Williams-Sonoma Omni-Channel Strategies Boost E-Commerce Sales 18%

Executives at Williams-Sonoma recognize that the omni-channel environment has caused fundamental changes in the way people shop – and the retailer is doing everything it can to benefit from these new shopping behaviors, including using in-store clienteling activity to build online sales. As a result, e-commerce net revenues grew 18% during Q2, accounting for nearly 40% of the company's total net revenues.

"We know that when our customers make a purchase decision, particularly some of the very concerned purchase decisions you make when you decorate a home or a room of your home, that they go to all of the channels and they look at the product online, they go sit on the sofas in our stores," said Williams-Sonoma CEO Laura Alber. "Where they actually make that final purchase decision is less important to us. What is important is the seamless experience they have across all of our brands."

Williams-Sonoma makes use of its rich customer information database to deliver very targeted e-mails and marketing mailings to customers based on their purchase preferences.

"We are also really enriching our store experience with in-store events and clienteling," said Alber during a recent conference call discussing the company's Q2 financial results. "It's interesting, even our in-store clienteling initiative is driving online sales because, unlike other retailers, we book those sales to [the direct channel] even if someone in the store is helping them, because they're actually transacting online. In many cases, a lot of the products are not even offered in our stores. They're only offered online, so online is the biggest channel."

Williams-Sonoma's recognition of the power of omni-channel strategies and its support for e-commerce have paid off. In March, Williams-Sonoma revealed that during fiscal 2011 the company would invest $75 million in e-commerce, which Alber identified as the company's fastest-growing, most profitable channel. During the second quarter, which ended July 31, 2011, e-commerce revenues rose 18% to $317 million, up from $267 million during the same period last year, accounting for 39% of the company's total net revenues. These increased 5.1% to $815 million for Q2, up from $776 million during the same period in 2010.

"Because of our long experience in e-commerce, we're further ahead than a lot of people and we need to keep that gap as wide as we can," said Alber. "So we continue to invest in both talent but also in functionality in e-commerce. We'll be continuing to make those investments, along with in-store store of the future investments, to make sure that our retail stores stay vibrant and up to date with the newest technology."

For related content see: Williams-Sonoma Sales Soar 62%, Boosted by Multi-Channel Integration

Williams-Sonoma Invests $75M in Fast-Growing, Profitable E-Commerce