At the core, “configurators” are quite simply guided selling tools. What B2B buyer wouldn’t want their own personal helper to make buying easier? And the bonus for manufacturers and distributors is this: configurators can help key B2B salespeople focus on bigger, higher impact selling tasks.
To understand the benefits of product and catalog configurators, it’s important to understand the two ecommerce building blocks: the product search process, and how configurators work.
The Product Search Process
Many B2B buyers arrive at an ecommerce website with a “partial.” They may not know exactly what they want to buy, but many times they do, and instead type a general product name (like "bolts") in the search bar. A search for bolts could provide a dizzying array of search result options. Why? Because this broad search term can be indexed in all kinds of content, from product names to product descriptions across many different types of categories. Specificity is key in the search process. It’s very likely that B2B buyers hold the general term “bolt” in mind (the partial) PLUS several other attributes as well, such as “diameter” and “thread pitch,” during their search process.
We found this exact situation with our client, Tacoma Screw. Rather than fight inertia, Xngage designed a unique user experience that would quickly move buyers from a product line to a model to a set of products that were highly relevant for the buyer. For Tacoma Screw buyers, search results were listed in a table view that quickly visually demonstrated the choices and got them to the right product efficiently. This is especially helpful for buying teams where diverse buying roles - like engineers and procurement personnel - need to be on the same page before the products are purchased
How Configurators Work
Configurators can be very simple to very complex, often driven by the complexity of the assortment. In its simplest case, the configurator widget functions like a drop-down menu helping buyers to select a specific product within multiple variants. This was an approach that Royal Canin – a pet food supply company and Xngage client – used to help veterinarians recommend the right product size to pet owners. The configurator was based on animal weight, and the size of the product was matched to the size of the pet.
This idea of a series of questions is ideal for drilling down many B2B products as well. Helping first guide the user down for application/use, then through various product lines, eventually gets to the right product for customers - both first-time buyers and repeat customers – who don’t know the specific product set well.
Other times configurators are a customization tool. In the case of Garrett popcorn, the series of questions that guided the selling process focused on three primary attributes to “Create Your Tin.” The attributes included size, type of tin, and popcorn type/flavor, thereby creating a unique solution for buyers at a recommended price point. For the client who has a sweet tooth, offer a gallon of popcorn in a holiday tin with caramel crisp popcorn, or for the client always watching his carb intake, choose the half gallon in a non-seasonal tin with plain popcorn. You can offer both (and more) all while shipping thousands of products to thousands of locations when a configurator is placed into an optimized tech stack.
The point of product and category configurators is to minimize friction in the buying process. While choice is usually good, too much can overwhelm buyers, make products hard to find, and inhibit the click-to-cart process. Configurators allow buyers to better define their search criteria just like a great salesperson asks clarifying questions. And these digital selling agents allow live B2B salespeople to tackle the more difficult end-user customer questions and focus on curating great collections based on specific buyer needs.
The search process is wonderful if your buyers are specific. If that’s not happening as often as you would like, consider a configurator to help coach buyers toward where they should (and you want them to) go.