3D and AR
The ultimate guide to 3D product configurators in e-commerce
3D and AR

The ultimate guide to 3D product configurators in e-commerce

Written by


April 4, 2023

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Today, buyers want engaging and hyper-personalized shopping experiences with e-commerce brands. Fortunately, 3D product configurators can help with it. Read on to learn how.

Key takeaways:

  • Product configurators are interactive tools that help customers visualize products before buying them
  • Available as 2D and 3D configurators, these tools help improve customer journeys, product development, and sales
  • Companies like Enhance, ThreeKit, 3D Source offer some of the most effective product configurators in the market

When e-commerce stores came into existence, businesses expected to grow their sales by offering shoppers the convenience of shopping from home. But what they inadvertently did is increase product return rates.

It isn’t rocket science. E-commerce stores cannot allow shoppers to inspect products in real-time. So, there’s always a dissonance between what buyers see and what they get. Hence, higher return rates.

Even so, online stores have tried many ways to circumvent the issue, with little effect.

Some have resorted to including professionally photographed products along with accurate product descriptions. The idea? To provide the customer with an accurate 360-degree view of the product.

Other stores have relied on product reviews. The hope? A substantial number of them will help improve customer confidence.

Businesses even put up disclaimers like “Product colors may differ,” “Product sizes may vary,” and more to reduce the chances of product returns. Yet they lose enormously to them.

Product configurators offer a viable solution to this problem.

In this blog we answer:

  • What they are
  • Different types
  • Benefits of integrating them

And examples of product configurators .

Understanding product configurators

A product configurator is an interactive tool that helps online shoppers visualize products. 

Through these tools, businesses allow shoppers to customize products down to their finish. Buyers can view product variations, angles, and working as well.

This improves three aspects of the e-commerce experience for customers:

  • Buyer confidence
  • Brand awareness
  • Customer experience

Sellers, in turn, understand buyer preferences and can create personalized buyer journeys using data from these tools.

2 Types of product configurators

2D or Static product configurators

These web-based tools show buyers a static image of the product. Then they allow shoppers to customize the image.

The buyers can change product colors, designs, and finishes, depending on the options offered by the brand. However, they cannot view the product from different angles.

3D Product configurators

A 3D product visualization tool allows buyers to customize 3D objects. Shoppers can change product designs, sizes, and finishes and even alter individual components. They can also rotate products and determine their appearance from different angles.

Put simply, 3D product configurators provide shoppers with an extra layer of intractability. They allow buyers to view their products comprehensively before making a purchase. So, they mimic the tactility of an in-store shopping experience in a virtual setting.

3 reasons to add product configurators to e-commerce stores

1. Create engaging customer journeys

E-commerce businesses compete with social media, emails, and other online stores for customer attention. But even when they receive it, they fail to sustain it owing to unengaging buyer journeys.

Integrating a product configurator into the buying process can increase customer engagement by up to 66%

After all, with this tool, online buyers can interact with virtual products. Moreover, they can customize them based on their preferences. This makes for an engaging buying experience that holds customer attention.

Today, some product configurators use augmented reality (AR) tech to create more interactive customer experiences. Here, buyers can use their mobile devices to alter products and visualize them in their surroundings.

2. Increase customer satisfaction

Online shoppers make quick purchases when buying small products online. But e-commerce stores selling high-value products have a different story to tell.

The customer journeys, in this case, are often long and tedious. Customer confidence in buying decisions is low, and so is consumer satisfaction. 

Integrating a product configurator in the buying process helps with all these issues.

It allows consumers to view simulations of their chosen products in real time and in different orientations. This provides a comprehensive view of the product, increasing customer confidence and enabling quicker buying decisions.

Product configurators also lower return rates by up to 80%. After all, buyers know what to expect from the product deliveries beforehand. So they are less likely to return them.

3. Aid product ideation

Brands will use e-commerce analytics to understand buyer preferences as more customers demand personalized products. 

Businesses that add product configurators to buyer journeys will enjoy better insights into consumer choices.

When shoppers use a product configurator, they inadvertently feed data about their tastes. For example, if they choose to view a product in pink color, one could deduce they prefer the color over others.

Such customer preference data can help businesses identify underlying trends. This, in turn, can help brands develop products with a greater chance of making sales.

How to build an effective product configurator (5 steps)

1. Develop rules

These are how the tool captures information, makes decisions, and determines outputs automatically. They can be as simple as equations on Excel spreadsheets and logical expressions. Or they can be as complex as product requirements or code.

Of the above, Excel-based rules are the simplest to create. Besides, since they need no expert supervision, they are used by businesses on a tight budget. That said, they need manual updation to ensure the information remains fresh.

Logical expressions or codes need experienced professionals to create them. Besides, getting them running takes significant time and effort. Therefore, only brands that have an experienced in-house IT team should consider DIYing their configurator rules. Other businesses can outsource this task to professionals like Enhance.

2. Focus on the user interface

The user interface (UI) provides buyers with text boxes, images, and more, to interact with and enter data. It should be easy to use and navigate and include the necessary fields.

Many product configurators go a step further to make product visualization more interactive.

Some display all the steps of the configuration process to customers. At the same time, others offer shoppers various ways to configure a product

3. Implement realistic 3D visualizations

Once buyers enter their preferences in the product configurator, the tool displays the output as a 3D projection. Shoppers then interact with these projections and view them from different perspectives.

Businesses must remember that impactful 3D visualizations have the following characteristics:

  • They are realistic
  • They contain visual representations of all the data entered
  • They can be interacted with, making for an immersive user experience.

4. Streamline workflows

Product configurators of all types need streamlined workflows to function consistently. So, businesses must have professionals dedicated to the same.

These experts can decide when products should get configured, reviewed, generated, and completed.

5. Report, audit, and diagnose issues

The above steps help businesses build effective product configurators. But companies should realize that it isn’t a one-and-done job.

Companies must appoint professionals to generate usage reports and audits. They should also promptly identify and rectify issues and ensure the system remains healthy.

3 Best online product configurators

1. Enhance

Enhance offers a WebAR-based 3D product configurator to e-commerce businesses of all sizes.

Customers can view products in 2D or 3D. They can change backgrounds, colors, and product materials. They can also use their mobile device to project a virtual image of the product onto an image of their surroundings. This can help them understand the product's size and if it fits with the other decor.

Building a product configurator with Enhance is as easy as uploading a 3D file. This can then be supplemented with the customizations needed.

Besides, Enhance creates realistic 3D product projections and provides customer interaction data. This helps businesses understand customer preferences. It also helps with marketing and product development.

2. ThreeKit

Like Enhance, ThreeKit allows shoppers to view and customize products. Buyers can change product colors, materials, and shapes. It allows customers to spin, pan the product and even zoom in and out. Besides, it also helps with asset management by storing product data.

Ideal for businesses with large inventories, ThreeKit allows enterprises to create hyper-realistic images from design files. More importantly, it enables quick integration with other popular platforms.

3. 3D Source

Catering to large and small businesses, 3D source is a cloud-based platform. It allows users to adapt a 3D element for a product configurator software.

The tool enables rule-based configuration, cost, and pricing calculations and also facilitates real-time product visualizations.

3D Source is accessible through Windows Operating Software-based systems, Android and iOS. It can integrate with multiple e-commerce platforms. Besides, it even works well alongside resource planning software and CRMs. 

Businesses are now offering product customizations to stand apart from competitors. And product configurators play an important role in the success of these efforts.

Integrating one into the buyer journey can help businesses gain insights into buyer preferences. This, in turn, can help them create hyper-personalized, engaging, and memorable buyer journeys.

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