Visual Product Configurator for eCommerce guide: tools, benefits and more
Online sales currently make up about 13% of the retail market.
Not as much as you thought? When you view this number through the lens of current eCommerce growth, things get really interesting:
- Projections estimate that by 2023 (so, literally a year away), eCommerce sales will close to double, with 22% of retail purchases happening online.
- More bullish estimates project that by 2040, more than 95% of purchases will be on the web.
What does all of this mean for you?
It’s no secret that the online shopping experience varies greatly from the in-store experience.
There are some pros and cons to each, but there is one major problem with the online shopping experience, and that is that it’s a lot more difficult to understand fit and feel and to visualise custom product iterations such as colour and detail changes.
Enter visual product configuration.
Visual product configurators dramatically improve the customer experience in your online store, by providing an interactive method to visualise and customise your products in a 3D environment.
In this article, we will:
- Introduce you to 3D product configuration
- Discuss some visual product configurator benefits
- Finish off with a quick guide to determining whether visual product configurator software is a good choice for your enterprise.
Let’s start by answering one of the most basic visual product configurator questions:
What is a Visual Product Configurator?
It’s a software platform that transforms the online shopping experience on your website by allowing customers to visualise and customise products based on specific parameters you’ve designed.
Imagine you’re a customer (sometimes you are, right?), and you’re shopping for a new lounge suite for a home you’ve just built.
You’d like to start (and ideally, complete) this process online, from the comfort of your own home (or from the not-so-comfort of your current lounge suite).
Browsing for furniture online the traditional way doesn’t really give you a sense of what a sofa looks or feels like.
A 2D photograph gives you an idea, sure.
But it’s pretty limiting. What does it look like from the sides and back?
Things get a lot more complex if the company wants to allow for some degree of customisation. They’ll have to take and provide photos for each iteration of the product, which isn’t all that cost-effective on their part.
So, you end up going into your local store. It’s the only way to really understand whether you want to splash out on this lounge suite or not.
Experiences like this are what contribute to an industry average cart abandonment rate of around 70%.
Now, consider that same experience, but where the customer is able to visualise and customise the lounge suite using your visual product configurator app.
Burrow, for example, is an online modular furniture retailer.
Each of the products they offer is highly customisable. Take the sofa pictured above, for example.
Shoppers can choose from:
- 5 different kinds of fabric
- 6 different leg finishes
- 3 arm styles
- 2 staples of cushions
- 4 additional upgrade modules
That’s a total of 720 different configurations. Clearly, to be able to offer this kind of flexibility, you need to be using visual product configurator software. There’s no other way around it.
But the main takeaway is what this whole thing means for the customer experience.
Now, customers have a reliable way to assess fit and feel, to understand exactly what their customisations will turn out like, and to visualise products in 3D (and even within the context of augmented reality).
Let’s take a look at why this is important.
Why a Visual Product Configurator is crucial for your online business
In a nutshell, visual product configurator software helps to solve the problem of establishing suitability.
Where eCommerce introduces the problem that customers aren’t able to physically see and touch a product and thereby understand whether it’s fit for their purpose, a visual product configurator tool puts some of this power back in their hands.
There is also a lot of statistical evidence that demonstrates several visual product configurator benefits.
For starters, if a visual product configurator guide is available, 82% of users choose to use it.
But visual product configurator software also delivers several tangible benefits to companies and consumers alike.
Visual Product Configurator benefits
So far in this visual product configurator guide, we’ve described what product visualisers are, and how they solve an important problem for online shoppers.
But there’s more to the story.
Nearly 70% of surveyed shoppers can describe clear visual product configurator benefits:
- Shoppers can personalise products
- Buyers can view products from every angle
- Customers engage with products in real-time
- Shoppers are able to view products in-home
- Their confidence to buy increases
- The risk of return is reduced from online purchases
- They can view all variations of products in an endless aisle
- The rate of converting increases
- Cart abandonment rates are reduced
We’ll discuss these, as well as the benefits that exist from the perspective of the eCommerce retailer.
1. Shoppers can personalise products
Personalisation is incredibly important to today’s shoppers. 80% of consumers are more likely to shop with your brand if you generate personalised experiences, and this transfers into product personalisation as well.
The first of our visual product configurator benefits is pretty straightforward: it empowers shoppers to personalise the product they’re buying and to interact with this personalisation in a way that’s meaningful.
Take Bailey Nelson, an eyewear company.
Shoppers on Bailey Nelson’s website can virtually try-on glasses thanks to Plattar’s AR platform that accesses the customer’s camera on their smartphone or computer.
This not only allows customers to see how the frames look on their face, but they can also change frames in real-time, and do so from anywhere and on any device.
2. Buyers can view products from every angle
One of the major problems with traditional 2D photography is that shoppers are restricted to the angles chosen by the photographer at the time.
That is, they don’t really get an understanding of what every inch of the product looks like, and from every angle.
Implementing a Visual Product Configurator app helps solve this, by allowing customers to visualise products from every conceivable angle.
Before Visual Product Configurator tools, eCommerce stores used video to help solve this problem.
While this is a reasonable approach, 95% of online shoppers say they prefer 3D interactive content over videography when it comes to products.
3. Customers engage with products in real-time
The second advantage that visual product configuration has over 2D and video content is the ability to engage with products in real-time.
That is, the changes your customers make using your visual product configurator tool happen immediately, creating a sense of immersion in the shopping experience that is akin to the in-person experience.
4. Shoppers are able to view products at home
A powerful way to supercharge your visual product configurator app is to implement augmented reality content.
When online shoppers are able to visualise product content through an AR experience, they’re empowered to see exactly what products look like in the context of the environment they intend to use them.
Take spa retailer, Spa World.
