Williams-Sonoma Forges Ahead Toward Elevated Customer Experience

Williams-Sonoma CEO Laura Alber knows that differentiation through customer experience is the path to greater success.

Last year, Alber touted the company’s mission spearheaded by its customer-centric initiative, which includes supply chain and inventory improvement, innovative products at the best value, marketing strategies to increase new customer acquisition, and enhancements of the retail experience.

What’s more, in the past year company officials have taken an aggressive approach to their retail and real estate strategies to improve the overall store experience.

During Wednesday’s second-quarter earnings call, Alber talked about the company’s progress, which yielded revenue growth of 3.7 percent combined with comp growth of 2.8 percent.

“Our success with our key initiatives is centered upon delivering value, quality, and full service to meet our customers’ changing needs,” Alber said. “And we are aggressively building upon these initiatives to further differentiate ourselves and to drive growth.”

Digital leadership is one of Williams-Sonoma’s highest priorities.

“We are increasing our investments to improve the customer experience and engagement and to drive profitable top-line growth,” Alber explained. “One of our key areas of focus this year is an investment in new customer acquisitions to increase digital advertising. Year-to-date, we have significantly increased our digital advertising investment and as a result, we are seeing strong new customer accounts with higher traffic trends and increased orders. We've also experienced strong new customer growth in the key channels of paid search, display, and social advertising.”

To drive customer engagement and increased relevance all its brands, Williams-Sonoma is expanding its 1-to-1 personalization efforts.

“We have experienced an uplift in engagement and higher margins in our new personalization based emails and we are seeing these same results translate to our site,” Alber explained. “By the end of the fiscal year, we anticipate tripling the number of personalized impressions delivered on our websites enabled by both an expansion of personalization campaigns and improved customer identification. We have several high impact e-commerce initiatives going live throughout Q3. We are re-platforming our mobile experience leveraging the latest progressive Web App technology that will feature a highly engaging task performing app like experience.”

Alber noted that the company will launch a redesign of its product information pages, introducing improved functionality, product information, and storytelling.

“We are taking our key loyalty program to the next level with an improved in-store experience, customer self-service options, and capabilities that will enable us to introduce new and enhanced services for our key members,” she said. “We are also testing various digital innovation initiatives in specific brands and based on our findings we will implement best practices across the portfolio.

Our West Elm team launched the Pinterest Style Finder tool in July. This visual search tool is just one example of the artificial intelligence-based solutions that we are working on. It is a great complement to the efforts we are driving on the augmented reality this digitalization front across our brands where we already have 130,000 skills encoded in 3D that we are using both on our sites and in conjunction with our apps.”

Russ Haswell, vice president of retail for Medallia, told Loyalty360 that Williams-Sonoma is in a unique position because the majority of its revenue comes from e-commerce supported by a distinct physical store presence.

“Continued success will require a seamless customer experience across channels and interaction points, including the final mile for delivery,” Haswell explained. “The personal touch might begin in the digital world and continue into the store, but for home furnishings, the experience at final delivery often sets the tone for eventual repurchase.”

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