In the past few years the interest in product configurators has increased rapidly. No wonder, with concepts such as “build to order”, “assemble to order”, “configure to order”, “make to order” or “engineer to order”, the success of the entire project depends on the customer touchpoints. And your product configurator is the most imporatant touchpoint for online sales.
Anyone who thinks customer centric and sales oriented is well informed about the advantages of configurators. But what do you have to consider when implementing configurator projects?
We have analyzed recurring challenges and requirements. From our point of view, there are 5 decisive, cross-industry success factors.
1. Define your target group from the very beginning by creating personas and customer journeys
Before working on a process and usability concept for the configurator, you need as much information as possible about your customers. A helpful approach is to create personas in order to describe as many representative customers as possible. You need to define age, gender, professional background, job position, technical equipment and purchasing habits for each persona. Then sketch each personas customer journey with the requirements for the configurator or the entire purchase process under the premise of offering an optimal customer experience.
The result is a user-centered catalog of requirements for the entire project. To sketch personas and customer journeys has become an essential part of all web and marketing projects. So fortunately these descriptions already exist somewhere in your company and you only need to adapt them. If not, marketing and sales will be happy when someone finally does it.
2. Start your configurator projects slim and stay flexible after launch
In most “… to-order” projects, the configurator is the main touchpoint to the customer. That is why a lot of effort and time is put in the concept phase and implementation of the configurator. However, we recommend starting lean. This saves time and money right from the very beginning.
Based on the user data (which your configurator solution should be able to provide), the configurator can be optimized over time and continuously adapted to the needs of the users. Always think of the risk of information overload and do not overwhelm your customers.
What we also have observed: complex features of the configurator that prove to be no use for customers are retained. Because project managers often find it difficult to correct what already has been implemented or they can just not "kill their darlings".
3. If you are not sure about your strategy try rapid prototying
During the concept phase of your configurator project, it can happen that it is not clear which pricing strategy, design or process navigation is the best. These open decisions should not hinder the project launch, but need to been taken seriously. The concept of rapid prototyping, i.e. the construction of a prototype (your configurator solution should also allow this), provides useful insights that allow the various approaches to be tested and adapted very easily. A/B testing enables users to decide whether they prefer the concept of prototype A or prototpye B. The prototypes don‘t have to be defined in the minutest details, just the core components to be tested are crucial.
4. Don‘t overestimate your brand and/or product
Regardless of whether your company / brand is established or known or not: Make customers aware of the advantages of product customization. Don't expect someone to use your configurator or buy a single product just because you sell it.
Right from the start of a configurator project, it is important to develop a sustainable marketing strategy that is tailored to the target group. An employee or the whole team should feel responsible for these tasks. The commitment of the strategy should be braced in the whole company.
Configurator projects often only fail because the new, expanded target group could not be activated. Also make sure that the configurator does not end somewhere on your website where it can’t be found. What customers don't see, they won't use.
5. Track and analyse your customer data and stay curious
Even if a configurator project has been successfully launched, the market can change very quickly and create different or new requirements. Permanent data tracking and analyzing the user traction will help to interpret irregularities and to anticipate new customer requirements. Beside your own data, keep an eye on monitoring competitors. Benchmark companies give always valuable insights into market trends and opportunities for differentiation.
How you can create perfect conditions for your project as a project manager
All practical tips mentioned are easy to follow, but assume two things. First, stay flexible and be prepared to adapt your initial concept. Your configurator will not turn out to be the one you had in mind at the beginning of the project. Second: Make sure that you choose a configurator solution flexible enough to react on these changes without the effect of skyrocketing implementation costs.
And keep smiling: A configurator that rocks has to be fun!