Posted on 04/09/2015

The automotive industry has always gone about its business in a grand way. Their advertising campaigns are expensive and wide ranging. Their showrooms are ostentatious and they are always at the cutting edge of technology. In order to sell high-end products, they behave in a high-end manner. Inherent to their industry is the need to adapt to technological advances, be this in manufacturing, design or marketing. Whilst many industries are circumnavigating around configurators and ultimately deciding whether to integrate the technology into their business, automotive companies have grasped digital configurators with both hands. Now, they are benefiting from the financial benefits they bring.

It’s long been a cliché that when buying a car, an enthusiastic salesman encourages you to purchase all the bells and whistles that can be included with the vehicle. An auxiliary input for your music, different colour floor mats, a horn that plays the coronation street theme tune, that sort of thing. Configurators take out the need for this interaction, as suddenly the customer is making these decisions themselves. They can decide what added features they desire, they can see how much extra they cost and how they look instantly on a photo-real visualisation. Suddenly an auxiliary input seems like an appealing option, especially when it looks tempting on an interactive image of the car’s interior. From Elton John to Madonna with just the press of a button, why not?

Whilst it is not the intention of configurators to put car salesmen out of a job, automotive companies are offering customers’ ultimate customisation of their potential buys. Through a configurator, a customer begins with a base product. They can then view which components can be added or upgraded, what they cost and how they look on the product. The ability to see in real-time what these components look like is vital for the modern consumer, as it is estimated that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual and that visuals are processed 60000x faster by the brain than text. Customers are more likely to add components if they are provided with a visual image of what it will look like, rather than having to rely on their own imagination.

As customers can amend a product to their own individual preferences, they are likely to spend more on augmented products. The automotive industry is leading the way in using these techniques increase profits. Take the highly interactive and intuitive configuration application on the US version of the Mini website for example. The base Mini is sold for $24,100, but the configurator offers numerous customisation options. To get a traditional Union Jack flag on the roof is $170. Black alloys for the wheels are $750. To upgrade to a metallic red is $500, whilst its only $100 to add racing stripes to the bonnet. If a customer chose these amendments, they would see these appear on the real-time configuration of the car and that adding these components results in a final price of $26,470. A customer is more likely to accept this slightly elevated price as they have created a car to match their individual preferences, whilst Mini have pocketed a tidy $2370 up-sell from the price of the base model.

The automotive sector shows how an industry can use a configurator to create custom products that increase profits. The apparel industry can use configurators in the same way, creating design for manufacture clothing, shoes and accessories. A configurator can be designed to allow a customer to build a shirt for instance, and offer numerous changeable components.

Blank Label have created a digital configurator for shirts, allowing the customer to change different components such as material, button colour, type of collar and more on a photoreal visualisation. The visualisation is interactive and customers can change these components in real-time, allowing them to see how different combinations and iterations look. Whilst this configurator is intuitive, it doesn’t offer additional components that increase profit. The base shirt in this configurator is $95, and it remains this price whatever amendments are made. A configurator could be built that allows components on a shirt to be added; creating a product built to the customer’s preference, with a range of additional products up-sold.

In this instance, additional products could be added to the visualisation, to see how they look on the shirt. Items such as cufflinks, pocket squares and ties could be added to the shirt and viewed using the real-time visualisation capabilities of the configurator. Customers can then build an entire ensemble using the configurator, trying out numerous combinations until they find their perfect creation.

Other apparel brands are creeping towards digital configurators as a means of making increased profit from customer customisation. Timberland has numerous boots that can be customised through a configurator on their US website. The Timberland configurator is another example of how an augmented product can increase profits. A pair of 6-inch premium waterproof boots costs between $160-$190 on the website, whilst the same boots customised costs $275. The ability to customise the boots to the customer’s preference results in almost $100 more revenue for Timberland.

With the apparel market becoming more and more congested with the proliferation of e-commerce and customers expecting a certain degree of customisation, configurators can provide companies with the perfect solution to these issues. Allowing customers to create customised products gives them the option of paying slightly more for a personalised item, one which they are more likely to purchase due to their enhanced relationship with the product. With the automotive industry using configurators to increase profits using the creation of products, the apparel industry should also move to reap the benefits.

Configurators - What industries can learn from the auto sector
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