B2B customers are no longer satisfied with what’s ‘standard.’ They’re demanding personalization, and an increasing number of manufacturers are offering customizable and configurable products in response.
This shift towards mass customization might seem like a no-brainer from a commercial perspective. Still, it represents an immense challenge for B2B companies languishing in a past of on-prem solutions and sprawling Excel spreadsheets. For these companies, configurator software holds the key to their mass customization goals.
What is Configurator Software?
Configurator software automates the configuration of complex, engineer-to-order products, making it quick and easy for users to narrow down potentially vast, complicated product catalogs into optimized customer-specific selections.
As users play around with different product configurations within the software (resizing sections, adding or removing parts, upgrading features, changing colors, and dimensions, for example), prices change dynamically in real-time, as do many automatically generated documents – from PDF quotes and proposals to cutting lists and CNC data.
The most effective types of configurators are undoubtedly visual configurators. These range from simple 2D solutions, on the more basic end of the spectrum, right up to photorealistic, 3D, interactive interfaces on the more advanced. Visual configurator software offers customers fully immersive shopping experiences, giving them a crystal clear understanding of the products they’re buying, improving conversion rates as a result.
Getting up Close and Personal With the Modern Buyer
The business buyer has changed. In their personal lives, they use services like Amazon and Google, which (somewhat spookily, at times) seem to know us better than we know ourselves, and they’re demanding the same personalized, “have it your way,” experience when they go to work.
The lines between B2C and B2B have been blurred. And, to keep customers happy, B2B businesses need to switch from a “buyer-centered” to a “human-centered” mindset – one that treats buyers as unique individuals, rather than one big homogenous mass.
One of the key drivers behind this shift in B2B buyer consciousness is simple demographics. Millennials now make up the largest generation in the US labor force. Some 73% of 20- to 35-year-olds are involved in product purchase decision-making at their companies (one-third of these are the sole decision-makers.) Sellers need to wake up to the preferences of this increasingly influential group, who up until recently, were disregarded as a bunch of avocado-munching, job-hopping consumers.
How Configurator Software Addresses the Four Main Characteristics of the Millennial Buyer
- Millennials bring their B2C buying behavior to their B2B decision-making – 65% of Millennials believe that the technologies they purchase for personal use influence the technologies they are buying for their organizations. Configurator software serves up a consumer-like buying experience for all customers, regardless of product complexity.
- Millennial buyers self-educate – 70% percent of Millennial buyers fully define their needs on their own before engaging with a sales representative and consistently identify digital channels as the most important for their research. Buyers can play around with configurator software on their own time and at their own pace. KBMax’s visual configurator software can be embedded into a customer-facing website.
- Millennials value IQ over EQ – “Relationship selling” is dying. Millennials increasingly value IQ (e.g., technology) over EQ (e.g., an emotional connection with a seller.) KBMax’s visual configurator operates at the forefront of CPQ technology, and buyers can use it with minimal input from sales reps.
- Millennials seek relevancy – Products have to be personalized to a Millennial’s individual needs to be appealing. Configurator software lets users configure products and assemble bundles that address their unique wants and needs.
How Configurator Software Supercharges Sales Efficiency and Effectiveness
Configurator software is most effective when integrated into a CPQ solution, which provides the added benefits of intelligent pricing and quote generation. When taken as a whole, configurator software levels-up businesses in several crucial areas:
1. Efficiency Is Boosted Through Simplification of the Sales Process
Sales reps no longer have to learn an entire product catalog to provide expert-level customer service. They can configure highly sophisticated products in just a few clicks, slashing time-to-quote and shortening overall sales cycles. New hires can be bought up to speed in a matter of days rather than months, and reps can spend more time courting new business and nurturing existing relationships.
2. Collaboration Between Sales and Engineering Is Enhanced
Configurator software captures all of the information needed to build a product or assemble a bundle, up-front, without sales ever having to call on engineering. Product designs are then distributed to sales, engineering, and the shop floor in a shared language that each team intuitively understands. No more back-of-a-napkin sketches, no more communication breakdowns, no more back-and-forths – a process that used to take 20+ calls and emails to complete now takes just one.
3. Mistakes and Sub-Optimal Configurations Are Confined to the Past
Logic and rules built into the backend of configurator software prevent human error, shoddy work, and poor choices. Sales reps are unable to configure technically or financially nonviable products. The result is fewer delays, returns, and chargebacks and dramatically increased customer retention and satisfaction.
4. The Customer Experience Is Brought to Life With a Fully Immersive Experience
The high level of interactivity provided by visual configurator software connects customers with products and brands more deeply. Customers take full ownership of their configurations, understand every available option (no nasty surprises), and feel confident in their buying decisions. Studies show that the greater number of human senses involved in the sales and marketing process, the more a customer is willing to pay.
5. A Valuable Pool of Data Is Collected
Prospects that are interacting with configurator software leave behind a trail of valuable data that can be used to re-engage customers at a later stage. Data showing which products and options have been viewed most, as well as where customers “drop-off,” can be used to improve configurator software functionality, as well as future products and sales processes.
6. Guided Selling Maximizes Profits at Every Stage
Configurator software can be designed to guide users through a series of calibrated questions and prompts that push for upsells, cross-sells, and bigger deals.
7. A Huge Range of Documents Are Automatically Generated
Once a user has finalized their configurator software selection, they can generate a wide range of documents from inside the admin, at the touch of a button. These range from quote and proposal PDFs right up to bills of materials, CNC cutting data, and whatever else is needed to get a deal over the line.
8. CAD and Design Automation Streamline Engineering
KBMax’s visual configurator software features CAD automation, which is an absolute game-changer for sales and engineering alike. Producing technical drawings was once the sole domain of the engineering department. But, with KBMax, sales reps can automatically generate technical drawings through Solidworks (and other systems like AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, and PTC Creo) themselves, without any engineering input. As a result, engineers can spend more time working on innovation rather than being bogged down in repetitive, menial tasks.