Brenda Boehler, CEO of Bellacor.com – which has offered lighting products online since 2000 – sat down with enLIGHTenment Magazine to discuss the company’s rebranding effort and why she wants consumers to realize that “perfect is boring.”
EnLIGHTenment Magazine: Bellacor has its roots at bricks-and-mortar store Creative Lighting in Minnesota. When they started Bellacor nearly 15 years ago, the Minsberg family explored Internet selling well before many in the industry really understood it. How did it come about?
Brenda Boehler: The Minsberg family has always been an innovative leader in the lighting industry, and their focus on listening to their customers led them to the direct-to-consumer retailing model. They had customers all over the U.S. and internationally who wanted an easy way to shop directly. It began with a successful mail order catalog that evolved into an interactive, informative Web site. Today, Bellacor is a separate company from Creative Lighting, but at the core we maintain the same values of putting customers first and collaborating with them to achieve great results.
EM: What are some of the challenges of online selling?
BB: Online retail can be an impersonal experience. But even as we grew, we never lost sight of whom we’re here for. We like to think we offer a boutique experience with larger retailer prices. Customers can call us, and we’ll answer the phone. We’re small enough that we can keep an eye on every little aspect of the visitor experience, and yet big enough that we can offer better value and a wider selection.
We carried our lighting expertise over from our Creative Lighting days. With that, we also carried over our appreciation of those who stop by for a visit — whether they’re just browsing or looking to make a purchase. Our [physical] showroom, in essence, just expanded when we went online.
EM: Bellacor’s blog offers informative guest posts from some of the biggest designer names in the industry. What do you think makes Bellacor stand out among members of the home furnishings community?
BB: People want to be associated with us because they know they can trust us. We’re all in this together. We’re not just dealing in lighting and home furnishings, we’re dealing in dreams and building lives. With our new tagline, Home Is a Life in Progress, we make it clear that perfect is boring because it closes the door to opportunity. Life is about learning and developing — and anybody who wants to help us, and help others, learn is welcome here. We’re more than happy to share their insight. We relish the opportunity to improve and grow. A home is really just another story we share, and we love storytellers!
EM: Does Bellacor have exclusive products that aren’t offered elsewhere? How do you decide which products and lines to carry?
BB: While we offer more than 350,000 products, we think we’re more about quality than quantity. If we think one of our manufacturer partners isn’t going to help us achieve our mission to put our visitors first, doesn’t believe small details make a big difference, and doesn’t believe quality materials/beautiful lines can be fun too, then we’ll look somewhere else. Quality assurance starts at the top, and we won’t sacrifice it to pad our inventory.
Because of those close relationships and common values, we’re able to work with our manufacturers for exclusive products and savings all the time. We just recently introduced The Now List, which includes the kinds of deals that can only be offered when one of our buyers has a talk with our vendors to hammer out the right price together.
EM: What brought about the new rebranding for the company?
BB: We’ve always been a company that values relationships more than the next sale. We want to be considered an authority, of course, as well as a trusted advisor on how to outfit the home. And we want people to see us as more than an online retailer. There is somebody at the end of every interaction our visitors have with the site, in one way or another.
Our mission hasn’t changed, and our values haven’t changed, but we think we just needed to find a new way to share our mission and values with those who visit us every day. New colors, more vibrant photos, and a more conversational overall tone help us better share our story.
Our new tagline says, “Home is a life in progress.” We believe a home is a place to be lived in, loved, and just a little bit different today than yesterday. And just like your home, our home is continually improving. These changes reflect our mindset [as a company] in a more complete way.
We think the sales will come from the bonds we build and through our commitment to being the best home resource. We can’t expect people to bring us into their homes until they feel comfortable in ours.