Us Grokkers are continuing to focus on what types of things eRetailers can work on to make Holiday Shopping more enjoyable (and persuasive) for their prospects.
Enter the “Product Configurator.” While it sounds a bit like an evil robot out of control, what we’re talking about today is simply an online application to allow prospects to customize a product on their way to buying it. This can be a lot of fun for online shoppers if done well, and lead to increased conversions or it can be a huge waste of money if the user experience isn’t really well thought out. If it’s planned out poorly, it may frustrate visitors and lead to a decrease in performance.
One of the main reasons survey takers give for NOT buying retail items online is the inability to touch/hold/feel the product before buying. This is a challenge that almost all eRetailers have to work to overcome, and letting them see their customizations in real time as they play around with different configurations and features can be a good tactic to make sure people make it all the way through checkout. It can also be a way to make gift shopping more fun–seeing the product “come alive” as you customize it for someone special on your shopping list can be very persuasive and exciting. Finally, product configurators can be a great way to convert Early and Middle Stage buyers; those who aren’t quite ready to pull out their credit card yet. The ability to save what they’ve configured can be a “hook” to get them back into the buying process, or at least allow you to market to them as time goes on.
When I think of being able to customize a product and buy it, I tend to think of sites like CafePress.com and Zazzle.com who specialize in small items like hats, t-shirts, mugs, stickers, etc. But I wanted to grab some more interesting examples for you, so let’s look at a couple West Coast companies who let bike riders have a little fun as they create unique products to purchase.
Example #1: Mission Bicycle Company
In the mood to build a custom fixed-gear bicycle? Probably not, but use your imagination! This site’s product configurator takes you step-by-step through the process, using clear copy explanations, a progress indicator, and friendly assurances. They manage to do this using plenty of white space in a clean layout and flow.
In the end, you can see a mockup of your bike’s design, which components you’ve chosen, and an itemized price. My favorite part is that it doesn’t get too heavy into jargon, which would make the n00b feel intimidated.
Example #2: Timbuk2
Once you’ve designed your fancy bicycle to ride around on the streets of San Francisco, you’ll need a cool bag to haul your laptop and other sundries, right? This brings us to another West Coast company’s “build your own bag” product app.
Timbuk2′s site does a nice job of using actual photographic images as opposed to illustrative graphics. It’s impressive that they cover the many permutations (bag types, colors, patterns, add-ons, etc.) with high-quality photos. The flow through the options is very intuitive, and in the end you definitely feel like you’ve made something that reflects your tastes. This makes NOT buying it very difficult!
So those are two examples in a very narrow niche. I ask all Grok readers: Who else is doing a good job with this type of online app? Who does it well in clothing? Shoes? (other than Nike, please!) Laptops? Leave a comment about whose product configurator you like, why, and what product category it’s in. Also chime in if you’re building something like this in time for Holidays 2009!