For an organization that is in relentless pursuit of customer loyalty and memorable customer experiences, Williams-Sonoma recently expanded its monthly Artisans’ Market program to 75 stores in the U.S. and Canada.
In 2010, Williams-Sonoma hosted its first Artisans’ Markets in four stores, featuring local purveyors of artisanal foods and beverages as an effort to connect with the local community and support small businesses. The markets are curated to highlight regional specialties and authentic flavors, as well as superior craftsmanship. Customers have the rare opportunity to discover, taste, and purchase one-of-a-kind products from the producers themselves during the markets.
For the fifth year in a row, Williams-Sonoma is a sponsor of the Good Food awards, a national platform to recognize small batch food producers for environmental and social responsibility. The Good Food organization honors artisans that meet these standards, in addition to exceptional taste, at their annual Awards Ceremony and Marketplace in San Francisco, which takes place today.
Jean Armstrong, VP of Brand Marketing for Williams-Sonoma, talked to Loyalty360 about the allure of the Artisans’ Markets.
What factors prompted Williams-Sonoma to create the Artisans’ Markets in 2010 and can you talk a bit about the impact the program has made from a customer engagement/customer loyalty perspective?
Armstrong: Since Williams-Sonoma began 60 years ago, it has been focused on creating a sense of community around food. The markets only further that vision. By hosting the Artisans’ Markets, we can offer our customers unique, locally made food products that support small businesses in the communities where our customers live. The response from our customers has been incredible and continues to draw a very loyal fan base to our stores.
What has been the customer feedback about the program since 2010?
Armstrong: Customers enjoy the sense of discovery that is inherent to the Artisans’ Market. The artisans keep all of the proceeds from their products sold, which is something that the customer really appreciates. It’s a very important way to connect with the local communities and support the makers that live in them.
In what areas of the country has the program spread to now, and what are your future expansion plans?
Armstrong: Our Artisans’ Markets are now in 50 stores all throughout the U.S. and Canada with an expansion to 75 stores planned for later this year.
What does customer loyalty mean to Williams-Sonoma and has that definition changed or evolved in recent years?
Armstrong: Customer loyalty and service is the cornerstone of our brand and that hasn’t changed in our sixty years of business. Our modern approach to retail is focused on offering one-of-a-kind experiences and world class service in our stores. The Artisans’ Markets are a perfect example of our experiential services, which also include our Technique Classes, Junior Chef Classes, Cookbook Club, Return to Learn, and Store is Yours Events for our Gift Registrants.
What does Customer Experience mean to Williams-Sonoma?
Armstrong: Customer experience is extremely important to Williams-Sonoma. Customers have so many options when they shop – providing unparalleled service, knowledgeable associates and engaging events are what keep our customers coming back.  

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