Although the configurator doesn’t allow you to view the car from any angle, the photos are very attractive and slightly interactive. When I hovered my mouse over the different models the configurator turned the headlights on the car as nice form of visual feedback. If I clicked on a model it brought the car to the front (see the GT Premium above).
I also particularly like the highlighting of the price throughout the process. Although providing MSRP pricing is standard for automobile companies there are many other industries where it is not, or only base price is shown. Unfortunately, if you limit the buyer’s ability to research the product with it’s pricing they are less likely to engage in a sales conversation.
Let’s continue with the Ford configurator… Once I select the model I am interested in, the configurator leads me to a page where I can select packages. In this case, there is a premium package that costs $1,795 MSRP.
I’m not particularly impressed with this step in the configurator. There are several problems, one is that the images are small and not very meaningful. In addition, the collection of features in this premium package does not appear to be purpose driven – in other words, it appears only to be targeted at someone who wants to spend more money. It would be much more helpful if the packages were split based on the purpose the car was being purchased for, for example, “the audiophile package” or the “touring package”. If it were, then buyers could more quickly identify what was appropriate for them without needing to understand the particular features.
Another thing I don’t like about this step is that it violates one of the well accepted rules of product configurators – it forces the buyer through a series of steps without an obvious way to complete the process early. Most modern configurators allow the buyer to complete the configuration process at any point during the selection process.
Let’s continue to the next page.
I love this page! It is highly interactive, visual and just fun. When you make a change that effects the price, the price digits roll like slot machine. When I change the colors, one color fades into another. The packages are purpose-driven and they change the image of the product so you know exactly how your choices will affect your purchase.
Let’s skip to the last page.
This page is nicely formatted with a good summary of the choices I have made. The product picture is small but beautiful and it appears to be visually accurate with respect to all the choices I made. My only critique of this page is that it is not obvious how to save the configuration for later recall. I would definitely recommend to Ford to add a way for buyers to email the configuration to themselves with a link that recalls the configuration.
Overall I would say that Ford did a nice job with this configurator. Ultimately, I think three criteria rise above all others when evaluating a configurator: how engaging is it? How effective is it? How efficient is it?
I give Ford a high score (A) for engagement due to their nice visual and interactive elements. Ford gets a fairly high score (B) on effectiveness where I define effectiveness as the configurators ability to guide the user to a product that matches their needs/desires. On the positive side, most of the packages are purpose driven, there aren’t an overwhelming number of options and it is easy to see how your choices effect the product being purchase. On the negative side, I can’t save my configuration, I don’t have a running summary of my choices and not all packages are purpose driven. Finally, Ford gets a moderate score (B-) on efficiency due to the configurator forcing you through a series of steps rather than allowing me to configure options in any order and in any level of detail I want.]]>
Note the inefficiencies and expense involved in this process: First, you can expect a significant drop-off between step #2 and step #3. A customer who is not ready for a one-on-one conversation will continue their web search to find a product that they are confident will meet their needs. Second, your sales team must engage with the prospect regardless of how well-qualified they are. They will spend significant time explaining the capabilities and configuration options. And they will spend time revising quotes and iterating with the customer. Third, your sales and support teams must instill confidence in the customer that they are getting exactly what they want. This may require creating detailed renderings of the final product or reviewing, in detail, final specifications. This is a time-consuming and expensive process.
ENABLING SELF SERVICE DESIGN
Now consider a second model that enables the customer to make their own guided design choices, on their own time, before they contact you. (In fact, some customers may purchase the product without ever contacting you, completely eliminating the inefficiencies outlined above.)
Note: A live example can be found at Studio Shed, a manufacturer of configurable backyard sheds (visit https://www.studio-shed.com/configure/).
The changes are subtle but important. Prospects have more confidence in the offerings because they see the exact products they have configured. They know the prices, and they have made all the major tradeoff decisions before contacting your team. When prospects reach out to the sales team, they ask more insightful questions, and they are more ready to buy. Prospects who have access to an online configuration tool for custom products are more likely to do the following:
Ultimately, this optimal online experience for custom products will translate to more sales and greater profitability. Fewer potential customers will abandon your site for another. And your sales team can focus their efforts on the most valuable customers (those most likely to purchase), ensuring the greatest return for their efforts.]]>
Elizabeth Spaulding and Christopher Perry from Bain & Company delivered a great article on this very topic: Making it personal: Rules for success in product customization.
One key takeaway from this article: “Those customers that had customized a product online engaged more with the company.”
This article also outlines several important implications of the customization trend:
Customers are willing to pay more for a custom product. According to Spaulding & Perry, 20% more than for standard equivalents.
The products configurations consumers buy can provide an early indicator of changing product trends. For example, Brooks Brothers uses information about what its customers buy to plan future products. Information gleaned from actual purchase behavior is much more valuable than what can be gathered through surveys and focus groups.
Customers that purchased customized products were more loyal, which meant they bought more and made more referrals than those that didn’t customize.
For those offering customized product or considering it, this article provides some important recommendations about how to increase your likelihood of success. Their study found that successful companies followed five key rules:
Decide on your objectives for providing customization, such as branding, improving product margin, differentiation, or even creating a new core business around customized products.
Decide how much customization you should to offer. More is not necessarily better.
Keep it simple. Providing too many options confuses your customer and can lead to negative experience for your customer
Let people share. Allowing your customer to post their personalized product on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter means building greater loyalty and brand awareness for you.
Enhance the customer experience. Your customer needs to enjoy the design process
As consumers engage with products and companies that allow for customization, the expectation is set that this is now possible and should be available for all products. Companies looking to stay ahead of their competitors should be evaluating how they can offer customizable products to their customers.]]>