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Williams-Sonoma exec: Buy buttons will transform the omnichannel experience

February 25, 2016

Williams-Sonoma is bridging the gap between online and offline shopping

Williams-Sonoma is bridging the gap between online and offline shopping

PALM DESERT, CA – A Williams-Sonoma executive at eTail West 2016 claimed that the proliferation of buy buttons will force retailers to adapt their omnichannel initiatives in a bid to follow along with customers throughout the purchasing funnel.

During the panel discussion, “Here’s How To Create Your Cross-Channel Retail Future,” executives from Williams-Sonoma, Office Depot,, Walgreens and AgilOne discussed how loyalty and personalization play critical roles in bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds. Mobile also commands an indisputably large role, especially due to new technologies such as buy buttons that enable consumers to make purchases with the tap of a button.

“What are we going to do about the proliferation of buy buttons?” said Angela Caltagirone, vice president of digital and database marketing at Williams-Sonoma Inc. “That’s going to really change the omnichannel experience. [It’s] a topic we all have to grapple with.”

Different channels, new perspectives
Williams-Sonoma has been turning to personalization when undertaking omnichannel initiatives by attempting to offer a more customized site experience for visitors and recognizing returning customers. A massive opportunity lies in leveraging mobile to bring consumers in-store, something that could be done by sending an email campaign to targeted users to bolster initial curiosity about a product.

“I’m passionate about omnichannel and certainly believe in that seamless experience for the customer,” Ms. Caltagirone said. “I also think the word multichannel has a benefit to it in the sense that each channel brings a different perspective or different way to service the customer.”

Additionally, context is imperative for every marketer to keep in mind. Brands should be looking to identify where customers are in the purchasing funnel, and deliver relevant content to them accordingly.

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Williams-Sonoma allows fans to shop products displayed on its Instagram feed

Buy buttons could help retailers identify new customers, especially if individuals spot a sponsored ad within their Instagram or Facebook feeds and decide to purchase the featured item on a whim.

Per AgilOne, some of the company’s clients are using technologies such as tokenization or solutions with iBeacon support to better identify customers.

“You can never identify 100 percent of customers going in the store, but mobile provides a huge aspect to it,” said Omer Artun, CEO and founder of AgilOne.

Meanwhile, Macy’s and Office Depot rely heavily on loyalty to bring consumers in-store as well as fuel mobile and online sales. Office Depot is able to send its rewards members more targeted messages that help bring the one-dimensional Web site up to the level of the multidimensional in-store experience.

“You can’t just throw everything at [shoppers] and know what will stick,” said Cheri Siedle, senior director of ecommerce at Office Depot. “You have to know what they want.”

Macy’s has been adapting to the changing consumer landscape by teaming up with the Plenti loyalty platform. Plenti users can earn reward credits while shopping at any of its partners’ stores instead of at one specific retailer.

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Plenti functions as an all-encompassing loyalty program

The fact that consumers can receive points simply for living their life the way they want has been hugely successful for Plenti’s partners, including Macy’s. This makes the loyalty platform feel like less of a marketing ploy.

“Loyalty is less about dollars and cents and [more] about having a brand be part of somebody’s life,” said Karthik Vish, director of acquisition marketing at

Solving problems digitally
Walgreens uses digital channels to anticipate customers’ problems and drive sales among frequent shoppers. Its Empty Bottle program sees it join forces with its main supplier partners, including Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble, to determine how long specific products last.

For example, if Walgreens knows that a bottle of shampoo lasts approximately two weeks, it can then follow up with a consumer who purchased that shampoo in two weeks’ time and suggest they soon buy another bottle.

If shoppers are looking for solutions to problems and retailers are able to deliver what they are seeking in a polite way, consumers will reward those brands, meaning businesses will not have to rely on promotions as much.

“As soon as you start bringing in third-party data and build it on how long these products last, you can get really creative and more efficient in how you spend some of your marketing dollars,” said Wayne Duan, director of digital commerce at Walgreens.


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Alex Samuely is staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York. Reach her at

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