March 14, 2014, 2:18 PM

An online office furniture retailer invites virtual visits to its showroom

National Business Furniture introduced this week “Virtual Visit,” which allows online customers to see products via live video feed.

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Buying office furniture online is tricky. Office managers often want to look at a desk, chair or filing cabinet from several angles, look into drawers, check to see if an item will work with equipment they already have.

National Business Furniture Group is seeking to reassure customers that they’re getting what they need by offering online shoppers the opportunity to engage with video chats with company employees and to see live product demonstrations from the company’s 15,000-square foot showroom in Milwaukee. Called “Virtual Visit,” the web and catalog retailer introduced the service this week on its e-commerce sites, which include NBF.com, OfficeFurniture.com, OfficeChairs.com, DallasMidwest,com and AlfaxFurniture.com.

Employees use portable cameras to adjust chairs, open drawers, and compare sizes and styles of over 1,000 of the company’s most popular pieces. 

Virtual Visit, which was developed in-house and will be trademarked by the company in the future, says National Business Furniture President Kent Anderson. Though he didn’t disclose the exact cost of the project, he said it cost at least $1 million.

The service was the next logical step for the company, which already offers visitors to its web sites 360-degree views and options to change the color or fabric of most products, Anderson says.

“We want to engage with our customers in new and better ways, and live video demonstrations offer the next best thing to actually being next to the item,” he says. “We believe this service bridges the gap between retail shopping and web shopping.”

National Business Furniture, No. 267 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, sells furniture through its web sites, catalogs and call center, and has sales representatives in 20 U.S. cities.

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