Contract furniture is about people – not contracts.Download our Position Paper
Market innovation for furniture companies.
The biggest risk for furniture brands today is not being loved or hated, it's being forgotten.
From WeWork to the rise of CRE, built environments face an increasing rate of change. Globalization and technology innovation has created new customer expectations and increased competition. Furniture manufacturers need to get different faster.
Peopledesign is a brand innovation firm which helps furniture companies stay relevant and agile. We've worked with furniture industry leaders including Herman Miller, Steelcase, Haworth, HON, ESI, Inscape, SitOnIt, izzydesign, Nucraft, and many others.
We help you:
Staying relevant to customers means being a brand of choice. We help you establish and communicate your strategic direction. We clarify the vision and seek step change.
- Define value propositions
- Brand message and rebrands
- Launch a new products or categories
- Vertical/Segment marketing
- Connect with A&D
Align Teams and Tools
The new era requires new systems with different opportunities, technologies, and metrics. There is a greater need for consistency and integration. Next, we help connect your strategy to a plan. We help create customer experience programs that drive change to define ideal customer interactions — plan for today and a roadmap for tomorrow.
- NeoCon/physical presence
- Digital strategy
- Thought leadership: Ergonomics, Wellness, Biophilia
- Global standards and localization
Flagship Product Launch
Haworth, a leading global furniture company, asked Peopledesign to help re-energize its ergonomic seating offering by launching its new flagship work chair.
The contract furniture market is mature, particularly in North America. Fern, Haworth's innovative new chair, had the opportunity to break through the competitive static. We worked with the leadership and product marketing teams, analyzed the company, product, customer, trends, and competition, and crafted a refined product position, message, and customer journey. The resulting strategy led to a series of tactics and tools used to launch the chair at NeoCon.
Peopledesign is extremely strategic, creative, and organized. Unfortunately, you don’t often see agencies excel in all three of these areas.
—Tracy Harrison, Program Leader, Haworth
Executives at Interface, a leading global commercial flooring provider, asked Peopledesign to help craft a strategy to drive and shape demand for a targeted set of products.
While Interface is a leader in carpet design and progressive concepts such as design biomimicry and manufacturing sustainability, the company sometimes struggled with balancing customer choice with product positioning. As a long-time provider to the specified interiors industry, Peopledesign was in a good position to help forge a new path. We conducted additional customer research and executive interviews to develop a new strategic trajectory. The resulting recommendation was a new program called POP.
Interface POP products have seen a double-digit increase in sales over other products, and the POP program has become one of Interface's most important marketing initiatives.
The HON Company is a clear mid-market leader in commercial office furniture, but when it became clear that the brand needed more focus and customer meaning, the leadership team engaged Peopledesign.
We helped define the company value proposition, brand pillars, and company voice, serving as guideposts for marketing, product development, sales, and human resources. Our work encompassed executive alignment, customer research, and developing strategic roadmaps. As a strategic partner through the transformation, we provided practical tools and benchmarks to govern the company's brand identity program, product positioning, and inspirational expressions of a new vision.
Peopledesign has been a key strategic partner in our branding initiatives. Their work is imaginative, inspiring, and meaningful in building our brand. We rely on Peopledesign to challenge us, provide creative solutions, and develop solutions in a fast-paced environment.
—Tim Smith, Vice President, The HON Company
Built Environments Further Reading
Like many industries, contract furniture takes its cues from major markets. Larger cities have the highest concentration of office space, client executives, headquarters, and A&D firms. Shipping and delivery mechanisms are better established and more robust. Furniture companies invest accordingly.
Industry-shaping innovation does not happen very often. It requires many different components to come together at just the right time. New technologies, supply chain advancements, manufacturing capabilities, and user preferences all play a significant role. Some competitors will move forward proactively, while others will struggle to merely survive. The contract furniture industry has several indicators suggesting the industry is tipping towards a new wave of innovation – beyond products.
All business is built on an unmet need. For decades, contract furniture is has been focused on work as an industry theme. However, like waves shaping a sandy beach, customer needs evolve. The industry narrative of "work" in contract furniture has benefits and risks as the customer landscape changes.
Buying trends have changed in the consumer world and are increasingly impacting B2B models. Organizations need to think differently about how they deliver value in a sales context.
The second significant innovation of the built environments industry came in the 1980s with the emergence of ergonomic seating. Stemming from broader trends in human factors design, health, and safety, furniture makers began to explore and promote chairs that more directly addressed the physical needs of workers. The emergence of knowledge work, specifically working with personal computers, led the idea that people sitting for longer periods would need greater attention and support to maintain or increase their productivity. Legal and insurance frameworks empowered workers to expect more from their employers.
Peopledesign has been working in the built environments segment for 20 years, helping many of the organizations in the industry plan and launch new products, services, and brands. Here are a few things we’ve learned, and what may be next. Evergreen Trends have persisted for decades, and are likely to continue into the future. Newer trends reflect larger shifts in markets including the era of choice, customer experience, and systems thinking.
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- Executive summary
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