, but it runs directly in your browser, so no separate downloads are necessary. Users on any device can just load the page and start customizing their product, and do this faster than either of the two other options.

Benefits of an online product configurator

Apart from fulfilling the function of showing a product and its variations to potential users, online product configurators have multiple benefits for businesses and the users who end up tinkering with them.

For businesses:

  1. Faster lead time
    Compared to traditional approaches like static product pages and marketing pitches from the sales team, configurators help you close deals faster and in greater quality. Because customers see your product in all of its available forms and get to choose the one they like best, most of their questions are addressed immediately and they can move on to purchase. When they face a situation when the product page doesn’t tell them as much about the product, they are much more likely to check with other providers, and you might lose them as a customer.
  2. Easier sales team work
    Customizers are a big help to sales teams, relieving them of a large burden and giving them more flexibility to focus on other tasks. For example, if they spent a lot of time working with customers on the version of the product they would like to order before, now, most clients will be able to go through the selection process independently, and the sales team will devote their time to other initiatives and responsibilities.
  3. Better feedback
    Many people view configurators as a tool solely for attracting clients and sales, overlooking their other great uses. One of those is analytics. You can track user behavior in the customization app and get valuable data about the product that you would otherwise rarely get through other means (reviews, emails, etc.). For example, you can see which variations of your product are most popular and which should be removed, improving the user experience over time.
  4. Reducing errors
    For those in the business of selling stuff, errors and canceled orders are just an inevitable part of the trade. However, configurators work wonders in reducing the rate of erroneous and canceled orders. Users are able to get a much more accurate demonstration and understanding of their product, make more informed choices, so the odds of the end product meeting their expectations is much higher. Accordingly, they are much more likely to be satisfied and tell others about their positive experience.

For clients:

  1. Explore more aspects of the product
    A customization app gives clients a wide array of options to interact with your inventory, and this corresponds to a deeper understanding of the products. The clients are not just able to see the model from one side and read a description, but also rotate it and zoom in, see their choices reflected on the model in real time. They better understand which changes affect price and imagine what their future interactions with the real thing will be like.
  2. A chance to express creativity
    The importance of customization options cannot be understated, because coming face-to-face with a configurator brings out our inner artist. Clients follow their personal preferences and creative thought to create unique and interesting models, and to them, it feels like they played a major role in their creation. This also gives them a feeling of commitment — since they invested time and effort, they should bring the process to a close and purchase.
  3. Fast updates
    If the configurator is set up for real-time updates, users can see any changes they made visualized in real-time — usually a fraction of a second. This provides a much smoother shopping experience, as they do not need to reload the page or navigate to another page matching their selected preferences.

Development — Use Existing Web-based Product Configurator Software or Make Your Own?

There are two major approaches to setting up a configurator — you can use software already built for businesses or create a custom solution of your own. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages, but in terms of popularity, custom builds take the cake.

The software market for configurators is quite expansive today, with dozens of popular web options (Simplio3D, BrioVR, and Dynamaker, to name a few) available to businesses. They allow you to launch your solution quickly, because the interface and most interactive options are already included in the package. The drawback here is that most of these services are like fixed templates: you have little control over the design, mechanics, and function of the app.

Creating a custom web product configurator grants you total freedom in the design of the application, how it performs and scales, and which options/mechanics can be integrated. Undoubtedly, it takes longer to create an application from scratch than it is to upload a 3D model and add some texts, but the custom approach is better at addressing the individual needs of your business.

You don’t even need to hire a development team full-time to get the project done, since you can partner with outsourcing firms that will handle the work at a reasonable price.

How to Create a Web Configurator

If you choose this type of solution for your business, the first step in development will be selecting the appropriate customizer type:

  1. Static (2D). This is the least impressive option, and the least expensive one to make. Users are presented with a 2D image or render of the product, but do not have the option to move it around. Furthermore, any customizations that they apply are not reflected immediately, and oftentimes this happens through page reload or navigation to another page.
  2. Responsive (3D). A true 3D customizer gives users spatial options like zoom and rotation, with the 3D model giving a lifelike view of the item. Additionally, any changes made to the item are reflected near-instantly, so the user can stay on the page and keep customizing with no interruption.
  3. Integrated. An integrated customizer runs directly on the product page and is intricately connected to other features and services of your store, such as checkout, login, and comparison. Thus, users can access the app while doing other things on the website at the same time.
  4. Standalone. This is a separate section/page of your website solely dedicated to the configurator. Thus, users are not able to use the service in conjunction with other services of your website, and the checkout process is also created separately for orders made in standalone apps.

The next steps of development

Once you have made up your mind about the type of configurator you want to use, you should also take time to gather the needed specialists and form your tech stack. For example, you will probably need several 3D artists or a whole team, depending on how many models are needed, and equip them with the proper 3D modeling software.

Another major consideration will be the engine used to envelop the model, interactive options, and other features. At Program-Ace, we have had the best experiences working with PlayCanvas, Unity, and Unreal Engine. All 3 options are best-suited for working with 3D content and applying changes in real-time.

With the preparatory phases complete, you can work on creating the needed assets, art, and interactive software. This process can take weeks or months, depending on the amount of content and complexity of the application. The application undergoes many rounds of QA review and improvements before final release.

How Program-Ace Created a Web Product Configurator

Our company has successfully completed dozens of configurator projects, with “Real-Time 3D Car Configurator” being the most recent.

This configurator features a large (family-size) car visualized in 3D with various interactive options. Users have great freedom to choose from multiple versions varying in price and performance, as well as customizing the car parts and accessories. The choices of color, wheel model/style, sunroof, windows, etc. are reflected in real time, and users can fill an order from within the interface.

We built this solution based on our vast experience in creating similar solutions for major automakers, and chose PlayCanvas as the main tool to do it with. Despite having a relatively small team working on the project, we delivered an application that works smoothly, looks sleek, and adds great value to any business selling cars.

Potential features of your web based product configurator

If you go with a custom development approach, you will have few (if any limits) in implementing features and functionality in your app. Below are some feature ideas that you may want to consider:

  1. Real time updates. Choosing any customization option is instantly reflected on the visual model.
  2. Custom print/design. Users can draw/create their own designs to be superimposed on the item, or even create a custom form.
  3. Price changes. Real-time updates also change the price displayed for the product.
  4. Create/save a document. Customers can save their customizations for later purchase or submit their preferences right away in a document/form.
  5. Switch to the next product. Customers can quickly switch between product types and models without leaving the page.

Finding Qualified Web Configurator Development Services

If you want a dedicated and qualified partner that will take care of all your configurator needs, look no further than Program-Ace. Our company has been building business-focused solutions for over 2 decades, and this includes numerous configurators in various industries.

Our team includes many developers, designers, modelers, and business development experts, so we truly understand what it takes to build a solution that will work flawlessly while fulfilling business goals like improving sales, drawing in new customers, building customer-company trust, etc.

All it takes to get started on your project is a message or phone call. Feel free to contact us today, and we will be thrilled to discuss our approach and how we can push your business towards greater success.

Originally published at https://program-ace.com.

An open-space for innovations! Check out more about us here https://program-ace.com