The future has come early for manufacturers that rely on a physical showroom to sell their engineer-to-order products. Because, while the eventual shift to online sales channels was inevitable, nobody thought it would happen so soon.
With the pandemic, digital adoption skipped forward five or ten years. Seemingly overnight, B2B buyers started making purchases from home and stopped meeting with sales reps or traveling to physical locations.
Despite the naysayers, it turns out buyers like this remote buying model. They like it a lot. They like it so much that they never want to return to the olden days of in-person sales and showroom tours – they want digital self-serve.
This paradigm shift in buying behavior presents engineer-to-order manufacturers with a monumental challenge: How to sell complex, configurable products online when buyers have incomplete knowledge of highly technical products? Fortunately, there is an answer: 3D product visualization.
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With 3D product visualization, engineer-to-order manufacturers can demo their products from a distance in highly compelling ways. When rolled up in a visual CPQ solution, 3D product visualization enables buyers to configure products independently from any device.
If you’re looking for a way to future-proof your sales process and adapt seamlessly to the new normal, read on to find answers to the following questions:
- What is 3D product visualization? And what are the benefits?
- How can you quickly and easily leverage 3D product visualization by implementing visual CPQ?
- What does the showroom of the future look like?
What is 3D product visualization?
3D product visualization is a technology for creating and sharing computer-generated visual renderings of products. Manufacturers can use 3D product visualization to bring existing and hypothetical products to life, promoting and selling more configurable products than they could realistically manufacture, photograph, and store.
In a post-pandemic world, where buyers want to research products online and make purchases independently, 3D product visualization is one mighty tool. Manufacturers can embed a 3D product visualization engine into their B2B eCommerce website and let buyers self-serve.
3D product visualization makes the customer journey far more compelling and educational than thumbing through a catalog with boring product descriptions and generic photography. Buyers can toggle through selections of colors, dimensions, materials, parts, and features, rotating configurable products 360, zooming in and out from any angle, and watching animated sequences.
Sellers that want to take 3D product visualization to the next level can provide a fully immersive buying experience by leveraging AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) technologies. With AR, buyers can position computer-generated products into real-world scenarios captured by the screen of their handheld device. With VR, buyers can interact with products (and sales reps, if required) in simulated realities powered by a headset like an Oculus Quest 2.
The benefits of 3D product visualization for manufacturers
With 3D product visualization, manufacturers can:
- Market and sell hundreds, thousands, even millions of configurable products before physically manufacturing them.
- Save time, money, and logistical nightmares by never having to organize another photoshoot.
- Let customers around the world interact with products from the comfort of wherever they’re remote working.
- Give prospects a rich, detailed understanding of every product option and permutation available.
- Eliminate miscommunications – buyers and sellers are always be on the same page and share a visual understanding.
- Create a sense of ownership and emotional connection between buyer and product that drives conversions.
- Reduce purchase anxiety and enhance decision-making to increase deal size.
- Elevate eCommerce buyer journeys to new heights and make products available to prospects 24/7.
- Receive fewer returns, refunds, and chargeback requests because buyers always know precisely what they’re getting before their configurable product arrives.
- Launch new products and modify existing ones with a few clicks.
- Reappropriate 3D visual assets for use in marketing campaigns or use by distributors and dealers.
- Reduce money spent on salaries, travel, and showroom maintenance by shifting from face-to-face to online.
- Rightfully position themselves as digital leaders in their industry.
How to configure 3D product renderings in real-time
Can your buyers interact with your 3D product renderings to configure products? Or can they only look at static images?
If it’s the latter, then, as a manufacturer, you’re getting a poor return on investment from your 3D product visualization software. You need a visual CPQ solution that lets buyers rotate products, zoom in and out, watch animations, drag parts into place, and even “use” products in virtual settings.
With Epicor CPQ, you can embed your 3D product visualization interface (a visual product configurator) into your website and let visitors interact with your goods to configure highly technical products to spec. It’s drag-and-drop-easy.
Whether a product is configured by a highly experienced sales rep or an inexperienced buyer, it’s guaranteed to be fully optimized and error-free. Here’s how:
- Guided selling: Epicor CPQ has AI-driven guided selling functionality that holds users’ hands as they move step-by-step through the configuration process.
- Product rules: Product rules programmed into the back-end dictate how users can assemble products, ensuring that every configuration is optimized for profitability and engineering efficiency.
- Pricing rules: Pricing rules calculate (and recalculate) prices in real-time. Depending on your sales strategy, you can display dynamic prices on-screen automatically as customers experiment with options.
- Quote generation: Quotes are generated automatically with a click, reducing the chance of human error (less reliance on Excel!)
Epicor CPQ powers more than just sales, though. It orchestrates several key downstream processes thanks to engineering and manufacturing automation. Here’s how:
- CAD and design automation: Epicor CPQ uses the data captured during product configuration to generate CAD drawings automatically. Drawings are sent to engineering for tweaks or sign-off. Engineers save an inordinate amount of time – time that could be better spent on R&D.
- Manufacturing automation: Epicor CPQ also auto-generates BOMs, CNC cut sheets, additive manufacturing files, and assembly instructions for the shop floor. Production can start immediately, getting orders into customers’ hands faster.
Welcome to the showroom of the future…
According to McKinsey, both B2B buyers and sellers (70-80%) prefer the new digital reality of remote human interactions or digital self-service. And with buyers now unwilling to leave the comfort of their home offices, manufacturers have to reimagine how they reach and interface with prospects.
One thing’s for sure: the showroom of the future is digital. Four of the five leading car brands in the United States (Toyota, Chevrolet, Honda, and Nissan) have a virtual showroom providing a digitally created 360° environment where prospective customers can experience the next best thing to a test-drive.
But, a virtual showroom doesn’t have to look like a “showroom” at all. A virtual showroom is just a space where you can display your goods digitally for sale. When it comes to how your space looks and operates, the sky’s the limit, although research suggests that the more visually appealing and interactive, the better.
Caterpillar introduced their new electric drive dozer to the world in a virtual showroom
Heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, maker of household generators, massive mining excavators, and everything in between, took a virtual approach to launch their Cat® D6 electric dozer, teaming up with Epicor CPQ (KBMax) to educate target customers in a virtual environment.
Prospects could use Epicor’s product configurator to design their own D6 #DREAMDOZER. In a game-like setup, users could choose from a combination of real-world options and “fantasy add-ons,” seeing their configuration come to life on-screen in 3D.
The launch results were astounding, serving as a blueprint for future major product launches – 8 Million media impressions, 75% new traffic visits, and a ton of click-throughs (22% of which were marketing-qualified leads.)
Takeaways for manufacturers
- The future of B2B sales is digital.
- This irrefutable fact means you need a virtual showroom that leverages 3D product visualization technology.
- But a virtual showroom doesn’t have to look like a showroom at all – it’s just an online space where you display your goods digitally for sale.
- Industry-leading brands like Caterpillar use visual CPQ to display their goods virtually online.
- Get in touch with us at Epicor to find out what we can build for you.