Plenty has been said about Amazon killing retailers in the US, and soon in Australia, but smart retailers like US homewares business Williams-Sonoma provides a blueprint of great service and customer-focused innovation that Australian retailers would do well to learn from.
Speaking recently to US tech news outlet Recode, the CEO of US homewares retailer Williams-Sonoma, Laura Alber, spoke with refreshing candour and confidence about thriving in an Amazon world.
“I certainly don’t think we’re in the midst of a retail apocalypse,” Alber told Recode. “I do not believe that and I do not believe that Amazon is killing retailers. I believe retailers’ bad service is killing retailers. And I think because of that you might not go to the malls as much as you used to.”
Alber shows an almost intuitive knowledge of what her customers want from their shopping experience. “I firmly believe most purchases are still made on an emotional basis. And our connection with our customer is our secret sauce. That is going to be the biggest differentiation point against whomever it is we’re competing with,” she says.
Alber also says that partnering with tech giants like Google and Facebook is one way retailers can square up against an e-commerce tech giant like Amazon. Williams-Sonoma has more than 600 stores across its brands including Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, West Elm and Mark & Graham all over the US. It has understood that customers are moving across channels, online, social media and physical, and retailers need to track and meet customers in those channels.
“I’m going to go wherever my customers are and I’m going to be agnostic,” Alber says. That sort of thinking requires a business to be agile and innovative in thought and action.