Car configurators – can we ever get it right?

‘Irritating’

…..That’s the word I am sure Steve Jobs would have used to define ‘Car Configurators’.

Car Configurators and their problem online

I simply fail to understand why car brands investing so much time & resources in their products fail to do the same on their websites and also on what we call ‘lead generation’ tools online. Innovation – it is what everybody is talking about and showing off in their products but why is it only there? Why cannot innovation be taken solely from the point of the birth of an idea without an end to it. You create a beautiful product and leave it out there to die a slow death online at the mercy of UX. It is certainly very time consuming and painful to innovate a product but for god sake when it comes to marketing online, we have tools and talent available at a much less margin of that price you invested in making a great product. But the sad truth on a majority of configurators is –

They. do. not. deliver.

Neither on desktop. Nor on mobile. Forget about dealerships touch points online, that is another story where Audi and BMW are trying to set some benchmarks here to lead the industries.

Recently I spotted a decent enough effort by Audi to show some edge in car configurators. The revamp of their US site is a huge step forward and their recent initiative of showing a ‘Car Park’ online with the real-time configurations takes it to a really exciting level. Is ‘Truth in Engineering’ being taken a bit too seriously here by Audi? Yes may be. We will see more such inspiring stuff hopefully in years to come and then as soon as it becomes a standard, we will see something else. Better. Faster. Stronger!

Currently, a perfect car configurator is an unclaimed territory where there is still room to shine. Lots of it. Audi has built a car park online out of it.

Screen Shot 2013-10-09 at 6.03.36 PM

But why automotive? Why is the car buying behavior or online purchase decision making suffering when they are backed by such solid funding and large scale investments.

Take a look at Nike iD configurator. Of course a shoe is not as complex as a car but at the end of the day Nike try to serve a shopping tool online to ‘simplify decision making and help our customers to personalize the product’ and make their own.

It looks amazing on the site, clean – clear – simple – fast and a good design compatible with desktop and mobile,

Nike

Screen Shot 2013-10-09 at 3.26.44 PM (2)

A car configuration would have a lot more steps compared to a shoe but a good design will eliminate the monotony of going through numerous steps and add excitement to personalization process even more.

The best car configurator in my opinion ever made was done by Bugatti for Veyron and is unfortunately offline now. As you can see below how neat and clean the UX was and built specifically for Veyron.

bugattiVeyronConfigurator

bugattiVeyronConfigurator2

There are some decent configurators and they all work but do they deliver in terms of shopping experience, personality and design? I cannot think of any and this Bugatti Veyron one was done way back in 2008 and still stands tall.

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