How to Use 3D Product Visualization to Sell Complex Products
November 30, 2020
Spending large sums of other people’s money on products you’ve never seen before is incredibly scary. But that’s what B2B buyers do daily. In an ideal world, buyers could physically interact with products before purchase. That would bring their stress levels down a notch or two. But for various reasons, examining products in the flesh might not be possible. And not just because of COVID.
Companies selling a basic range of products can use high-quality photography to show buyers how their products look. But manufacturers selling complex, customizable goods with thousands of different options could never have the time or budget required to manufacture or photograph every potential configuration on offer. Generic drawings and product shots won’t cut it. 3D product visualization software is the answer.
With product visualization, companies can show prospects lifelike computer-generated visual renderings of all the potential configurations in their product arsenal. Buyers can interact with these visualizations on screen, play around with different options, and even “use” them in realistic simulations. It’s a far superior medium to even the most highest-resolution product photography, connecting with buyers on a deeper, more emotional level, supercharging sales of the most technically challenging goods.
Uncertainty, ambiguity, and information-overload contribute to the kind of cognitive dissonance that stops prospective buyers dead in their tracks. Companies in competitive markets spew out more and more highly detailed product data in a desperate attempt to differentiate themselves from the competition, but this only leads to analysis paralysis. Companies need a way to cut through this noise, but the written word is an incredibly inefficient communication delivery system.
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The more visual a company can be when selling, the better. 90% of all information transmitted to the brain is visual, and it’s processed 60,000 times faster than text. If you want to inspire buyers’ confidence, don’t try to explain why your products are the best; show them. By using 3D product visualization software, you leave no room for misunderstandings or nasty surprises and shift the burden of responsibility back onto the buyer. Greater transparency enhances decision-making, increasing revenue while reducing the frequency of chargebacks, returns, and rework.
COVID-19 has put an end to business travel and in-person sales for now. Some buyers are keen to get back on the road. Others have realized how crazy it is to continuously take flights when meetings can be carried out remotely without harming health, well-being, and the environment.
VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) are replacing in-person demos with simulated alternatives that are considerably more engaging than regular meetings. VR places buyers inside a 3D simulated reality in which they can walk in any direction, look around 360 degrees, and interact with their surroundings. They can inspect a virtual product as if it was right there in the room and even “use” it with the aid of 3D animation and interactive product visualization. Meanwhile, AR overlays a 3D image onto a background captured live by a phone camera (or another handheld device,) showing buyers precisely how a product will look, in all its glory and prospective position, before placing their order. 3D product visualization is VR and AR’s lifeblood, providing all the visual input needed to make them work.
VR and AR are robust Industry 4.0 technologies that have been around for years (VR since the 1970s!) but are finally delivering on their hype. Fortunately, they’re coming of age at the perfect time, when a pandemic is upending business practices in the short-term, and climate change is set to do the same over the medium- and long-term. The once-inhibitive (and frankly rather silly-looking) VR apparel (headsets, gloves, etc.) are becoming lighter, slimmer, and far less intrusive to the user experience. And the imminent global rollout of 5G means buyers will soon be able to experience these technologies from any location through any 5G-enabled device.
Manufacturers of complex, customizable products can extract maximum ROI from 3D product visualization services by feeding 3D imagery straight into product configurator software, bringing their products to life. The B2B market is demanding increasing product customization, but providing customization at scale presents a considerable challenge to manufacturers: How can sales reps pick out the ideal customer-specific selection every time when there are thousands of highly complicated product options, rules, and dependencies to consider? It’s beyond the scope of even the most experienced product experts, so how are new hires expected to cope?
Product configurator software automates this configuration process, ensuring each customer gets the product they want on time. Instead of picking parts from a paper catalog or iPad-based equivalent, users can interact with 3D product visualizations on-screen to build their ideal configurations. They can change colors and dimensions, swap parts, add or remove features, all by pointing and clicking within a highly intuitive visual interface. Advanced product rules built into the software’s backend eliminate errors and ensure every configuration is optimized from an engineering perspective.
A visual product configurator can be used by a sales rep as an internal tool, slashing quote turnaround times. It can also be embedded into an external website for buyers to operate independently. This customer-facing setup is best-suited for today’s buyer who likes to research products independently and would sooner self-serve than interact with a sales rep. Automating the configuration process benefits manufacturers, not only by reducing their sales team’s wage bill, but by ensuring only perfectly optimized configurations make it past sales to engineering and onto the shop floor.
The most potent product configurators form part of a CPQ (configure, price, quote) solution. Besides automating the configuration process outlined above, CPQ also handles the calculation of dynamic prices (prices that fluctuate according to various market conditions) and the instant generation of sales documents like quotes, proposals, and estimates. Sales reps are freed from the burden of the most menial, time-consuming sales tasks, and get more time to spend on actively selling.
The best CPQ solutions leverage 3D product visualization data to generate CAD and design output for engineering and manufacturing. Detailed drawings and parts lists, BOMs, cut sheets, and instruction documents can all be produced automatically by sales reps without any engineering input, clearing engineering bottlenecks that cause delays. CAD and design automation, which is only made possible by 3D product visualization, ensures a seamless transition from ordering to the build phase, shortening sales cycles from days and weeks down to mere minutes. With visual CPQ, you can unleash the full power of 3D product visualization, making it available to every functional department, not just sales.
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.