Webopedia.com defines a configurator as follows:
“A name for a type of software tool used in e-commerce or the name used to describe only the engine of a sales configuration system. The configurator manages the part of the sales system that enables customers to choose different components and options when making a purchase, such as item color and size or in the case of computer sales the configurator can be used to upgrade system components or allow the customer to select optional upgrades.”
While this is certainly a good definition for your typical configurator, it is a bit e-commerce heavy sounding for my liking. A configurator is really any custom software application that allows a consumer to configure a product, service or system to best suit their personal tastes, interests and needs. Based upon user input, a configurator can dramatically exceed the role of just picking options and calculating price, i.e. it can make predictions, offer suggestions, present the “best fit” product or service, allow the user to compare packages, etc.
A configurator can perform sophisticated logic that does much more than spit back a “configured” product that simply includes the user’s selections. A configurator can take user input and, through an algorithm or mathematical calculation, determine how a complex system should be engineered. This helps a customer fill in the blanks of what they don’t know, but really need, based upon the information they DO know.
Historically, a conversation with a knowledgeable sales rep or access to an engineer who could perform these kinds of calculations was the only way a prospective customer could determine what they needed. Today, an online web app can often give them that information without any direct human intervention.
In order to create an amazing inbound customer experience, you should explore the countless ways in which a web app could make the online experience easier, faster, or more fulfilling for your website visitors. A good web app developer could help you work through these options and pick a customer-centric one that will give your customers the greatest rewards (and you the highest ROI). A configurator is often the very kind of tool that will keep your customers coming back to do business with you. Be aware that while you may not currently be developing these kinds of tools, the chances are good that your competitors are, as the benefits are the kind that could change your world.