Herman Miller Inc., a manufacturer of furniture for home and office and an early designer of office cubicles, is retailing online again after a nearly 10-year hiatus.
“We didn’t want to be a retailer in the past because we had a strong network of retailers in our direct-to-consumer channel,” says Michael Blum, e-commerce channel manager. But the company, which has a history of building innovative designs such as ergonomic office chairs, felt that its network of retailers wasn’t getting enough of Herman Miller’s reputation across to consumers, he adds. “We thought we were missing the component of being able to tell our own brand story,” Blum says, “and now with our new site we’re able to talk directly to consumers.”
In addition to its new e-commerce site, Herman Miller is also operating two blogs—HermanMiller.com/Discover and HermanMiller.com/Lifework, which offer text and video content related to product design and usage and links to the company’s online store.
The e-commerce site also provides a product configurator, which lets shoppers click among several optional features of a desk chair and instantly see the revised product image—a shopping feature not typically found on other retail sites that sell Herman Miller products, Blum notes.
But Herman Miller also continues to strongly support the retailers that sell its products, Blum says. The new web site, built on IBM Corp.’s WebSphere Commerce platform by a team of in-house and external developers, provides a store locator in a navigation bar that appears on every page and lets shoppers click to the e-commerce sites of retailers that sell Herman Miller products and shows them where those retailers’ bricks-and-mortar stores are located.
“We’re not looking at our own e-commerce site to take sales away from retailers, but to better engage what we feel is an underserved market and grow overall sales,” Blum says. “Our primary goal is brand awareness.”