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Helmer Scientific is a growing manufacturer of specialty laboratory refrigerators, centrifuges and other equipment serving customers in the healthcare and life sciences industries.  Helmer came to Igility seeking to craft a digital brand positioning them as the most reliable, trustworthy and innovative brand in the space.

Before our engagement, Helmer’s website, e-commerce store and other properties were siloed in multiple systems creating a very disjointed user experience. Furthermore, its design and digital branding were dated, placing the company among a crowd of smaller competitors who themselves lacked the security, reliability and specialization that Helmer brings to its customers.

Igility crafted and implemented a digital transformation strategy involving the design, build and integration of their web and e-commerce sites which in the first 3 months resulted in:

  • 20% increase in organic traffic
  • 35% increase in online sales
  • 28% decrease in bounce rate

What followed were years of sustained growth and, in 2023, acquisition by Trane Technologies, the air conditioning conglomerate. Helmer now forms the core of Trane’s life sciences business as Igility supports their continued growth trajectory.


Who is Helmer Scientific?

Imagine being a scientist researching groundbreaking cancer therapies using the tools of modern biology: DNA, RNA, and a term now all too familiar, PCR. Your samples, stored at -80°C, are invaluable and if something goes wrong with them millions of dollars of research along with the lives it could save are gone. This was actually me in 1998 when in a different life I did cancer research at the Barrow Neurological Institute. In the old days, laboratories would use liquid nitrogen to store cell lines and use modified household refrigerators and freezers to store working samples. It was precarious to say the least and those refrigerators would have to be shut down, thawed out and cleaned every few months to keep them in working condition.

Enter Helmer Scientific. Helmer manufactures purpose built refrigeration systems for healthcare providers and research laboratories.  Helmer was founded in 1977 as an inventor and manufacturer of clinical laboratory equipment and in 2000 introduced its line of laboratory refrigerators. These refrigerators ensure constant temperature, redundant condensers, access management and monitoring to ensure mission-critical reliability and security. Their products are manufactured in the USA at their facilities just outside of Indianapolis in Noblesville, Indiana and distributed worldwide.


The Challenge

When they brought Igility into the story, Helmer was at a crossroads. Having grown steadily and organically since 1977, Helmer had grown to the point at which it was time to revisit its digital brand and position itself for a new chapter of growth.


Customer Experience

Internationally, Helmer had created a network of distributors allowing it to sell into a broad swath of Europe and Asia; however, select products were restricted from sale in certain countries due to licensing and regulatory considerations.  Helmer sought to better serve their international customers and distributors while seamlessly targeting products by country to keep their customer experience pertinent.

At the time, Helmer’s web presence consisted of separate marketing, commerce and blog websites each in their own silos. Furthermore, the e-commerce site was not integrated with their CRM or ERP system, requiring that the Helmer team invest a lot of time and effort into mundane, repetitive manual order entry. 

Finally, Helmer’s products and the environments in which they are installed are quite complex. The buyer’s journey involves significant research, planning and buy-in often as part of a larger laboratory design and build effort. This presented a customer experience challenge to present as much technical data as possible within a responsive, aesthetically pleasing interface.

To summarize, Igility’s goals for this project were to:

  1. Position the Helmer as the brand of choice for mission critical medical grade refrigeration.
  2. Gain operational efficiencies through integration between content, commerce and their other systems.
  3. Set Helmer up for long term competitive growth both domestically and internationally.

The Solution

Small businesses often reach a point at which growth slows and the ‘duct tape and bubble gum’ that got them to where they are begins to hold them back. Many of Igility’s clients are growing mid-tier companies looking to optimize their digital marketing effort for long term growth. This means:

  1. A well planned brand strategy.
  2. A finely tuned customer experience derived from the brand.
  3. Tightly integrated systems to improve operational efficiency.

At Igility, we have a track record of ushering mid-tier clients through this transition and on the path to billion dollar revenues. 

Helmer’s journey was no different. In order to ensure success from the outset, Igility took a bottom up approach to plan for success then execute on that plan. Key steps to doing so were: 

  1. Collect key requirements and arrive at a budget. No project succeeds without first setting these guardrails. 
  2. Brand Strategy. A well defined brand strategy is the foundation upon which a customer experience is built.
  3. Customer Experience Design. 
  4. Implementation
  5. Ongoing support and iteration

This project is an excellent example of the full range of capabilities that Igility brings to our clients every day.


Brand Strategy & Discovery

The first step in any significant project is to ensure that the final product will bring our clients and their customers closer together. This is why we always start with a Brand Strategy effort.

Building the brand strategy starts with the company’s mission and vision statements. These cornerstones are usually established by this time, so a cursory review of them to ensure they still fit the organization is usually enough.

