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Do You Need a 3D Configurator? The Complete Guide for Manufacturers

July 21, 2021

Visual 3D product configurators have been a feature of B2C online shopping for some time. If you’ve ever been to a website that lets you change the color of a piece of clothing and view it on a rotatable 3D model, then you’ve used a basic 3D configurator before.

Now 3D product configurators are transitioning from the B2C into the B2B space. And they’re revolutionizing how complex products are being bought and sold. Sales reps are using them to spec special product configurations, and buyers are using them to customize complex products independently on manufacturers’ websites.

What are 3D configurators, how do they work, and do you need one? Read on to find out.

What is a 3D Configurator?

A 3D configurator (aka a 3D product configurator) is a tool that lets users configure or customize products online, in real-time, and see the results onscreen. Many 3D configurators utilize a drag-and-drop interface that guides users through available options step-by-step.

The final product configuration can then be used to generate detailed price quotes for customers and, when approved, technical drawings and CAD files for final engineering and manufacturing. These visual tools help speed up sales, design, and manufacturing processes and put more power in customers’ hands.

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Visual product configurators are helpful for both B2C and B2B sellers and buyers. They can be embedded into eCommerce websites for direct ordering or put in the hands of sales reps to assist them during one-on-one sales calls.

Whoever does the configuring, customers can see a dynamic 3D rendering that gives them a better idea of what the product looks like and how it functions. The result – reduced purchase anxiety and enhanced decision-making

What Are the Benefits of Using a 3D Configurator (For Buyers and Sellers)?

Manufacturing companies and their customers both benefit from the use of 3D product configurator software. If you sell complex, engineer-to-order products, you’ll wonder how you ever did business without it.

Benefits for Sellers

Manufacturing companies that employ 3D configurators quickly discover that it helps them increase sales while shortening the typical sales cycle. With a 3D configurator, you can:

  • Shorten lead times
  • Improve design accuracy
  • Create an unlimited number of options and sell products you’ve never physically produced before
  • Release new products and options on the schedules you want
  • Speed up your time to market
  • Optimize your production process
  • Easily handle the most complex orders
  • Ramp new hires faster
  • Use product renderings for marketing purposes instead of expensive product photography
  • Stand out from your competitors in crowded markets

Because customers create their own unique products in 3D, they’re essentially selling to themselves. This reduces the pressure on your sales team and lets you redirect those staff to other activities, maximizing active selling time.

Benefits for Customers

Visual product configuration also results in several benefits for your customers. With a 3D configurator, customers can:

  • Enjoy an immersive, compelling customer experience any time, any place, through any device (no need to travel to a physical showroom)
  • View every potential option from a massive product catalog in realistic 3D (they don’t have to rely on generic photographs)
  • Satisfy their unique needs and demands with totally custom products
  • Get a deep, visual understanding of complex products and take direct ownership of their choices
  • See exactly what they’re getting, so no nasty surprises down the road
  • Receive instantaneous quotes, proposals, and estimates for faster decision-making
  • Complete and receive orders faster with fewer mistakes

All of these benefits work to improve customer satisfaction, which means better retention.

What Does a 3D Configurator Have to Do with CPQ?

CPQ is software that lets sales reps and buyers easily configure, price, and generate custom quotes for configurable products in real-time. Visual CPQ does so by taking a visual approach. Customers configure products using a 3D configurator, dragging and dropping to change colors, features, sizes, and more with their changes displayed on a 3D model onscreen.

As the product is configured, the visual CPQ solution recalculates prices in real-time. It then automatically creates a quote that can include detailed technical drawings, a parts list, warranty details, and any other information you decide to have.

Having a visual product configurator as the front-end of CPQ streamlines the entire process. Product configuration is made easier because customers can see the changes they’re making in real-time. Advanced product rules programmed into the configurator’s back-end limit the user’s choices to only those options that are technically viable, eliminating errors and improving accuracy.

Visual CPQ results in a shorter, more self-serve sales cycle. This is especially true of a visual CPQ such as KBMax, which can 1) be embedded into an external website for buyers to use independently without sales rep interference and 2) generate engineering outputs automatically thanks to CAD and design automation functionality.

Using a 3D Product Configurator in Your eCommerce Store

If you sell complex, customizable products on your own eCommerce website, then Visual CPQ is fast becoming an essential tool.

By integrating a 3D configurator into your product pages, you enable online customers to configure products in real-time and see the results of their efforts on the same web page. Customers get immediate feedback, and you get online orders without the long, drawn-out sales process.

A website or product page that contains a 3D product configurator becomes a 24/7 virtual showroom. It lets you reach a global market without deploying a team of expensive international sales reps. It’s the ideal solution for remote working scenarios.

Buyers actually enjoy using online 3D product configurators because they can self-serve. They don’t have to wait for a sales rep to call and then suffer through the back-and-forth typical of custom orders. It puts them in the driving seat and takes the pressure off (no hard sell.)

KBMax CPQ works across all devices and platforms – buyers can shop via their work computers or personal mobile phones. KBMax transforms the traditional B2B sales force into an omnichannel selling machine. It integrates all your sales channels, providing a consistent buying experience wherever customers begin and end their customer journey.

In short, ecommerce supplemented by Visual CPQ is the perfect solution for the evolving demands of today’s B2B buyers. It provides convenience, flexibility, and personalization that’s “always-on” and never makes mistakes.

Employing AR and VR Technology in Product Configurators

The next step in the evolution of Visual CPQ is virtual reality and augmented reality, which KBMax users can already benefit from. These technologies are revolutionizing product configuration and provide a remarkably life-like experience for shoppers.

Investopedia defines virtual reality (VR) as a computer-generated experience that is “nearly” reality. VR provides a simulated three-dimensional experience that is remarkably life-like, as close to reality as is currently possible without stepping into a physical showroom.

Augmented reality (AR) builds on VR technology to place computer-generated objects into real-world scenarios. You view the reality around you via a set of AR goggles or (most likely) the screen on your mobile device with realistic computer-generated objects appearing as if they were physically there.

Adding AR and VR functionality is a true game-changer for manufacturers selling configurable products. These technologies make self-serve purchasing truly compelling by providing a fully immersive experience that wows buyers.

How to Choose Product Configurator Software

The best product configurator software should:

  • Provide real-time 3D rendering that accurately represents configured products onscreen
  • Be compatible with AR and VR
  • Work across all major devices and platforms
  • Scale effortlessly with your business needs
  • Be easy to use for both sales reps and customers
  • Integrate seamlessly with your existing CAD and manufacturing solutions.

KBMax CPQ Software has the above functionality and more. It includes a robust visual product configurator, a flexible product rules engine, and manufacturing automation features. It’s fully customizable for your unique product and customer needs, generates highly accurate technical drawings, and provides detailed product and pricing information (including BOMs).

More importantly, KBMax is on the cutting edge of product configurator technology and is among the first platforms to incorporate AR and VR technologies.

Contact KBMax today to learn more about 3D product configurator software for your business.

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The Author

DJ Monzyk

DJ Monzyk
Director of Web Marketing at KBMax

DJ is a long-time marketing consultant and technologist, helping companies with marketing strategy and marketing technology. He loves telling stories about applied technologies and the impacts it has on buyers.

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