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Furniture designer Herman Miller re-designs customer-centric commerce around Salesforce

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan June 4, 2021
Herman Miller has re-designed its end-to-end e-commerce experience around a variety of Salesforce's cloud offerings.


The bar just keeps rising.

So says Ben Groom, Chief Digital Officer at Herman Miller, talking this week at the Connections virtual gathering about the retailer’s re-design of its online experience around the Salesforce platform.

Founded in 1905, Herman Miller has become a globally recognized leader in furniture design. The company prides itself on its reputation for innovation and operates through several focused businesses, brands and distribution channels, including Herman Miller, Herman Miller Healthcare, Nemschoff, Geiger International and independently owned dealerships to service customers in over 100 countries.

As well as its physical showrooms, the firm has a sophisticated online presence, having re-designed its e-commerce operation from the ground up, a process that followed more than 100 hours of customer research and user testing among clients.

The overhaul followed an earlier re-design of one of the divisions of the wider Herman Miller Group, Design Within Reach (DWR), which successfully re-launched its online presence during 2020. Learnings from that project informed the work that’s now been undertaken on Herman Miller retail site, which was driven in part by a vision of a post-pandemic world, with Groom explaining last month that:

Our new physical Herman Miller Seating stores have proven to be extremely popular with customers around the world. They address a critical need in our society right now: how best to improve our Work from Home set-ups and prepare for a more hybrid working future? For customers unable to experience these stores in person, our new site takes the physical experience and brings it into your home virtually.

New features include enhanced storytelling content, improved customer-centric navigation designed to provide easier access to popular categories, expanded product filtering and a new "Shop the Room" feature that enables customers to browse lifestyle images of products at the click of a button. 

Underpinning all this is a range of Salesforce clouds, specifically:

  • Commerce Cloud, providing tailored product recommendations, a streamlined checkout experience that allows customers to click on images to purchase the product, as well as chat functionality that allows shoppers to video chat with associates from the website.
  • Marketing Cloud, with Herman Miller using Marketing Cloud Journey Builder to develop complex customer journeys and sophisticated email campaigns, and Interaction Studio to understand customer preferences across digital touchpoints, then use that data to personalize customer interactions as well as understand the impact of strategies across channels.
  • Sales Cloud, to manage sales leads and opportunities across brands, monitor team performance, track sales insights, and automate manual tasks through a single dashboard,  aka the elusive ‘single source of truth’.
  • Service Cloud,  to manage increased case volumes that have resulted in part from COVID-19.
  • Experience Cloud, to manage and collaborate with dealers on projects such as new store openings and new product lines
  • Sustainability Cloud, to help Herman Miller track its carbon footprint and other climate-related initiatives it has in place to achieve its 2023 Earthright goals.

Designed for the future

With COVID impacting the non-essential retail sector particularly hard last year, there was also a need for Herman Miller to experiment with new business models. The firm was fortunate in that unlike some other retailers, it didn’t have to start from scratch here as it had kicked off its end-to-end e-commerce transformation in late 2019. But it was inevitably a major endeavor over the past 12 months, which also saw, as noted above, the relaunch of as well as new online platform for the group’s B2B customers, Herman Miller Professional.

The overhaul is paying off with increased increased conversion rates, simple add-to-cart functionality and faster site speed.  The most recent quarter saw e-commerce sales up over 300% year over year. Groom expanded on the progress made to date - he’s quick to emphasize that “Digital spaces are never truly finished!” - at Connections, where he explained:

Last year our industry was turned upside down. To remain relevant to our customers, we really had to fast track digitizing the full Herman Miller experience. One thing we know about our customers is they expect to personalize their experience. They want to interact with our brand and our products in a way that feels unique to them. 

Understanding and meeting those customer needs and expectations has been critical, he added:

We've embraced customer-centric commerce and worked hard to improve every step of the customer journey. For example, many of our shoppers start on social media for design inspiration. So we've embedded commerce on their preferred channels. But what if the customer wants to dive deeper? We spark their imagination with consistency across our catalogs, our campaigns, and then our site, to really let them shop the room. We even let shoppers customize and visualize our chairs in their exact preferences.

But sometimes there's no substitute for seeing and feeling a product in person. So customers can use our site to search inventory by product, by store. At checkout shoppers can pay on their terms with their preferred payment methods and flexible options, like buy now, pay later.

And the work goes on, he concluded:

The more we dive into our digital transformation, the more we realize that there's just no finish line. Customers want to shop across different channels, they want immersive experiences and the bar just keeps on rising.

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