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Product Configurator: The Key to Scalable Customization

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product configurator

Post digital revolution, Americans want custom products more than ever before. In a massed produced world, different customers have unique needs, and any company that acknowledges that for a reasonable price wins their business. Where customized products were once a luxury, they have now become a necessity.

How can companies customize their products? There are 4 approaches to the customization model. The first is adaptive: create a standardized product that can accommodate many uses. An example is Philips Lightbulbs, as consumers can adjust their color, brightness, how they are controlled, and program schedules/commands. The next level up in customization is transparent: a manufacturer adjusts the product based on consumer data. This is the business model of Function of Beauty, who produce uniquely formulated hair and skin products in standard packaging for all their customers. Go a step further in the customization process, and one reaches cosmetic, in which customer choices are restricted to the final stages of manufacturing. Nike By You utilized this concept by allowing customers to select a standard style and size before customizing it with their own combination of colors and finishes. The final, most intensive customization approach is collaborative. In this model, the business creates a truly unique product based on customer needs and preferences. Sheffer Cylinder Configurator allows its customers to design their own cylinder with the help of an engineer. Lengths vary from 0.5” to 125” in increments of 0.001”.

So which approach is best? It does vary by industry, but 42% of consumers want brands to dictate the available options. In other words, they want configurable products. Configuration combines the benefits of standard and one of a kind products to allow for lower cost, highly scalable range of products tailored to what the customer wants. A product configurator relies on a database of rules that dictate what configurations will and will not work as intended. Some configurable parameters can include product size, energy source, and duty cycle. By offering configurable products, companies can improve engagement, widen consumer bases, and reduce rework and return rates. Companies who invested in customization are 72% likely to meet revenue targets, compared to 64% of companies who did not.

The industries in which a product configurator is most useful are mechanical components, electrical components, and architectural products. Retail products likely require less customization while heavy machinery requires more. Finding the right configurator for one’s business can be tricky. Some features to look for are 360 visualization, real-time pricing, and customer experience. A well-designed configurator should earn money and save on hassle, not the other way around.

One configurator on the market is Cadenas eCATALOGsolutions. It is a rules-based configurator that works for products, components, and assemblies. The customer experience is built for designers with 360 degree visualization, PDF data sheets on each product, and tiered pricing based on fixed data. Unique part numbers make for easy repeat purchases of industrial, architectural, and electronic components. Show exactly what your products can do with eCATALOGsolutions from Cadenas.

An infographic detailing how a product configurator can enable scalable customization.

Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency , based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019. Follow Brian Wallace on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.

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