Arguably one of the biggest changes for manufacturers in the last twenty years has been the explosion in the field of configurable products. Customers no longer expect a “one-size-fits-all” approach to products and want to be able to create items that fit their needs.
Thankfully, the increase in interest has also led to a massive outpouring of software solutions that can assist you in providing these products. Unfortunately, while many manufacturers are fully knowledgeable about how to design and build configurable products, they may not be aware of how to market these items appropriately to increase their sales.
Let’s take a look at the strategies you can use to market your configurable products:
Establish a Web Presence
Once you have a configurator in place, it’s not always enough to simply use it “in-house” to take orders from customers (although this is certainly one option). Your customers expect you to have a website in today’s economy. More than that, buyers want to order configurable products through that site so they can design the products themselves, place the order online, and either have it shipped to them or pick-up in person.
Your first step in marketing yourself is to establish a website that includes access to your configurator. You want to simplify the experience on your site by automating as much as possible using default options, background calculations, and conditional logic. Be sure to focus on making the user experience as comfortable and easy as possible. Any trouble spots or confusion can cause customers to give up and look elsewhere.
Testing, Testing, Testing
Once you’ve established your web presence, you need to put it through extensive testing to ensure that it will work properly for your customers. If a customer tries to configure a product and the site crashes or gives them errors, then you’ve just lost a sale (and potentially future sales).
Your engineering and sales team need to work together to design products with the configurator and ensure you’re testing everything properly and products are priced as expected. One thing you also want to ensure as you run these tests is that you give your customers guidance along the way. Don’t just assume they’ll know what options are available and how to differentiate between them.
One of the most important strategies to implement is providing as many visual configuration tools as possible. First, you want to ensure you have a visual configurator that can show the customer their configured product in real-time. If you sell trucks with different styles, colors, and other features, then you want to show customers how their selections look together.
The customer needs to see what they’re buying. But they also need to see every update in real-time. If the customer changes the color, then the mockup on the screen should change to match so they can see exactly what they’re getting.
It’s hard for a customer to want to buy a product if they can’t see it and know exactly what they’re getting. When you’re setting up your visual configurator, include both 2D visualization and fully 3D visualization. This last option is important if you’re configuring complex products that require them to see an interactive, three-dimensional product before purchasing.
Give Examples (Lots of them!)
Another good sales strategy is to offer fully configured sample products. Many customers look at a blank configurator the way a high school student looks at a blank sheet of paper—with a sense of panic as if to say, “What do I do now?” Offer pre-configured products for customers to use as a starting point and help them get their creative juices flowing.
Also, as part of your marketing strategy, encourage customers to share their images of your configured products in use. If you sell configurable lighting solutions, ask customers to send in pictures of their setup or share them on social media to create more of a buzz about your products.
Don’t forget about your advanced use cases
For some products and configurations, an online configurator isn’t going to be able to handle all of the details and specifications online. For advanced requests that go beyond the website’s abilities, make sure that you have an internal sales team that is able to provide customer support. This would also include customer support for those clients who aren’t comfortable with the online process and still want that “human touch” when it comes to placing an order.
If you find yourself unsure of how to market your new CPQ products, then don’t worry. There is no need to try to learn as you go. By starting off with these established best practices, you can ensure that you increase your sales and improve your bottom line.