What Makes An Exceptional 3D Configurator

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3D configurators are powerful design tools that increase annual sales by an average of 168%.

They save time and money for both customers and manufacturers.

As manufacturing-on-demand and customization grow, so does the use of 3D configurators.

If you’re involved in manufacturing, product design, or product sales, and you want to find out what 3D configurators are, the advantages they provide, and how to find or create an exceptional one for your customers – then read on.

What is a 3D configurator?

A 3D configurator is an application that lets users configure and customize products to their exact specifications. Buyers can apply a selection of shapes, parts, materials, colors, surface finishes–the possibilities are endless.

The beauty of a 3D product configurator: buyers get an instant visualization of their product on-screen. 3D models can be manipulated, zoomed, panned, rotated, and even disassembled and reassembled by pointing and clicking.

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If customers don’t like the result, they can start over. Or make further adjustments to their product until they’re delighted.

3D configurators are frequently used in the configure, price, quote (CPQ) process as: 

  • gated applications for use by sales reps
  • interactive tools, embedded into external websites, for use by end-customers

Immediate benefits of 3D configurators

With a 3D configurator, customers can customize and personalize products to meet their exact needs. This is incredibly powerful. Deloitte research revealed that consumers pay a 20% premium for customized products.

For manufacturers and their channel partners, a 3D configurator offers the following immediate benefits:

  • Shorter sales cycle and increased volume of sales
  • Fewer order mistakes and errors 
  • Up-to-date product specification and data
  • Less sales training required for new products
  • Rapid onboarding of new hires
  • Increased customer engagement and excitement
  • Increased sense of ownership and brand loyalty
  • Increased online conversion rates and offline win rate

Today’s technology makes it easy to install 3D configurators on any device. Sales reps can use a 3D configurator in the office or the field. Buyers can use one, independently, wherever they’re working.

The rise of the 3D configurator

The 3D configurator is quickly becoming a staple feature of the manufacturing landscape. But why? And why now?

Flaws in the traditional custom design process

Before 3D configurators, the custom design process required an endless back and forth between designers, engineers, sales, and customers. “Can you just change this?” or “How about tweaking that feature?”… it was a nightmare. Communication breakdowns stretched sales cycle duration to breaking point.

Sales reps struggled to visualize products. They would send napkin sketches and nonviable configurations downstream. It took dozens of revisions before a design could be approved. So manufacturers avoided customization at all costs, especially for small production runs and one-offs.

Technical drawing problems

Before 3D configurators, designers and engineers had to create technical drawings from sales rep sketches or descriptions. It was a painfully slow process. 

On average, designers could only finish one design, per product, per day. Bottlenecks made scaling up custom production impossible.

The 3D configurator revolution

3D configurators have killed the traditional custom design process. Manufacturers that specialize in custom products are ramping up operations.

3D configurator software has advanced to the point where customers can sketch up products and customize them in real-time, with no mistakes or compatibility issues. The software automatically converts configurations into CAD files and technical drawings, saving engineers precious time to spend on R&D.

3D configurators create a win-win situation for both manufacturers and customers:

  • Manufacturers can scale up production and increase their revenue by offering small runs of bespoke designs. 
  • Customers get the immersion and flexibility of taking part in the design process and creating their own unique products. 

What makes a 3D configurator best-in-class?

A best-in-class 3D configurator offers more than advanced technology–it fits seamlessly into the sales process and environment. It’s easy-to-use, immersive, intuitive, and on-brand.

Embed a best-in-class 3D configurator on your website and watch conversion rate soar by 40%.

What makes a superb B2C 3D configurator?

A best-in-class B2C 3D configurator experience is highly immersive and engaging. Customers feel like they’re creating something extraordinary and unique!

Let’s take a running shoe brand as an example…

A good 3D configurator lets users customize their shoe’s uppers and the structure of their sole. A superb 3D configurator lets users test their designs against data generated from a simulated run. Under Armor is combining 3D configuration with generative design and similar concepts.

Some companies are using VR and AR. Others are gamifying their 3D configurators. Thanks to the 3D games engine, Unreal, users can create avatars in a Minecraft-style environment for a truly captivating, unique buying experience.

3D configurators can build a tremendous buzz around a brand. When Corvette released its “Visualizer,” the response was so huge that traffic crashed their site! In the first two weeks, prospects had designed almost one million Corvettes!

With more and more B2B buyers looking for consumer-like buying experiences, there’s no reason why B2Bs shouldn’t have the same impact by following B2C’s lead.

What makes a superb B2B 3D configurator?

A superb 3D configurator for B2B buyers is quick and easy to use, regardless of product complexity. It’s highly focused on pinpointing customization options that deliver maximum value to buyers and margin for sellers.

Too many B2Bs implement 3D configurators that are perfectly serviceable but fail to wow buyers. Even if products are, let’s say, a tad dry, the buying experience doesn’t have to be! Millennials are taking up senior buying positions. They’ve grown up with the internet and expect slick and engaging experiences whenever they’re online. 

Whether B2C or B2B, a 3D configurator should:

  • Be focused on the needs of their target market
  • Make life easier for the customer, not more complicated
  • Generate emotion and excitement
  • Be technologically advanced, but easy-to-use
  • Integrate seamlessly with your sales process and brand image
  • Take customers on an enjoyable and frictionless path to purchase.

Why manufacturers should invest in a 3D configurator

3D configurators yield a high, fast ROI for manufacturers of engineer-to-order products. SaaS companies can build 3D configurators for a modest investment (there’s no need for internal dev teams) and provide the following benefits:

  • Unique, customizable, personalized products
  • Profitable batch-of-one production
  • Shorter sales cycle (average 38%)
  • Increase in production output (average 35%)
  • Less wastage
  • Increased customer loyalty and retention
  • Rapid time to quote
  • Design and order error reduction/elimination
  • Up-to-date product information
  • Simplified sales process
  • Marketing opportunity – shareability factor on social media
  • Opportunities for innovation – VR, AR, gamification, etc.
  • Profoundly shareable – get noticed by media and industry influencers.

3D configurators as a part of omnichannel retail

Today’s manufacturers use omnichannel retail and marketing strategies to attract and retain customers. 73% of customers interact with brands through multiple channels before purchasing. So it’s essential to get omnichannel right. 

For manufacturers wanting to implement omnichannel, a 3D configurator is a significant first step. Embedded on a responsive website, buyers can access your configurator anywhere, through any device. Distributors and retailers (B2B2C) can log into your configurator when selling to customers, ensuring a streamlined, consistent experience across all channels.