Emilia Dunaj
Emilia Dunaj
Head of Technology Insights
April 2024, 11 min. read

Offering custom or semi-custom products is key to staying competitive. Depending on your business needs, product configurator software can be geared towards interactive customer use or optimizing internal staff processes. Either way, if you’re set on implementing a configurator that brings results, the choice of software becomes critical.

But how do you choose the solution to meet the evolving demands of your customers? 

This article will guide you through the choices so your decision is well-informed and aligned with your business’s unique needs and goals. We’ll explore the benefits of product configurators, what to look for when choosing one, and the considerations for custom vs off-the-shelf software solutions. 

Keep reading to learn how to select the perfect product configurator software for your business.

Why do you need product configurator software?

It’s safe to say that almost every industry has the potential to benefit from the implementation of product configurator software. So let’s learn more about this solution and the benefits it brings. 

What is a product configurator?

A product configurator is a software application that allows users to select product features, components, or specifications and customize their purchases to their liking. At the same time, the software ensures that all choices are compliant with your predefined rules. After all, the final product must be possible to manufacture.

product configurator explanation

But there’s more. A reliable manufacturing product configurator offers a variety of advanced functions tailored to specific industries. It can handle complex product lines with ease, providing a streamlined experience for both customers and sales teams. Advanced features such as real-time visualizations, interactive customization, and dynamic pricing adjustments significantly simplify the sales process.

→ For a more detailed exploration, read our article What is a Product Configurator?

Product customization and customer’s buying behavior

Today, ‘one size fits all’ no longer applies. Consumers across various industries want personalized customer experience. This shift is redefining how products are sold, marketed and even designed.

Why this change? It’s simple. It boils down to clients wanting products that meet their specific project needs and align with their business objectives. A Deloitte study found that over 50% of consumers expressed interest in purchasing customized products or services. In the B2B context, this reflects a growing demand for unique solutions that support specific business goals and operational efficiencies.

The impact of this shift is profound. Companies providing customizable products, such as HVAC systems tailored to particular building specifications, often experience increased client engagement and loyalty. Customization leads to solutions that more accurately fit client requirements, boosting satisfaction and fostering repeat business and referrals.

However, fulfilling these customized needs requires the right technology. Product configurator software becomes indispensable for the job. It enables companies to offer a wide range of customization options efficiently, ensuring that each solution aligns with specific client requirements and project specifications.

Product configurator software benefits

The advantages of using configurators are vast:

  • Improved customer experience: Your customers enjoy the freedom to configure products that meet their specific needs, leading to higher satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Communicating product information: Your visual configurator can educate and show off the best features of your configurable products. This guided selling approach helps customers understand the best choices for their needs.
  • Increased efficiency: These tools streamline the configuration process, making it easier for your businesses to manage personalized orders.
  • Quicker sales cycles: Streamlined customization options can lead to faster decision-making and shorter sales processes. 
  • Eliminated human error element: Automation minimizes order errors, ensuring customers receive exactly what they’ve requested. This precision also protects your company from the costs and complications associated with human errors.
  • Reduced training efforts for new sales staff: With intuitive interfaces and automated processes, the tool simplifies the learning curve for new team members.
  • Better insight into customer preferences: You gain valuable data on customer preferences, guiding future product development and marketing strategies.

A study from the Configuration Workshop 2023 proved that using a product configurator can successfully reduce your lead time from weeks to hours by automating processes and reducing manual tasks. This statistic highlights the efficiency benefits of implementing configurator software in a business.

How to choose the right product configuration software?

Selecting the ideal product for your company is crucial for delivering on your promise of customization. Here’s how you can make the best choice for your business:

1. Identify your business needs

First, you need to ask the right questions: Who are your customers? How complex are your customization options? Will your configurator be a public tool or an internal app? Understanding your unique business requirements will give you an idea of what you’re looking for in a configurator. For instance, a company specializing in customized industrial equipment will have different needs than a fashion retailer.

2. Evaluate features and capabilities

Key features to consider include user-friendliness, compatibility with your existing systems, the ability to handle your specific customization needs, and real-time pricing updates. It’s important to link this with the specific needs you identified. For example, if you’re a B2B company dealing with an intricate product catalog, ensure the configurator can handle complex customizations and integrate seamlessly with your supply chain systems.

