Posted on 08/12/2015

It is almost impossible to avoid social media in this day and age. Descartes famous expression ‘I think, therefore I am’ is getting dangerously close to being reconstituted as ‘I tweet, therefore I am’. Those who deliberately choose to shun this modern method of communication find themselves isolated, cut off from the constant stream of updates, pictures and opinion that social media thrusts upon those who use it regularly. Visual information is being ingested at a higher rate than ever before. Harnessing this increased exposure to information is crucial for any company wanting to extend their brand and advertise their products over the internet. Social media allows for this. And configurators expand this opportunity further.

Interaction is at the heart of both social media and configurators. Increased interaction with friends, family, celebrities, companies and many others is one of the main reasons people use social media; they update people on what they’re doing, and in return get updates from others. Interaction is what draws people into the nexus of social media. Configurators work in the same way. The interaction they offer draws people in; playing with a customisable product encourages people to stay and play whilst co-designing their perfect product. In many accounts, customers are subliminally becoming accustomed to a company’s brand and product whilst playing around with different combinations and making modifications. Like fishing, a configurator gets them hooked, and the interaction it provides reels them in.

Innovation has extended the reach of interaction, and a configurator is a digital feature that companies can integrate to ensure they are the beneficiaries of the increased interaction between company and customer. With point-of-sale configurators increasingly common in many industries, integrating configurators with social media platforms is a new way of engaging customers with a brand and product. Of all the industries to embrace this technology, automotive companies are blazing a trail in terms of using configurators within social applications to attract customers. Here are three examples of how companies have merged together social media and configurators.

Collaboration – The Toyota Corolla collaborator configurator

One of the advantages of a configurator is that it is useful for both those with knowledge of the product they are creating and those who need assistance when picking components and other features – but still want to remain the primary decision maker. The Toyota Corolla collaborator configurator (US) fuses these together using social media applications. Customers can interact with a configurable image of a Toyota Corolla whilst in a ‘Google Hangout’. Friends and family can be invited into the hangout to help customise aspects of the car and give advice on aesthetics and components; giving users the chance to seek assurance from their peers in a collaborative and social environment.

Colour, fabrics, wheels, transmission and more can be customised in real-time on a digital image, with all those in the hangout able to make and see changes instantly. The collaborative nature of shopping gives customers the opportunity to make group decisions. There is also the option to involve a Toyota expert in the hangout for help when making decisions on complex internal components i.e. the engine. Greater collaboration between friends and family members mean customers are more likely to trust they have made the right decisions when co-designing a product. By merging together a configurator and a social media application, Toyota has shown how interaction and collaboration can be extended even further. With a memorable experience created, customers are more likely to purchase a product and show increased brand loyalty.                

Engagement – Mercedes social configurator

Companies in many industries were quick to understand the benefits that social media could provide in terms of making a brand more visual over the internet, creating Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to show their products and increase sales opportunities. The push for more sales opportunities and greater engagement between a company, brand and customers has lead to many integrating configurators into their company websites as a catalyst to increase interaction. The automotive industry has taken it a step further, creating progressive and engaging experiences through an amalgamation of the two.

Social media and configurators both attempt to engage a customer and by moulding the two together an even more interactive experience is created. Customers don’t even have to go looking for a configurator; they can now stumble across one whilst looking at things they’re already interested in through social media. Mercedes have created the Mercedes Benz GLA social configurator for Instagram. On their Instagram account potential customers can make numerous modifications to a real-time image of a Mercedes GLA, receiving a price for their creation at the end of the process. Users who have produced a final product are encouraged to share their creation over social media.

Using a configurator integrated into their Instagram account, Mercedes aren’t waiting for a customer to visit their website; they’re taking their cars to the customer. Mercedes are attempting to appeal to a younger group, those who spend a large portion of their time on social media. This new and interactive method of instilling their Instagram account with a configurator has been rewarded as they have gained 20,000 new followers and over 100,000 likes. By merging together social media and configurators, Mercedes have showed how the two together can create an interactive and engaging experience, which also increases sales opportunities. Engagement is key for a company attempting to maximise the opportunities available with social media, and configurators are a way of mixing digital technology with social media to create an engaging and memorable experience.       

Shareability – The Acura Twitter configurator

When people buy something new, they like to show it off to friends and family. New clothes, a new car or house, it’s a natural reaction to want to share these things with others. Of course to show off a new car, it always used to have to be done physically, whilst the person reviewing the purchase kicks the wheels to once and for all confirm they are full of air – a critical aspect for anyone pretending to know anything about cars. With a configurator, this can all be done online. An image with all the exact features of the configured vehicle can be shared over social media to display to friends, family, colleagues and many others to show the exact specifications of the new car.

The viral potential of integrating configurators into social media is vast. Car company Acura developed the first configurator that could be used without leaving Twitter, fully integrating the technology into the social media application. In a simple configurator, a Twitter user can configure an Acura TLX whilst browsing their timeline. With a clear call for action for each step of the process, upon completion the user is invited to share the design or ‘explore more options’, which takes them to the full configurator on the Acura website. The potential of such a configurator is great. Using targeting and promoted tweets, the company can expose those interested in their cars to this configurator, and let them create and share designs. Once these are shared the configurator is then more visible to more potential customers, enhancing the reach of organic marketing for the company.

The embedded configurator is an interactive advert for a company; those satisfied with the experience will create brand exposure and promotion through broadcasting their creations to a large network. A new level of interaction is achieved, making the most of the highly efficient creative medium that social media has provided. The increased shareability represents an opportunity for business to spread their brand widely across the internet using the interactive and engaging opportunities that social media creates.      

Social Media and Configurators – Opportunity with technology 

Separately, social media and configurators have been increasing interaction in their own way for a number of years now. When integrated together however, they can fulfil their true potential in terms of engaging customers and exposing a brand. The automotive industry has always been pioneers of technology, and the examples shown display the strengths of a configurator within a social media application. Opportunities are available to a whole host of companies, as collaboration, shareability and engagement are all key characteristics provided by embedding a configurator into a social media application.

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