Furniture evolution: From railway delivery to a mobile showroom app

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From the westward expansion of the 1800s through wars, economic downturns, and other hardships, Bernhardt Furniture Company has been an innovator in furniture design and manufacturing. The company began in 1889 with my grandfather’s entrepreneurial spirit, a saw mill and a vision to manufacture and supply sturdy oak furniture to people as far away as the Rocky Mountains. Today, the company’s change isn’t driven by oxen or railway, but by technology.

One of our more recent innovations has been the deployment of a new virtual showroom mobile app to free our sales teams from their reliance on paper catalogs and lift the sales experience to a new level of sophistication. Today, sales reps can virtually show an image of each setting in the showroom, along with all the accompanying product data and pricing on their Apple iPads, helping to more accurately and quickly communicate information to our buyers. The mobile app has become a strategic tool for the overall success of our sales efforts.

The four business benefits of the Bernhardt Furniture virtual showroom mobile app

1. Improving sales efficiency

We are now able to see a much higher volume of clients and provide a more personalized experience. This is, in part, because we can use our full sales team. We can now utilize sales associates, as well as sales reps, because they don’t have to know quite as much about the products. Instead of memorizing product information, our team can use the app to answer product-related questions. We can now more effectively use our full team and work with buyers that we previously might not have been able to see or spend much time with.

2. Tapping into sales analytics and insights

The virtual showroom app provides us with new data analytics capabilities, too. We can now make smarter decisions regarding product development, sales and marketing and order fulfillment. It also allows us to plan production and inventory more accurately, ensuring we manufacture the right volumes of the right products.

3. Designing an enhanced customer experience

In addition to the analytics insights the mobile app enables, we can also leverage sensors that reside within the iPads themselves. For example, during a recent High Point Market show, our biggest industry trade show of the year, we deployed Apple iBeacons throughout our 80,000 square-foot showroom. We were able to capture more than 2.9 million points of locational data during the week-long event. We then analyzed the data to understand how our staff and buyers moved around the showroom. These insights help us to refine and optimize showroom configurations.

4. Cultivating stronger customer relationships

Today, our teams have more flexibility and can accommodate more clients than ever before, even when they drop in unexpectedly. Our clients have definitely noticed the difference and have given us very positive feedback. They receive immediate answers to their questions and have more one-on-one time to interact with our sales team. The quality of the buying experience has been greatly enhanced, and aligns more closely with Bernhardt’s image as a high-quality, high-design furniture company.

Looking to the future

Embracing mobile and digital technologies has transformed how our sales teams work at Bernhardt. As a result, we’re seeing a benefit to our bottom line. We’ve seen a 20 percent lift in company export revenue and a 196 percent return on our investment. It’s also helped strengthen our client relationships and encouraged repeat business.

Our digital transformation has also laid the groundwork for future improvements. We are embracing new things like predictive analytics. This new technology is helping our IT team facilitate business processes and drive our business forward.  


Learn more about Bernhardt Furniture by reading the full case study and watching the below video.

Bernhardt Furniture Company CEO and President

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