Customers are no longer satisfied with what’s standard. On the contrary: They expect customised products that reflect their own wishes or meet their specific needs. Product attributes such as colour, size, shape, features, and technical details can already be selected online, allowing customers to configure a tailor-made product. Responsible for this is the well-named online configurator.
Their use in the automotive, furniture, and PC industry is particularly well established.
The potential in the B2B sector is still largely unused, but it is enormous. In the first part of our two-part article series, we’ll show you the benefits of what an online product configurator can offer, with a particular focus on B2B applications.
Meeting individual requirements – Learning from B2C
Mass customisation is what everyone’s talking about. Desires and individual requirements of customers are becoming increasingly important. Start-ups like mymuesli.de and limberry.de based their business models on this idea: Meet the personal tastes of the customer and to make shopping an experience at the same time.
Also noteworthy is the application of the customisation of products by user-generated content. At smartwalls.de and other manufacturers of photobooks and calendars, customers have the option to choose between self-made motifs, as well as various design options and sizes.
The challenge is enabling individualised mass production and to offer so many different combinations possibilities at a fair price.
When looking of a dream car or a new wardrobe, the process is something we can all relate to: Check, preview images, check off, select again and continue clicking until the favoured combination of customisations is made. This is a simplified dynamic of a configurator, a kind of combination game that not only reacts accordingly with individualised customer approach, but also with individualised products.
An online configurator enables customers to intuitively, simply, and quickly display and directly order the right product from the large number of possible product variants according to their individual requirements.
This is especially useful for B2B companies offering highly complex goods for sale. So it is not surprising that the demands in the B2B are also increasing in this direction.
But what are the advantages of a configurator in the B2B area?
1. Effective digital sales consultants
The Zeppelin construction machinery configurator from the world’s largest manufacturer of construction machinery, Caterpiller, is very similar to a car configurator. Here customers can easily put together large machines such as cranes. For example, you can configure the cabin, other details, such as filling or special paint, as well as the warranty, individually on a computer or tablet. The finished construction equipment can then be downloaded, shipped, and printed. Although it is not yet possible to make a direct order, you can always contact a consultant.
An advantage, though, is that the sales person quickly and easily gets to know the needs, preferences, and requirements of their customers – namely, which components are to be installed what is the customer’s budget.
Subsequently, a configurator for specialised retail is a helpful guide for the consultation process. The salesperson has the necessary information, such as material availability, prices, delivery dates etc. directly at hand.
2. Configurators are fun and comfortable
As if it were a toy by Lego, in which different bright colours work together, customers have the opportunity to engage in a playful personal consultation at a retailer for a new (complex) product.
In addition, retailers and manufacturers can offer customers added value. From the collected information, an offer can be automatically generated in various formats based on the stored formulas and rules: Cover letters, calculations, drawings, illustrations, and operating instructions.
With the 3D CAD configurator from Bernecker + Rainer (B&R), a manufacturer in automation technology, it’s now possible to construct the required component freely via a web browser itself and then export it in all formats for all common CAD systems. The complexity of the products is limitless, but is adapted to the customer settings and combinations.
3. Avoiding product errors
With a variety of settings and a variety of choices – especially in B2B – a product configurator can offer an automated feasibility check to rule out product defects, providing individual support to customers in their decision-making process.
Sometimes you can easily lose yourself in the countless possible combinations and therefore choose the wrong components for a particular product. But the configurator can avoid the wrong selections because it does not allow all possible combinations.
At Eisele, a manufacturer of high-quality connection components, customers can be sure of their choices. Depending on the options selected, the catalogue updates in real time. Thus, only the matching parts are available at any time.
In conclusion: Relieve sales
In summary, an online configurator in B2B sales:
- Provide effective and targeted customer service and thus represent a competitive advantage.
- Save time and money.
- Provide an emotional and playful part in the process, which can significantly reduce the hurdle of first contact.
- Strengthen customer loyalty and create individual offers.
- Support sales as a digital sales consultant.
But the last two benefits are also big challenges. On one hand, tailored product manufacturing is a problem when it comes to exchange and redemption.
On the other hand, the digitisation of sales requires internal changes: Defining the prices and splitting each end product into combinable and measurable (in terms of price) parts is a challenge in itself. In addition, a configurator must be simple and intuitive to use.
B2B sales become digital
Admittedly, configurators are by no means the most attractive topic in the digitisation of sales processes. But that should change. In the next part of our series, we’ll explain the success factors of a digital configurator and why retailers and manufacturers should rely on the implementation of one. If you want to write your own digital success story in B2B, you can order the white paper “E-Commerce Potential in B2B” here for free!