Crate & Barrel, in contrast, focuses more on furniture, with an even greater emphasis on Internet sales. Restoration Hardware because of the fact it sells even less necessary and kitschier items than Williams-Sonoma, stresses the design appeal of its stores. Pier 1 Imports and the Bombay Company likewise emphasizes the style conveyed by their stores to a greater extent than either Williams-Sonoma or Crate & Barrel, and have a more distinct design 'flair.' The Bombay Company also has an outlet presence, to suit the needs of more price-conscious shoppers.
While Restoration Hardware may draw extensive foot traffic, the fact that consumers are more careful about what they are spending on their homes, and how they spend in general, given the shaky economy, suggests that having a well-loved store does not necessarily translate into retailing success in terms of dollar figures. Smaller companies such as the Door Store, Rolling Pin Kitchen Emporium, Home Elements, and Expressions might eat into a small amount of Williams-Sonoma's profits, given that they satisfy consumer's desire for customization, personalization, and specialization of services, but that does not necessarily mean that the pose a substantial threat, particularly for younger consumers who enjoy the convenience of shopping online as well. Also, smaller retailers can seldom provide the ambient atmosphere that encourages consumers to buy at a brick and mortar outlet.
However, Williams-Sonoma cannot ignore the threats posed by its competitors in terms of the items they offer and must strive to ensure that there is 'brand loyalty' in the notoriously fickle Internet environment. Creating rewards points, offering repeat customers coupons and exclusive sales, and other ways to create a personalized shopping experience without screaming 'discount retailers' are all ways that Williams-Sonoma can hold onto their market status as the leading homewares retailer.
Q4. How is Williams-Sonoma using the Internet as a distribution channel now, and how would you recommend that they use the Internet in the future?
Williams-Sonoma currently uses the Internet as an extension of the brand. However, the company could add features to the website to ensure that the branding of William-Sonoma online is distinctive from its competitors. For example, on the Pottery Barn websites, web-surfers could be given the ability to create actual rooms to furnish, to gain a conceptual vision of how they would like to decorate. For teens who like to use Pottery Barn Teen, this could be a particularly exciting personalized feature. On its regular housewares website, William Sonoma could include more recipes and videotaped demonstrations of its cooking supplies in action.
Catalog and brick-and-mortar sales are less likely to drive consumer sales in the future. With this recognition, to continue its marketing segmentation, Williams-Sonoma should include more giveaways, surveys, and other options that encourage consumers to volunteer their information to participate in special giveaways and events. Contacting food and other lifestyle bloggers to test products and promote the brand would further widen the company's outreach to a larger, younger demographic that is highly influenced by review and style webpages. Seeing a user enjoying the product can be a persuasive yet subtle sales strategy. This also contributes to the lifestyle, timeless appeal of Williams-Sonoma, suggesting that the viewer wants to be 'like' the realistic yet idealized image of the user. The Internet's participatory and visual nature can encourage a more lifestyle-driven shopping experience that can drive Williams-Sonoma sales, despite the ability to shop for bargains online at discount retailers.
Another feature that can be expanded upon by Williams-Sonoma is targeting demographics during a 'time of life' where consumers tend to spend more, regardless of home ownership status. For example, students leaving for college often buy extensive decoration and food storage items like dorm refrigerators at Pottery Barn Teen. Weddings are another source of possible revenue. The Pottery Barn pioneered an online Wedding and Gift Registry, enabling customers to constantly update and check what they would like and what they hoped to buy -- adding features to such personalized aspects of the webpage for higher-spending demographics will further solidify the brand's market foothold (Barnett 2011).
Barnett, Frank. (2011). Williams-Sonoma's multi-channel marketing leads to niche dominance.
All Business. Retrieved September 21, 2011 at http://www.allbusiness.com/marketing/direct-marketing-direct-mail/267086-1.html
Duff, Michael. (2010). Williams-Sonoma's Strategy Shift: Go Directly to Consumers.
BNET Retail. Retrieved September 21, 2011 at http://www.bnet.com/blog/retail/williams-sonomas-strategy-shift-go-directly-to-consumers/8259
Timberlake, Cotton. (2010). Williams-Sonoma's new recipe. Bloomberg News.
Retrieved September 21, 2011 at http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_34/b4192018538319.htm
Williams-Sonoma. (2011). Official Website. Retrieved September 21,…