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Why Your Brand Should Have a Product Configurator (If It Doesn’t Already)

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In their first guest post for WhichPLM, INDG discuss the benefits a configurator can bring to your fashion business – if used correctly.

INDG helps brands digitize their complete product portfolios and drive marketing content from it, from virtual sell-in to omni-channel configurators and everything in between. With nearly a decade of experience in CGI for the fashion industry, INDG has been a partner for several of the largest brands in the sports and luxury markets.

Configurators have become a bit of a buzzword lately, especially among the big fashion brands; an attractive way of allowing online shoppers to customize products and master their own styles. But we’re seeing that configurators can mean very different things depending on who you’re talking to. So, what’s all the fuss about and why consider a product configurator at all?

1. Customization has become expected

As we move beyond the age of the passive consumer, traditional configurators – with simple facet changes like color or textile—simply won’t cut it. Something we’ve seen is that shoppers are moving towards a role of co-designers, meaning that they are interested in personalizing their own items as opposed to exploring set options given to them. This entails more design freedom than ever before with personalization elements such as fabric combinations and monogramming.

As we see shoppers more keen to reveal their inner designer, so too will we see more time spent on a brand’s website as a result. Traditional configurators – or those that are hard to navigate – risk the shopper’s enjoyment quickly fading. Likewise, a configurator with too much freedom risks a long customer journey to end up with an item that looks terrible and that users ultimately won’t want to wear or purchase. Product configurators can be a powerful tool to engage and connect with consumers. If done well, configurators will give shoppers the ability to be creative and play with their purchase.

2. Seamless experience in-store and online

While purchases have steadily shifted from offline to online, shoppers still expect to explore products in as much detail as if in-store, from every angle and detailing – something CG can help with in a photorealistic way. Interactive 3D configurators, if done well, can make product experiences more interactive, tangible and realistic.

By playing with personalization elements, shoppers are more likely to learn about it and understand its value. For instance, by exploring textile options it may become clear why a particular item may be more expensive versus another. Configurators can be used as an immersive way of explaining a product, making sure that shoppers get the same (if not better) in-store experience that triggers them to complete a purchase.

3. Reduction in product returns

3D configurators help shoppers make better and faster decisions. It can be said that when customers are able to see exactly what they are purchasing, their confidence level rises and cart abandonment is reduced. A good product configurator gives consumers an accurate image of the product they’re customizing so they know exactly what they’re getting. And returns and shipping costs will decrease as a result. Some brands claim to be achieving as much as 80% reduction in online returns by showing customers exactly what they’re getting with product configurators.

As manufacturing capabilities become more sophisticated, broader benefits of brands moving towards customization can’t be denied: making products on-demand reduces overhead costs such as warehousing of large inventories, shipping costs from China, not to mention massive reduction in waste.

4. Reusable assets

As well as customization by default contributing to brands becoming greener, implementing 3D into your value chain can have a positive impact on your brand’s environmental awareness, too. The principle of CGI being that, once you have a 3D model of a product, you can then create endless content variations from it. A 3D model essentially translates your real-life designs into photorealistic 3D objects, including shape, materials and textures. By digitizing the real-life product, the model can later be adjusted or re-used in new contexts. For instance, need the same shirt or shoes but in a different colorway? Want to visualize a whole collection but don’t have the budget or time to use photography? CGI could be just what you’re looking for.

Not only can the assets then be used for configurators or marketing purposes but even before that; to showcase, present and sell new collections. As opposed to relying only on traditional photography, which can be costly and time consuming, CGI can support brands in becoming more sustainable and cost-effective through virtual technology.

5. Offers insights

Configurators are an opportunity to gather valuable data about behavior and traffic. Think of your consumers like product developers. The designs they create and the products they favorite can give you clear insights about the market. Tracking behaviors can help brands understand how customers are interacting with their products. It’s incredibly valuable to mix this data with the metrics like increase or decrease in traffic, sales, conversion rate, etc. This could enable brands to streamline design and planning processes, leading to faster product release cycles and reduced time to market.

Convinced yet?

Many brands are starting to realize the importance of building product configurators but getting them wrong can be more damaging than not having one at all. A configurator that is based on an affinity and understanding of the product; one that understands its user and user-journey; one that contains the highest quality of visual assets, technology and visual design; one which reflects the next generation online configurator, which looks at consumers as co-designers and makes it fast and easy for them to express themselves can expect vastly increased engagement and loyalty.

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Lydia Mageean Lydia Mageean has been part of the WhichPLM team for over six years now. She has a creative and media background, and is responsible for maintaining and updating our website content, liaising with advertisers, working on special projects like the Annual Review, and more.Joining mid-2013 as our Online Editor, she has since become WhichPLM’s Editor. In addition to taking on writing and interviewing responsibilities, Lydia has also become the primary point of contact for news, events, features and other aspects of our ever-growing online content library and tools.