The soaring demand for customized products is changing the ways businesses make and sell products.
Companies are going away from mass-produced products and moving towards customized configurations. They rely on optimized product configurator tools to meet this mass customization trend.
A robust product configurator is the difference between getting orders right and dealing with expensive mistakes in manufacturing that put the business at risk.
What is a Product Configurator?
A product configurator (also called a product configurator tool) is a piece of software that assists users in selecting options for a product to meet their specifications. The tool works by managing rules that allow the user needs to complete a task.
It is only after the configuration rules engine validates an input that the user can continue customizing the product. The elegant simplicity of a product configuration process is based on building and validating complex product rules.
Error Free Quotations
Rather than manually generating quotes and specifications, businesses use product configurators to automate this process, speed up the time needed to issue a quote, reduce errors, and dramatically shorten time to market.
Product configurator software builds a smooth and automated sales process and an improved customer experience. By managing product features and pricing, sales reps are spared from having to keep track of that data by themselves.
What Makes a Product Configurable?
Simply put, if a product can be customized, then it's configurable.
Products with many features or variations can be customized either by the customer or the business.
For instance, a buyer selects a blue car with a sunroof.
On the other hand, the business (or manufacturer) uses a configurator to make sure that the product is compliant with all the relevant regulations — for example, a device sold on the European market runs at 220V and not 120V which is the case in the United States.
When to Consider Using Product Configurator Software?
If your business is experiencing difficulty in generating proposals in a timely manner or providing real-time pricing, then a product configurator can automate this time-consuming task.
Also, a product configurator can help manufacturing companies auto-generate product information while reducing the likelihood of human error.
Large e-commerce businesses rely on product configurator software to allow all of their visitors to customize products according to their needs and tastes.
The Rise of Product Configurators
Consumers expect personalized products and a smooth online purchasing experience.
Product and pricing rules that run product configurator software ensure that every configuration is tailor-made to customers' specifications and the company's profitability.
Once they confirm their specification, customers can then proceed to make the purchase.
The Benefits of Product Configuration
Product configurator software reduces the likelihood of mistakes and cuts down on both lead onboarding time for new hires. It also gives companies greater control over production by optimizing communication internally (between different departments) and with customers.
Software solutions that can be used by both the employees and customers give companies the ability to choose who should be managing the configured order.
Let's take a closer look at how product configurators help businesses thrive.
Optimized Sales Processes
Product configurators are closely related to the sales quotation and order process.
Sales reps do more than convert leads into customers. In fact, only a third of their time is spent selling. A part of their time is spent generating quotes and proposals.
To streamline the sales process, businesses use a rules-governed cpq solution (which stands for configure, price, quote). This way they are able to generate quotes at a faster pace, drastically cutting down on approval time and onboarding of new reps.
Product configurators optimize dynamic pricing, self-generated quotes, and workflows. These are the critical pieces of an efficient sales process.
Streamline Business Processes
There are many moving parts to helping customers select various configurations — managing multiple variables, such as pricing, expenses, quotes, source materials, and licenses to name only a few.
Traditionally, important information related to sales was kept in different systems or on various desktop computers around the office. As a result, data would often grow stale or be incomplete because there'd be several copies of documents floating around the company.
This inevitably resulted in bottlenecks and errors.
Product configurators were introduced to reduce the occurrence of faulty data.
Apps that run rules-based product configurator software guide consumers to options they can actually make, which streamlines the process.
Help Your Sales Teams
It takes time for salespeople to become familiar with all the features, specifications, and compatibility issues of complex products. Companies can standardize and manage all the relevant configuration information in one place, irrespective of the product that requires configuration.
Making this information available to sales reps allows them to focus their attention on customers. For instance, a configurator can remind a sales rep when they should cross-sell or upsell.
Upselling is a great way of increasing profits. However, it can be challenging for sales reps to find the right combination of options for every product. That's why a rules-based CPQ solution can instantly put forward the ideal service solutions for every possible customer requirement.
Fewer Costly Errors
While order returns are an unavoidable fact for all businesses, product configurator software can significantly reduce their occurrence.
The configurator disallows incorrect entries, regardless of the complexity of the product. This virtually cuts mistakes down to zero and helps reduce order returns.
Product Configuration Across Industries
Businesses across various sectors greatly benefit from using product configurator tools to create custom products. Let’s take a closer look at how configuration can give companies an edge over their competitors.
Many retailers have several sales channels and want their customers to have a consistent customer experience, regardless of the channel on which they choose to interact with the business. Therefore, when a customer goes to a retailer's online store, they should have the same options as if they went to a physical store and interacted with a dedicated sales rep.
Also, the online store should allow the business to upsell. For example, when a customer buys an armchair, on the checkout page, there should be a suggestion for a carpet that matches the fabric of the chair.
Online product configurators allow consumers to personalize their purchases in real-time. Whether consumers are looking for t-shirts or electric scooters, online configurators enable them to pick the size, materials, color, design, and a plethora of other options.
Online product customization provides huge advantages both for businesses and consumers alike. Items that are customized online can sell for up to 50% more than those bought in-store.
And once we factor in the reduced costs of running an e-commerce business compared to retailers who rely largely on physical storefronts, the benefits of product configuration to online shopping are undeniable.
