In our two part article about 3D configurators we dedicate ourselves to the sale of customizable products in online shops. In part one we clarify what advantages a product configurator can offer and what has to be considered when designing the configurator. Part two then examines how product configurators can be implemented in a technical and user-friendly manner.

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Why use an online product configurator?

Product configurators respond to customer requests for products that best meet their requirements and taste. Overall, it can be observed in eCommerce that the wishes of individual customers are becoming increasingly important. It is only logical to react to this not only with a personalized customer approach, but also with products that allow individualization. Product configurators are often used for individualized mass production.

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It is not necessarily a unique product that is manufactured, but the customer selects the combination of product properties he prefers from a multitude of possible variants – including automated feasibility checks for the exclusion of production errors, which is of particular interest in the B2B sector.

Startups such as or based their business model on the idea of serving the personal taste of B2B online shoppers economically and at the same time making shopping an experience. Because many customers appreciate a playful effect, they enjoy clicking together their product. Prerequisite for this: The configurator is visually appealing and user-friendly.

A special application for product configurators is the individualization of the product through user-generated content. At the customer receives a framed or shining picture, the size and design of which he chooses, but which also displays the self-made motif. is a well-known representative for this principle or think of the many manufacturers of picture calendars and photo books. These offer the bonus of being able to have homemade products produced professionaly.

Another reason for the use of product configurators can be the saving of time and costs in sales. With the help of the configurator, the customer compiles the offer for his kitchen, gazebo etc. himself, including 3D preview and material calculation.

However, a product configurator does not necessarily lead to entrepreneurial success: In addition to the implementation of the configurator, the awareness of the product or supplier itself plays a major role, not to mention the product quality. Uncertainly on the part of the customer can also become a problem, especially if the exchange and return of the configured product are excluded. The customer wants to be sure that he fits his order and really likes the finished version.

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In the case of high-priced products for which the customer does not already have access to user experience, it should be evaluated particularly carefully whether the introduction of the product configurator is promising. Because here the inhibition threshold before an order is usually high.

Many shops with product configurators therefore also offer pre-configured products. They simplify the customer`s decision-making process and take on the role of a „recommendation“ from the experienced salesperson.

How do I design a product configurator?

As with any shop feature, you should be aware of the purpose of the configurator. Which business value should the configurator deliver and most importantly: Which target group do I want to address? Many decisions depend on it. Does the configurator have to be intuitive to use or is it only used by trained personnel (e.g. sales staff)? On which devices should the configurator be used?

It also depends on the type of product: It must be determined which properties of the product are fixed and which can be individualized. Should each step be executed in any order or is there a fixed procedure? It is also conceivable that the customer can freely choose the variants, but the system makes recommendations for successful combinations or at least provides help texts for selection options that require explanation. A requirement for the configurator may be that it provides a technically correct and complete product specification or documentation tailored to the individualized product and containing information on allergenic ingredients, for example.

The decision to use of a product configurator also affects other areas. The faster I want to deliver and the more selection options I offer, the higher the requirements on the storage area or my suppliers, for example. If individual options are not immediately available, the configurator may present alternatives to avoid an extension of the delivery time. Such requirements must be taken into account during implementation. It must be clarified how, where and when the product is to be visualised. The configurator can work with finished product images or generate the views.

The raises questions about the calculation of prices and shopping costs, i.e. which selection options influence the amount. Are there chargeable extras, quantity discounts, customer-specific price rules? Can the customer place an order directly or does he only receive an offer? It is important to inform the customer about the return policy., for example, excludes the return of individualized products and explicitly points this out once again in the shopping basket.

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Spreadshirt, on the other hand, offers the return of customer-specific product againts vouchers or new orders.

Finally, the technical system framework conditions have to be clarified. Which applications must the configurator communicate with, where do the required data come from, who maintains them where, how are they processed further. Interfaces to the PIM, ERP, payment and logistics systems as well as a user-friendly backend of the configurator itself must be ensured. Additional interfaces may be required, for example to CRM, if customer-specific discount rules are maintained here.