We interviewed Juha-Matti Halminen, Sales Manager in MagiCAD Manufacturer Business Unit, about his thoughts on product configurators. Halminen has experience of product configurators both as a consumer and as part of his job, where he offers software development services for manufacturers who are interested in developing digital tools for their organization and customers.
How are consumer product configurators related to what MagiCAD does?
I feel that in the modern digitalized business environment –whether it’s B2C or B2B– more and more frequently customers expect to be able to not only search for but also configure the products they are considering to purchase.
For us at MagiCAD, this can be seen in the strong demand for manufacturer-specific online product configurators that are used by both the manufacturers themselves and the designers to optimize product selections and, ultimately, to create better buildings.
What is your experience on product configurators as a consumer?
As a family man living in the countryside in a land of great distances, my rather acute need is a bigger car with good safety and long-distance driving features. What I have noticed is that all the car makers I am interested in offer easy-to-use online configurators.
As a potential car-buyer I am now used to being able to configure and see the car of my choice, according to my specifications, on my mobile phone or laptop screen. The car configurator tools available online today, the Volvo Configurator for example, are easy to use and enable me to optimize the different parameters affecting my decision — accessories, performance and price to name a few. I feel this adds a lot of value for me at the consideration phase of my customer journey.
How do emotions affect purchase decisions?
My personal opinion is that as long as it is a human making the purchase decision –in my example the car purchase decision– emotions will have an effect on it. As a consumer I can admit that the decisions are not always about fulfilling basic needs, such as physiological and safety related needs, but they are also affected by emotional needs based on esteem and even self-actualization.
I mean, in reality the family wagon does not necessarily need a hybrid 4-wheel drive powertrain with 300+ horsepowers to do its job, but if that is available from a brand with a Nordic DNA and exceptional safety reputation… Well, you get the point.
Do you think emotions play a role in B2B purchase decisions?
If I put myself into the shoes of an MEP designer making equipment selections for a building project, it’s easy to imagine that the emotions behind my choices are based on the needs of the building occupants and on professional safety considerations. I would feel good and confident about my device selections when I know that they help produce the desired indoor climate and I can trust them to perform safely and effectively, not only in the design model, but also in the finished building itself.
In my opinion, MEP manufacturers must first focus that their digital tools provide this experience for the end-users. The users need to feel confident that the tool helps them deliver their input to the project with high quality results.
What value does a manufacturer’s product configurator bring to the purchase process?
For the user of the tool, it brings certainty that they are using the best possible product for each particular need in the project. This is made possible by providing the manufacturer’s product knowledge to the user in the form of an easy-to-use and intuitive tool. This, in turn, adds value to the building-to-be already in the design-phase by ensuring that the manufacturers’ product is both digitally specified and physically installed.
Why should manufacturers develop digital tools for their customers?
Think of the example about buying a car. In the past, being digitally available meant providing your price lists as PDFs on your website. Perhaps even a separate PDF for the accessories. Today, I am able to build the car of my dreams online, get the price, ask for a quotation, and in more and more cases even make the actual order (think of Tesla’s business model). All this whenever and wherever I want, instead of taking a full day off to go touring car dealerships in person.
The people who design complex MEP systems in their professional life are already familiar with online tools as consumers. High-quality digital selection tools offer scalability for MEP manufacturers by allowing them to consult their customers digitally. They are also a practical way to digitize sales processes and to ensure that you reach your potential customers at all stages of the building project.