One of Spa World’s pain points has always been the size of its products; it is simply not cost efficient to manufacture, display and photograph every spa and its multiple variations in a showroom or catalogue, which means customers can’t always ‘try before they buy’ or know with certainty how a particular spa will look in their home.
So, using Plattar’s 3D augmented reality engine, Spa World implemented a 3D Configurator that enables its customers to select and personalise their desired product intuitively.
Now, using the camera on their smart device, customers can enter an augmented reality environment to see just what that product looks like in the context of their own home, and make a more informed decision to purchase.
5. Increases confidence to buy
We already know that the traditional online shopping experience is tedious, especially when it comes to establishing fit and feel for highly personal items like clothing and apparel.
If shoppers feel unconvinced that the product they’re considering purchasing is the right fit for them, there’s a strong chance they’ll decide not to go ahead with the deal.
Either that, or they’ll take another approach: up to 41% of consumers choose to purchase multiple colours and sizes of a given item, and return the ones they don’t need.
This is a problem for both parties.
For customers, it’s not a seamless experience, and it means they have to pay up-front and wait for refunds to be issued.
For the retailer, processing unnecessary product returns is time-consuming and costly.
Visual product configurators, by allowing customers to visualise all angles, see products in the context of their own environment, and customise as required, help to increase consumer confidence, which has a flow-on effect.
6. Reduced risk of return from online purchases
There is significant evidence that 3D product visualisation has a major impact on product returns.In one study, the implementation of a 3D product configurator reduces return rates by as much as 35%.
This has a significant cost impact for eCommerce retailers, where product returns cost the company $15 each, on average.
The cause and effect are obvious:
Customers are given better information on a product’s suitability (via 3D and AR content), so they’re confident in their decision and have managed their expectations prior to the product arriving, meaning they have less need to process a return.
7. They can view all variations of products in an endless aisle
Visual Product Configurators can also be used in the context of brick and mortar stores, by creating what’s known as an endless aisle.
Endless aisles are kiosks within your physical store that allow shoppers to browse your entire range, even if you don’t have it all in stock right now.
This allows retailers to:
- Reduce their physical footprint and save on overheads
- Sell products that they don’t actually stock
- Save on display space
- Reduce storage costs
8. Increase in conversion rate
Visual product configuration is a powerful driver of online conversion rates, driving this metric up by as much as 40%.
This is a result of both increased engagement (as product visualisers are immersive and required user interaction), as well as improved customer confidence resulting from better product visualisation.
If you’re able to go a step further and implement 3D visualisation, you can boost conversion by as much as 66% , when compared to 2D visualisation.
Is using a Visual Product Configurator tool right for your business?
You’ve made it to this point in our guide, but you’re still not quite sure this is the right path for your company.
Consider the following questions when assessing whether your company needs to embrace product configuration and visualisation.
Do you sell complex, configurable products?
If you only sell one style of each product, then configuration probably isn’t necessary.
For example, if your eCommerce store sells health supplements, and for each supplement there is only one option, then standard 2D photography should be sufficient.
However, if what you sell is very complex and highly customisable, then visual product configuration is crucial.
For example, if you sell performance road cycles with a number of customisable aspects such as pedals, handlebars, finishes, and accessories, then visual product configuration will be essential for the purchasing decision.
Do you want to improve sales enablement?
Visual Product Configuration is most commonly used in self-serve, online retail style environments, but it’s not limited to the eCommerce space.
Visual Product Configuration has a place in the field sales environment, too.
Sales agents who are on the road visiting clients may wish to purchase industrial equipment, so they can use product configuration as a sales enablement tool.
Reps can use 3D and AR content to demonstrate product fit and feel, and configure and customise as required.
If your field sales agents struggle to communicate and demonstrate the value of your products, then configuration may be a wise investment.
Do you have limited display space?
It’s no secret the cost of premium retail space is becoming more and more expensive.
This is problematic for all kinds of retailers, not least those who sell large items such as sporting goods.
If you’re limited in the space you have on-site or are looking to reduce your footprint and thereby the cost of your overheads, visual product configuration tools can help.
Consider using Visual Product Configuration powered by an iPad kiosk, so in-store customers can browse your entire range without you having to keep everything in stock..
Are fit, look, and feel critical to the buying decision?
Any product where fit, look and feel are of utmost importance will benefit from the use of visual product configuration.Clothing and apparel are excellent examples. In this industry, rates of return are excessively high for online sales.
This is primarily because shoppers struggle to visualise what the product looks like, and how it will fit them.
Adding a layer of 3D product visualisation helps customers to analyse products from all angles and make more informed decisions, which for you will reduce the costs associated with receiving and processing returns.
Is there important product detail hidden that can’t be explored in 2D photos?
Some products simply can’t be presented accurately using 2D photography.
This is especially true for items that have an intricate level of detail or have features on the inside.
Whiteware appliances are a good example of this.
Customers shopping for a dishwasher online will struggle to understand its suitability if they’re unable to explore all aspects of the unit, most specifically the interior drawers.
If the products you sell have hidden details that can’t be viewed well in the 2D environment, then visual product configuration makes sense.
Do you want to remain competitive in the eCommerce world?
The truth of the matter is that 3D and AR product configuration is the future of the eCommerce world.
This may not be commonplace currently (only 1% of retailers embrace AR right now), but demand is growing and the most proactive online retailers are already reaping the benefits.
If your company has a long-term vision for success in the online retail space, then product configuration will be an important adaptation.
We’ve discussed the core benefits of adopting this form of product display in your eCommerce store, and the impact it has on the customer experience, conversion rates and cart abandonment.
If you’ve decided that visual product configuration is right for you, the next step is to find the right platform.
Have a chat with the team at Plattar to see how we can transform your shopping experience. Book a demo today.