Santa Clara RMI students were treated to a visit with a special guest in late October. Angela Caltagirone, vice president of e-marketing at Williams-Sonoma Inc. and an SCU alum herself, talked about her current position, where the industry is headed, and what to expect next.
“I really encourage you guys to take a look at the Web aspect of retail as an area of interest because that’s where things are going,” advised Caltagirone to her eager student audience. After her junior year at SCU in the early 1990s, she interned at electronic retailer Good Guys.
“I really think it paved the way to get the position at Williams-Sonoma right after I graduated,” she said – a position she took upon graduating from SCU. Caltagirone has been with the company for 18 years.
The petite and energetic businesswoman described the growth she witnessed at the company.
“I was there in the late ’90s when we launched our e-programs. I think it’s been a fascinating decade – so much has changed at Williams-Sonoma, and so much more is to come.”
The things that have changed include the launch of a sufficient e-mail program that includes a 50 million customer database and an 18 million e-mail address file. Aside from e-commerce, Williams-Sonoma’s other retail channels include stores and catalogs. Instead of isolating each channel with particular market segments, the company tries to get these three channels to work together, as two-thirds of its sales come from multi-channel shoppers. “The more we can get them to cross-pollinate, the better,” explained Caltagirone.
Regardless of change, Caltagirone says the company stays true to one business fundamental.
“We do not blend brands,” she said.
Williams-Sonoma houses six brands within the company: Williams-Sonoma, Williams-Sonoma Home, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, Pottery Barn Teen, and West Elm. “Each brand has a distinct customer…to blur them would be poor customer service.” Each endeavor for each brand has three goals: Conversion, Attribution, and Acquisition.
Caltagirone also touched upon search engine optimization, better known as SEO within the industry. She explained the difference between paid and natural search and how to optimize Williams-Sonoma’s presence in the world of Google.
Natural search refers to a company’s “natural” rankings within the Google results list. “It’s all about winning the popularity contest with Google to get your search result to the top,” she explained. In order to win the contest, a combination of good, descriptive coding and URL names and having your Web site linked on other prestigious sites is needed. “Having our site linked on credible Web sites such as cnn.com, or .gov’s and .edu’s is huge for Google rankings. We should probably work out some sort of link on the Santa Clara Web site,” she said with a wink.
Paid search is a different beast. When it comes to paid search, “We love Google and we hate Google,” Caltagirone said. With a 50-cent charge per click, paid search ads do not come cheap. “We’re always telling our employees, don’t click! don’t click!” she said with a laugh.
Williams-Sonoma does have some advantages in its relationship with Google. Currently, Williams-Sonoma is part of a new local search initiative in which it sends Google daily inventory reports so potential consumers can see what is in stock in their area.
The company has also created its own YouTube channel for the various brands, which was an instant success.
As far as what is to come for the e-marketing facet of Williams-Sonoma, the future looks bright. Caltagirone and her 15-person team have dabbled in Facebook ads, a fantastic tool that provides a ton of demographic insight given the nature of the social media site.
Additionally, a few months ago, Williams-Sonoma launched mobile sites. The sales aren’t huge – yet.
“We get 5 percent or less of our sales from mobile, but we expect to see it grow dramatically. I’ve heard that by 2015 mobile will completely outpace the desktop.” Caltagirone’s strong leadership can clearly be credited with anticipating the trend and getting in front of it.