3D Configurator

How a 3D Configurator Can Make Mass Customization Easy for Any Manufacturer

November 17, 2020

Manufacturers of complex, customizable products are under mounting pressure from buyers to deliver more (and more and more!) personalized options than ever before. Industry 4.0 technologies are slowly creeping in, making mass customization economically viable.

But here’s the dilemma: when you have thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of parts and product options, each with their own set of assembly and pricing rules, how on Earth can sales reps be expected to choose perfectly optimized configurations for each individual customer, every time?

If a couple of sales reps somehow manage to master the knowledge required to perform the task above efficiently, then you’ve got a key person risk on your hands. And what about new hires? How long will it take for them to achieve trusted advisor status when mistakes are so costly, and customer loyalty is at an all-time low? 

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For manufacturers of engineer-to-order products, implementing the right technology makes configuration quick and easy. And the right technology is a 3D configurator. Shorter sales cycles, higher conversion rates, and increased win rates can all be achieved while creating exceptional customer value. 

What is a 3D Configurator?

A 3D configurator is a piece of software used to build out products virtually by selecting options within an interactive 3D interface. Users can drag and drop to manipulate a 3D image with changes dynamically appearing on-screen. 

Users can move things around, swap out components, change dimensions, and upgrade parts – it’s a highly intuitive process for which the configuration possibilities are endless. All the while, a rules engine built into the backend ensures every configured product is optimized from a commercial and engineering standpoint.

Basic 3D configurator software displays products from a limited number of fixed viewing positions. More advanced solutions let users spin products around, zoom in and out, and inspect them from every angle. The most technologically advanced 3D configurators of all incorporate VR and AR technology, allowing users to interact directly with their customized products inside hyper-realistic simulations. 

There’s no competition. When it comes to assimilating information – visual is 60,000 times faster than text.

The better your visuals, the more engaged your buyers, and the more monetary value they’ll assign to your products. KBMax’s 3D product configurator software has been shown to increase the average deal size by 105%.

Spending thousands of dollars on a product you’ve never seen is crazy. What if the finished article looks nothing like the image you have in your mind? What if you’ve forgotten to specify some crucial detail that means your product won’t work after all? Buyers are already working under immense stress, so why add to it? 3D configurators reduce pre-purchase anxiety, build trust, and enhance decision-making. Seeing is believing. 

The most lifelike 3D configurators, especially those incorporating VR and AR elements, provide a fully immersive buying experience that bonds buyers to brands on a deeper emotional level. It’s a valuable differentiator in crowded, competitive markets. And creates the right impression for buyers who are shopping around: “If their customer experience is this advanced, imagine how good their products must be!”

Digital self-service will become the dominant manufacture-to-order model from now on.

For years, buyers have demonstrated a strong preference for self-serve over relationship selling, but COVID-19 has catalyzed the trend. According to a recent survey, in their ideal post-COVID scenario, only 20-30% of B2B decision-makers ever want to interact with reps in person ever again. That’s insane!

Self-serve is seen as particularly crucial for Millennials – the largest generation in the US labor force. 70% of Millennials define their own needs independently through their laptops, tablets, or phones before engaging with a sales rep (if they absolutely have to.)

Sales reps have historically used visual product configurators as a gated tool. But the 3D configurators that create the most value today can be embedded into customer-facing, B2B eCommerce websites. Buyers can access and operate them independently, through any device, wherever they’re located worldwide.

3D configurators cut sales cycles to a fraction of industry averages.

Quick and incredibly easy to use, 3D configurators simplify the sales process. Buyers can assemble highly complex products in minutes with product rules eliminating miscommunication, human error, and suboptimal configurations. This means less back-and-forth with the customer and fewer amends.

3D configurators are often rolled up into a CPQ (configure, price, quote) solution that can cut the length of time required to generate a proposal down from several weeks to less than a minute. The software calculates prices on the fly and instantly generates quotes once a configuration has been finalized.

KBMax takes the “Q” in CPQ even further with its design automation capabilities. In addition to quotes, KBMax users can generate technical documents like CAD drawings, BOMs, and CNC cut sheets. These can be appended automatically to proposals or dispatched instantly to engineering or the shop floor. 

Manufacturers can create thousands of new products without switching on a machine.

Buyers want to see products before making a purchase. That much is clear. Traditionally, manufacturers selling a limited range of standardized products would leverage samples or product photography. But as companies scale and offer a proliferating number of custom options, photography becomes not only cost-prohibitive but practically impossible.

Fortunately, as mass customization has developed into a dominant go-to-market strategy, the cost of product rendering (computer-generated photorealistic imagery) has dropped significantly while quality has massively improved. 

Many companies now find that mixing product renderings with 3D configurators provides a superior customer experience, paving the way to bigger deals. Manufacturers can create an unlimited number of product options without ever having to manufacture products physically. The savings are enormous.

How to choose the right 3D configurator for your business. Should you opt for an open source 3D product configurator?

The argument for implementing a free open source product configurator is a compelling one. Open-source software is generally inexpensive (although the cost of add-ons and custom programming isn’t); it’s highly flexible as you get access to the code; and there’s no risk of predatory lock-in. Users of LibreOffice, GIMP, and Blender know just how good open-source software can be. But for now, however, there’s simply no serious open-source 3D product configurator on the market.

While there may be no 3D product configurator open source, manufacturers will find several excellent SaaS options that provide near-instant access to incredibly powerful tools. Unlike traditional on-prem solutions, SaaS cost structures are not front-loaded, giving users the freedom to switch over to a competing solution if they’re left unsatisfied.

So, which 3D product configurator is the best? The reality is: it differs on a case-by-case basis. KBMax’s 3D product configurator has been designed specifically for B2B manufacturers. It excels in the usability of its Snap rules engine for non-technical operators and its CAD and design automation functionality. But there’s no substitute for a demo. So if you think KBMax might be right for you and your business, then get in touch. We’d love to show you how it all works.

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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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