E-Commerce Use Case
Let's take an example of an e-commerce business that lets customers personalize their own t-shirts. The website offers a wide range of features to choose from before making the purchase, such as color, stitching, sleeve length, collar fabric, material, size, design, etc.
Whenever a customer makes a choice, incompatible options with that choice would be disabled.
For instance, certain print designs are only available on t-shirts that are 100% cotton. If a customer tries to select a t-shirt that is 50% polyester, then those print designs will not be available.
Clients are sometimes required to fill out a health questionnaire when buying life insurance products. A product configurator can edit or reorder the questions and update the algorithm that sets rates on premiums.
Also, a single risk could be reused in many different insurance products but with different attributes. For example, the insured sum, premium ranges, or additional requirements for clients can be changed to meet the needs of each client.
Many companies in the manufacturing industry spend a lot of resources making sure that their configurations are compliant with all the relevant laws and regulations. One of the ways that manufacturing companies try to remain compliant is by tasking an entire team with checking quotes before sending them to customers. Of course, this is a highly inefficient, and time-consuming process. The problem with this approach is compounded by the fact that manufacturing companies are typically very complex organizations.
Again, let's consider an example.
Company A produces expensive and complex tools, which take weeks to manufacture. If a mistake in the order isn't flagged before production begins, then the error will appear in the finished product.
This would undoubtedly be a financial hit to the company and could even result in the loss of customers.
Foolproof Your Business with a Product Configurator
Businesses want to be sure that customers are aware of all the details pertaining to the order so as to avoid unnecessary back and forth over emails, texts, or phone calls. This way once the order is placed, everybody is on the same page and production can start.
So, getting the configuration right from the start is crucial to lowering the likelihood of an error slipping through the cracks.
An elegant rules-based cpq solution that contains all the criteria, requirements, and rules would ensure that any configuration meets all the legal and business requirements. When a user enters an unacceptable configuration, the cpq solution immediately flags the problem.
This level of configuration makes the process safer and smoother for both buyers and manufacturers. As a result, manufacturing companies are able to reduce the order to ship time down to days or even hours.
Choosing the Right Product Configurator Software
In the past, companies used to rely on spreadsheets to keep track of products, pricing, features, and options. Oftentimes, crucial data would become obsolete, incomplete, or even duplicated, which led to inaccurate quotes.
Product configurators eliminate these deficiencies and liabilities while optimizing the process for both companies and buyers.
Sales teams need to be able to show customers available products along with their features and pricing in a timely manner. A well-designed product configurator will include a wide range of useful options, such as rules-powered configurations and complex pricing calculations that streamline the entire sales process.
Integration with Software
Product configurators can operate in a silo on their own. However, that's generally not the best approach. A product configurator should have the proper APIs that allow for easy integration with other enterprise software, apps, and databases.
For example, a product configurator needs to be able to connect with critical systems like CRMs that keep track of quote data and customer preferences.
Flexible Rules Engine
A business rules engine defines all of the conditions for accurate configuration, pricing, and outputs of the order.
However, buyers really need to be careful when shopping for CPQ solutions. While many vendors like to claim that their product configurators are run by powerful rules engines, very often this is not the case.
When you scratch the surface, you'll find that they are simply using very basic filtering, bundling, and custom code to handle the configurations. That's why it's important to be certain that your cpq software tool can seamlessly handle complex business rules.
The most critical component of a product configurator is the rules engine.
Buyers should look for a business rules engine that is easy to run, manage, and requires little training to use.
It's a good idea to ask your vendor to show you how they organize their rules before making a purchase to avoid unpleasant surprises during implementation.
Rules-Based Product Configurator
When properly set up, a product configuration tool can propel your company to unprecedented levels.
A robust CPQ (configure, price, quote) solution that's powered by a rules engine allows companies to immediately respond to the changes in the market and remain competitive.
Proper configuration helps businesses to:
- Get rid of inefficient manual sales processes that rely on spreadsheets and catalogs.
- Empower clients to personalize and configure complex products on their own.
- Scale without expensive and complex IT infrastructure investment.
We built Higson to help businesses of all sizes meet these goals.
Higson is a hyper-efficient product configurator that empowers users to innovate in real-time without having to wait on the IT department for support. Higson works for both businesses and customers, which helps boost customer satisfaction.
This rules-based product configurator provides the necessary flexibility to configure products based on characteristics and options to meaningfully simplify the quote-to-order and the production process:
- The quotes cover all the necessary components which get rid of the need to resubmit a quote because an important product component wasn't included.
- Accurately set pricing and discounting rules. Advanced pricing options include volume discounts, pre-negotiated contract pricing.
- Sales pipelines are instantly updated as quotes are generated. This way companies see which quotes need following-up and which have expired, thereby boosting productivity.
- Renewal quotes are guaranteed to be accurate. When renewal time comes around, renewal quotes are automatically created using validated customer data. Also, Higson keeps track of things like original quotes and add-ons so that there's no need to use renewal reminders.
- Sales teams can generate and manage quotes with ease. Changing quantities, adding features and discounts to configure the best solution for clients and prospects alike.
Higson is the product configurator that makes a difference in business operations. Get in touch with us today to see how you can easily configure even the most complex products using Higson.