→ Read more: Key Product Sales Configurator Features for B2B eCommerce

3. Consider between 2D vs 3D configurators

The choice between 2D and 3D configurators depends on your product and customer needs. 2D is typically sufficient for simpler products, but 3D offers a more immersive experience for complex or visually-driven products. For example, a furniture manufacturer might benefit more from a 3D configurator, allowing customers to visualize products in their own space.

3D configurators can be pricey, especially if you don’t already have 3D models of your products. So, if your products are less visually driven, 2D images and CAD visualizations will be sufficient.

→ Read more: 2D vs 3D Product Configurator: What To Choose for Your Product Customization?

5 Key considerations in choosing your product configurator tool

Choosing the right configurator goes beyond basic features. Moreover, a careful assessment aligned with your specific business objectives will lead to a configurator that meets current needs and supports future growth and changes.

Here are 5 key considerations to ensure you make an informed decision:

1. Understanding your configurator features

Selecting a configurator involves understanding key features that enhance user experience. Firstly, you need to decide what you need and what falls under your budget. 3D visualizations and AR capabilities offer immersive, realistic previews of customizations. Performance simulations and dynamic calculations help in accurate, real-time decision-making. Features like automatic BOM (Bill of Material) creation and other document generation streamline production processes.

2. Product complexity and customization level

Choosing the right configurator type depends on how complex your product is. For products with many customization options, you need a powerful configurator that can handle detailed choices. This is known as a configure-to-order approach. But for simpler products, a made-to-order configurator, which offers basic customization choices, might be all you need. It’s important to match the configurator with the level of customization your product requires.

3. Integration capabilities with existing systems

Your configurator should seamlessly integrate with your existing systems, like ERP, CRM or your system for creating quotes. This ensures smooth data flow and helps maintain consistency across various business processes. Additionally, custom-made configurators offer the flexibility to tailor this integration, ensuring they align perfectly with your unique system architecture and process workflows.

4. Configuration rules & constraints

Effective product customization software lets you set rules and constraints to ensure that only possible configurations are chosen. This keeps your customizations practical to make and profitable. The flexibility in adding sophisticated rules is particularly important for manufacturers with complex offerings. It allows for managing the intricacies of complex goods and their many product dependencies efficiently. 

5. Scalability aspect

A key feature of a good configurator is its scalability. Therefore, as your product range expands, your intended user base grows, or the industry standards change, the configurator must adapt seamlessly. The goal is to design the system for easy future expansions and modifications. This approach ensures the product configurator software doesn’t require a complete rebuild to adapt to market changes, remaining a robust and responsive tool for your business.

Configuration solution: buying off-the-shelf vs building your own

When it comes to product configurators, the decision between a custom-built solution and an off-the-shelf option is significant. Each choice has its own set of advantages, depending on your business needs.

Benefits of buying an off-the-shelf configurator

For simpler product ranges, these configurators can be a practical option. They’re typically less expensive upfront and have standard features for basic needs. However, they might not offer the flexibility of custom solutions. 

The main advantages of these commercial configurators are:

  • Lower initial cost
  • General set of features suitable for basic needs

One consideration is their subscription plans, which vary significantly. Some providers charge based on the number of users, while others may bill according to the number of configurations used per month. This variability can make it challenging to fit these costs into a broader budget plan, especially if your usage fluctuates.

Benefits of building your own configurator

Building a custom product configurator, rather than opting for off-the-shelf solutions, offers several unbeatable advantages for manufacturers, especially those dealing with complex products. Here’s why custom development often outweighs the convenience of pre-packaged solutions:

  • Tailored to your specific needs

Custom product configurators are specifically designed to handle the unique complexities and nuances of a manufacturer’s product line, which off-the-shelf solutions might not adequately address.

  • Scalability and flexibility

Custom solutions, when designed for scalability, offer ease in adapting and growing with your business. They can seamlessly accommodate new products, features, or business process changes without the limitations found in pre-packaged software.

  • Intellectual property and exclusivity

Developing a custom configurator means the manufacturer owns the solution outright. Consequently, this includes any unique features or processes it incorporates, protecting the company’s intellectual property.

