How to Build 3D Product Configurators? The Ultimate Guide

3D Solutions | 8 min read |
3D Product Configurator of a Car

So you’ve got a fully customisable shoe to sell. This shoe can be personalised from the aglet to the sole, from single-tone to two-tone colors, from the tongue to the collar, and from the laces to everything else. But you will just put the keyword ‘customisable’ before & after the shoe and put it up online, hoping to hear back earnestly.

Now, you and I both know that shoe has as many chances of selling units as much as the chances for hot soup to start raining, none. Clearly, you need a better way of marketing your product if it offers this level of customisation.

In today's competitive marketplace, businesses constantly seek innovative ways to engage customers and provide personalised experiences. One such solution that has gained tremendous popularity is a 3D product configurator. This powerful tool allows customers to visualise and customise products in a virtual environment, enabling them to make informed purchase decisions.

A 3D product configurator is an interactive application that enables customers to customise products in a virtual environment. With a wide range of features and options, customers can personalise various aspects of a product, such as colors, materials, sizes, and accessories, to match their preferences. This immersive experience empowers customers and gives businesses valuable insights into customer preferences and market trends.

Despite its advantages, many businesses haven’t integrated this innovative technology in their website. Why you ask? The major reason being they don’t know how to build a 3D product configurator. It is a mildly complex yet time-consuming task that might be impossible for a single person considering the various beforehand knowledge of multiple technologies and steps. You can consider working with a team so you have all the avenues covered and a mighty suitable 3D product configurator. Nevertheless, it's important to first understand the fundamentals of how 3D product configurators are constructed before forming a team, so that everyone is aligned with the same objectives.

Building a 3D Product Configurator

1. Defining your product

All things begin with a product you plan to put up. This product can be anything you want the consumer to have a detailed view of. Understanding the nature of the product will help you determine the level of complexity and customisation options required. Identify the key features, opportunities, and variations that users can customise. For example, if you're building a configurator for furniture, users may want to customise the product's color, material, style, and dimensions. For a car configurator, users may want to choose the model, exterior color, interior upholstery, wheel design, and additional features such as a sunroof or upgraded audio system.

Consider the scalability of the configurator. Suppose you plan to offer a wide range of products or expand your product line. In that case, it's essential to design a flexible configurator to accommodate new options and variations seamlessly.

2. Choosing a 3D engine

A 3D product configurator needs an engine to run on. This engine is designed to display any form of customisation in real-time specifically. A suitable 3D engine or platform is crucial in building a 3D product configurator. The engine you choose will determine how your product is rendered and displayed in real time and the tools and features available for customisation.  Multiple engines are available online, like Unity, Unreal Engine, Three.js, Babylon.js, and A-Frame. Each engine has its features, capabilities, and learning curve, so choose one that fits your requirements and expertise.

When selecting a 3D engine, consider your specific requirements, such as the complexity of your product, desired visual quality, platform compatibility, and development expertise. Evaluate the learning curve associated with each engine and assess the availability of resources, documentation, and community support. Additionally, consider the licensing terms and costs associated with each engine, as some may require purchasing licenses for commercial use.

3. Creating 3D models

The product you put up should be an accurate 3D model. However, making a model is your responsibility if it's a new product. These models will serve as the visual representations that users will customise and interact with. Using 3D modeling software like Blender, Maya, 3Ds Max, or SketchUp is also beneficial. Ensure that the models match the specifications and variations of your product and optimise them for real-time rendering.

Test the models in your chosen 3D engine or platform to ensure they render correctly and respond accurately to user selections. Outsourcing or using existing libraries can be options if creating models from scratch is not feasible.

4. Implementing product logic

The product logic is essential as it lets the customer interact with the options and variations. Implement rules and behaviors using programming languages like JavaScript, C#, or Python to govern how options and variations are displayed and interacted with. Determine user interaction methods, implement option dependencies and constraints, and update the 3D model based on real-time user selections. Enhance the experience with interactive elements and animations. Display the final product accurately and consider enabling sharing and saving options.

Users can customise and visualise their configured products seamlessly by implementing the product logic.

5. Interactivity and user interface

A simple yet intuitive user interface(UI) is necessary for a 3D product configurator. The average user won’t be patient to learn the new rules and ways for a product configurator; they want a much quicker process. Use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to design and style UI elements like buttons, sliders, and dropdowns. Add interactivity through JavaScript to capture user input, dynamically update the 3D model based on selections, and incorporate animations and transitions for visual feedback. Validate user input and optimise performance to ensure a smooth and seamless experience.

Testing and iterating based on user feedback will help refine the UI and interactivity, resulting in an intuitive and enjoyable configurator for users to customise and explore products.

6. Testing and deployment

Testing and retesting is an integral part of any process. In this case, it helps refine existing problems. There are multiple mediums that these 3D configurators will be displayed on, like mobile and web browsers, as well as apps; a seamless UI experience across all the mediums is a must. Optimise the configurator for speed, memory usage, and stability. Once testing is complete, deploy the configurator on your website or platform and promote it to your audience.

By thoroughly testing and optimizing the configurator and promoting it effectively, you can provide a smooth user experience and maximise its reach and engagement.

Now that we know how to build a 3D product configurator, we should also know about some of the key desired and expected features of a modern 3D product configurator.

Key features of a 3D product configurator

1. Motion

To fully leverage the interactive capabilities of a 3D product configurator, it is essential to guide customers toward the experience. You can provide clear signals on interacting with the configurator by incorporating gesture cues and movement on the page. Furthermore, to enhance the customisation experience, consider implementing camera behaviours that bring attention to specific features or areas being configured.

For instance, when a user toggles a battery option on a cellular product, zoom in to showcase where the battery is stored. This allows buyers to see the functionality and location of the feature, empowering them to make informed decisions about their preferences.

2. Hotspots

To enhance the shopping experience, brands go beyond providing detailed product information on a webpage and incorporating interactive hotspots. These hotspots serve as focal points within a visual configurator, enabling buyers to explore and learn about specific features and functions of a product. Users can click on these hot spots to access additional information about a particular feature or discover complementary products that enhance their purchase.

This interactive approach adds depth to the product experience and empowers buyers with comprehensive knowledge to make informed decisions.

3. Augmented reality

Bridging the gap between online and offline shopping experiences is crucial to provide buyers with a complete appreciation of their design. By utilizing a product visualisation platform that harnesses web technology, developing or downloading a separate application to bring products to life in Augmented Reality (AR) is no longer required.

This seamless integration allows customers to effortlessly engage with products in an immersive AR environment, fully visualise and experience the design without any additional barriers.

Conclusion

In conclusion, product configurators are powerful tools that allow customers to personalise and customise products according to their preferences and needs. These interactive tools can be implemented on websites, mobile apps, or in-store kiosks. They offer a wide range of benefits for both businesses and customers, making them a valuable investment for companies seeking to enhance customer engagement, increase sales conversions, and gain valuable market insights. While they require careful planning and technical implementation, their benefits in terms of customer engagement, increased sales conversions, and useful market insights make them a worthwhile investment for companies looking to stay ahead in today's competitive market. Want to learn more about product configurators? Contact us!

FAQs

What are the components of a product configurator?

The components of a product configurator include defining the product, choosing a 3D engine, creating 3D models, implementing product logic, designing the user interface, testing and deployment, and incorporating key features such as motion, hotspots, and augmented reality.

What are the major features of a product configurator?

Major features of a product configurator include motion capabilities to guide user interaction, hotspots for detailed product exploration, and augmented reality integration for immersive visualization and customization experiences.

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