Through a number of exercises with Helmer’s team members, we built the following assets to establish and share Helmer’s brand:

  • Personas
  • Empathy Maps
  • Voice and Tone
  • Buyer’s Journey
  • Service Blueprint

These exercises served the dual purpose of defining the brand language and brainstorming ideas for the final product.

From this, we proposed and iterated upon a feature matrix, a site map and finally a functional specification and fixed budget for the final product (barring any new ideas that surfaced during design).



What? More workshops?

Yup. Building on the brand, the design effort started with a two day workshop to unlock the invaluable intuition held by the Helmer team. Sketching sessions surfaced design concepts that informed our design team’s work. 

With the branding assets and workshop sketches in hand, our design team broke out to build wireframes representing each of the key elements of the site map. This provided an easily modified low fidelity prototype of the final product allowing us to quickly incorporate feedback from the team.

The final step in the design process is creation of the visual design. We started with a series of mood boards in order to gather feedback from the team and iterate toward a visual design approach. These included variations in typography, color choice and key design elements. 

From here, we built out the visual design in detail. This ensured that the Helmer team, our design team and our development team were all on the same page when it came to implementation of the final product.

All of the up-front work put into the workshops and branding exercises paid off as the designer, well informed by those efforts, nailed the landing as we arrived at final design approval with only the most minor adjustments.  

Finally and most importantly we conducted a final design handoff with all stakeholders including designers, developers and Helmer’s team. This gave the developers the opportunity to ask questions and ensure that everyone was aligned as we started the build.



Platform Choice

At Igility we have built sites using many different content management systems, e-commerce platforms and other technologies over the years as the space continues to evolve. Some of these include Adobe Experience Manager, Contentful, Drupal, Magento, Shopify and many others. 

We knew going into this project that it would involve a highly customized user experience with unique features such as product tours, personalization, price lists, knowledge base and shopping tools. For this reason, Helmer chose Drupal and Drupal Commerce for the content and commerce platforms as this combination seamlessly combines content and commerce, is highly adaptable to technical requirements and is very popular among enterprise customers.

Furthermore, Drupal has a record of evolving with the technological landscape supporting both templated website builds and the latest in headless architectures. We knew that Drupal would serve the client for a long time to come.



One of the most important efforts for this project was the integration of the e-commerce platform with Helmer’s internal ordering system built with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Users, orders, price lists and other data were integrated to ensure reliable processing of orders and pricing information throughout the site.

To accomplish this, Igility built a custom, pluggable integration layer into Drupal which ensured that orders made it to Helmer’s CRM even in the event of an outage of their CRM system. We were also able to re-task this integration for other clients and systems and have so far integrated it with numerous other CRM and ERP systems.

This integration is fully configurable and includes a user interface for mapping new fields and custom integration parameters.

In addition to CRM/ERP integration, the site was also set up for automated translation into many languages to support Helmer’s growing international distribution network. Lingotek was leveraged to perform the translations and Drupal’s localization capabilities made this easy work.



Some people say it takes a village. In this case, Igility and Helmer relied on a number of providers for various services.  

Acquia was chosen for hosting as a secure, reliable and purpose built hosting platform for Drupal. Their PCI compliant offering makes them a safe bet when it comes to enterprise grade e-commerce security. 

Other services that were integrated into this build include:

  • Hubspot - Marketing Automation
  • Braintree - PCI Compliance
  • Avalara - Taxes
  • Lingotek - Translations

Outcome and Conclusion

The results of this project were immediate and sustained. Here are some key metrics that demonstrate the success of this project:

  • 3 months after launch:
    • 40% jump in lead submissions
    • 34% boost in qualified leads
    • 20% increase in organic traffic
    • 35% increase in online parts and accessories revenues
    • 28% decrease in bounce rate
  • 11 months after launch, Helmer recognized a 60% increase in e-commerce revenue exceeding all expectations.

Helmer continued to steadily grow for the next 4 years until the company was acquired by Trane Technologies in 2023 to become the cornerstone of Trane’s life sciences division. In 2020 Igility and Helmer were awarded the Acquia Engage Award for Best Return On Investment.

This was a challenging project with many moving parts, but it has paid off as an example of the magic in the process of branding, design and development.

Digital Transformation propels Helmer Scientific’s brand to the top of its market
Brand Name
Helmer Scientific
Technologies List
Drupal 8
Drupal Commerce 2
Acquia Cloud Platform with PCI compliance
Lots of modules and elbow grease.

Helmer Scientific manufactures refrigeration systems for healthcare providers and researchers requiring mission-critical reliability, redundancy and security. These systems are used to preserve everything from clinical laboratory samples to one-of-a-kind DNA research specimens. Needless to say, the stakes are high in this industry and Igility’s charge was to translate this mission into an online brand that would resonate with Helmer’s customers in healthcare, pharmaceutical research and academia worldwide.

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