  • Control over maintenance and updates

You have full control over when and how the configurator is updated or maintained, which means more cost-efficient management over its lifecycle.

  • No license fees

With custom configurators you can avoid ongoing licensing fees or subscription costs associated with packaged software. Furthermore, If designed the right way, they can be used by an unlimited number of users without extra cost.

  • Included deployment service

When building your own configurator software, the service typically includes deployment assistance. This means experts are involved in setting up and integrating the product configurator software into your existing systems, ensuring a smooth start and minimizing disruptions to your business operations.

  • Brand-specific design

A custom configurator can offer a brand-specific design and user experience, strengthening brand identity and setting standards in your industry. It can also be tailored for use by your distributors–the software can be adjusted to suit each distributor’s specific requirements.

build product configurator benefits

As you can tell, while off-the-shelf product configurators may seem convenient and cost-effective initially, the long-term benefits of developing a custom configurator can offer a significant return on investment (ROI) for manufacturers of complex products.

The implementation cost of product configurator software

When integrating a product configurator into your business, understanding and managing the implementation cost is key. 

The upfront cost varies widely. Custom solutions might be pricier initially but offer more long-term value. Off-the-shelf options could be less costly upfront but often incur additional costs for customization, integration, implementation, and scaling.

The true cost of a configurator isn’t just measured in funds spent but also in the value it brings. Increased sales, higher customer satisfaction, and improved efficiency are potential benefits that can offset initial and operational costs.

You also need to consider the costs of training your sales reps, maintaining the system, and any potential downtime during implementation. These operational costs can impact your budget and should be factored in from the start.

Investing in a product configurator software that can scale and adapt to future needs can save money in the long run. It’s important to choose a solution that won’t become obsolete as your business grows and evolves.

Weigh the costs against the expected benefits. A more expensive, customized solution might offer greater ROI compared to a cheaper, less effective option.

→ Further reading: Product Configurator Benefits and ROI: Is It Worth the Investment?

Final thoughts and steps forward

As we wrap up our guide on choosing the best product configurator software, remember that the decision you make today will significantly impact your business’s future. The right configurator can greatly improve your product experience, streamline your operations, and give you a competitive edge.

While choosing a product configurator, analyze your business needs and customer preferences and ensure the selected solution aligns with your company goals. Moreover, consider the benefits of features like dynamic visualizations or performance simulations, as they can be a major draw for customers.

If you’re unsure, seek advice from professionals who specialize in product and service configurator software. Right Information has IT experts who can help guide you to a solution that best fits your business. Reach out today to speak about your configuration needs.

Common Questions

  1. Why is product configurator software necessary?
    Product configurator software caters to the increasing demand for personalized products across various industries. It improves customer experience, enhances operational efficiencies, and ensures that custom products meet precise client requirements.
  2. How can I determine the right product configurator for my business?
    Start by identifying your business needs, understanding your customer base, and determining the complexity of your product customizations. Evaluate if the configurator will be used publicly or internally.
  3. What is the difference between 2D and 3D configurators?
    2D configurators are generally sufficient for simpler products, while 3D configurators provide a more immersive experience, suitable for complex or visually driven products, allowing better visualization in a customer’s own space.
  4. What are the key considerations when selecting a configurator?
    Important considerations include understanding the necessary features, product complexity, configurator’s integration capabilities with existing systems, and the ability to set detailed configuration rules and constraints.
  5. Should I choose an off-the-shelf configurator or build a custom one?
    The choice depends on your specific needs. Off-the-shelf configurators are typically cost less upfront but may lack customization capabilities. Custom-built solutions offer more flexibility, scalability, and can be tailored to meet unique business needs and processes. For a custom configurator contact us!
  6. What are the costs involved in implementing a product configurator?
    The costs associated with implementing a product configurator can vary widely based on several factors, including the complexity of the configurator, the level of customization required, and integration needs with existing systems. For a detailed estimate tailored to your specific requirements, please contact us at hello@rightinformation.com.
  7. How do product configurators comply with industry standards and regulations?
    We develop product configurators thta are designed to comply with specific industry standards and regulations, ensuring that all product customizations are viable and legally compliant.