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A comprehensive comparison: Online vs. offline product configurators

More than ever, manufacturers are relying on product configurators to customize their complex product offerings. However, the choice between an online and an offline product configurator can significantly impact the operations. Whether for habitual or company-specific reasons, the debate between online and offline software continues to be a hot topic. Let’s take a look at what the differences are and how to make an informed choice for your business case.

Florian
July 27, 2023 Written by
Florian Merle

Definition of online and offline product configurators

Let’s first dive into the definitions of online and offline product configurators before we take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of these solutions.

Online product configurators

An online product configurator is a web-based application allowing customers, sales reps, or engineers to customize complex products via an interactive user interface. It often comes with real-time product visualizations and instantly provides the user with a price quote, enabling customers to make a faster decision. Online product configurators are typically accessible to users worldwide, either on a company’s website or on a separate Configure Price Quote platform, through internet connectivity.

Offline product configurators

An offline product configurator, on the other hand, is a standalone software application that is typically installed on local devices like desktop computers or laptops. This configuration tool operates without an internet connection and is commonly employed by internal sales reps or engineers. It is therefore mainly used in small businesses or for accounting or stock management purposes. Contrary to online product configurators, the offline version requires manual updates to ensure the tool has the most recent product offerings and price lists.

Advantages and disadvantages of online product configurators

Advantages

  • Global accessibility: Online product configurators empower customers from all around the world to customize and order products from various devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, and laptops. The tools are available in different languages without requiring installation of additional software.
  • Real-time visualization: Interactive 3D models help customers understand their customized products, improving the buying experience and eliminating errors.
  • Data analytics: Using online product configurators, companies can track sales and market trends, gaining valuable insight in customer preferences.
  • Highly adaptable solution: Online software can be adapted to match your company’s requirements and needs perfectly. Pick the functionalities you want and remove the features you are not using.
  • Automate your processes: Online product configurators allow you to fully automate your processes by connecting it to your other software systems. This will drastically reduce your operation costs, as manual data re-entry is no longer necessary, and simplify the workflow, eliminating errors.

This wide range of advantages has made online product configurators the preferred choice for most users!

Disadvantages

  • Internet dependency: Online configurators rely on stable and fast internet connections, making them inaccessible in lots of situations.
  • Cybersecurity concerns: Working with sensitive customer data in an online environment exposes your company to potential cybersecurity threats, requiring robust measures.
  • Customization complexity: Configuring complex products is not an easy task, no matter how user-friendly the interface of the online configurator may be. This often leads to a compromised user experience.

Advantages and disadvantages of offline product configurators

Advantages

  • Enhanced security: Offline configurators are often solely used by internal employees and operate independently of the internet, offering better protection for sensitive customer data.
  • Performance stability: The offline product configurators do not have to rely on stable internet connection for their performance. As a result, these configurators often have faster response times.
  • Portability: Offline software can be used in remote and rural areas.
  • Customization flexibility: Offline configurators can operate on more intricate customization options, providing users with greater freedom in tailoring products.

Disadvantages

  • Limited accessibility: Working with an offline product configurator is often limited to internal use only, restricting distributors or end customers from configuring products themselves.
  • Manual updates: These configurators require more work than their online versions: Keeping the tool up-to-date with the latest product information and pricing calls for manual work, which increases the risk of errors and creating time loss. This makes offline product configurators often more expensive.
  • No data synchronization: While with online configurators, data seamlessly flows through different systems, there are no options for data synchronization with the offline equivalent. This creates more room for errors.
  • Reduced data insights: Offline configurators are unable to collect user data like the online counterparts. Valuable customer insights can be missed, impacting marketing and product strategies.

The differences between online and offline product configurators

Online

  • Requires internet connection
  • Typically used by small, medium, and large enterprises that have multiple branches
  • Cloud-based solution, globally accessible 24/7
  • On laptops, PCs, tablets, or mobiles
  • Automatic and transparent software-updates for users
  • Data synchronization for automated processes
  • More vulnerable to security threats
  • Data insights
  • Highly adaptable solution: easy to turn features on/off
  • Internal and external use
  • Recommended as a long-term solution for collaboration with customers 

Offline

  • No network connectivity required
  • Typically used by small or medium businesses that have a centralized operating system in a single branch
  • Installed on local devices, can be used in rural or remote areas
  • On PCs and laptops only
  • Manual updates required, high maintenance costs
  • No data synchronization, room for errors
  • Less vulnerable to security threats
  • Little to no data insights
  • Often a fixed solution
  • Internal use only
  • Recommended for more simple offers made by sales reps

Conclusion

Ultimately, the choice between an online and an offline product configurator depends on your company’s specific needs, goals, and target audience. In some cases, a hybrid solution that integrates both online and offline functionalities may offer the best of both worlds. Understanding the differences and evaluating the pros and the cons of each option like we did above, will help you make a decision that aligns with your company’s vision and business strategy for the coming years.

Still unsure what would be the best fit for your business? 

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