Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Williams-Sonoma slowly modernizing its promotional efforts, delivering media-like content to customers

I have personal experience with Williams-Sonoma, the retail and online kitchen wares store. For months I attempted to work with the company in the early naughts, trying to push the company towards incorporating online video in its promotional efforts. It was a hopeless waste of time and effort as the company is one of the more insular firms out there.

But about three years after I stopped trying to sell the company online video it's channel finally appeared on YouTube, and though they are still five years behind everyone else in the space, they are at least progressing.

I suppose it is a good thing that Williams-Sonoma is so backwards, if they weren't a lot of magazine publishers would be trembling in their boots for fear of what the company would do to their readership, and to a lesser degree, their advertising.

Company catalogs are fast becoming interactive and more magazine-like. This has been the case for a number of years as retailers learned that engaging their customers with editorial content keeps those customers coming back. But in the era of tablet publishing, the next move towards creating more magazine-like reading experiences is a natural next step.

Strangely, it is magazine publishers who own food titles that often are the ones out of touch today. Few tablet magazines from big publishers have made the jump to video, even when they have the content available, often settling for replica editions of their print magazines. This not only is opening the door to start-up titles who will use video content from Day One, but also retailers like Williams-Sonoma who can engage their customers with product demonstration videos and, of course, cooking videos.

This morning I received yet another email from the retailer. Williams-Sonoma are notorious spammers. No doubt the retailer has spreadsheets that say this is paying off, though some things can't be measured I would argue.

Today's email features iPad stands and a Bluetooth speaker, an obviously new line for the retailer. The iPad stand products demonstrate several things beyond just product extensions. It is a recognition that cooks are using their tablets in the kitchen. The result is that publishers need to realize that if their cooking magazines do not make an adjustment that those that will find their way into the kitchen will not be those with only nice photography and plenty of recipes, but also those that can layout their features in way that will take advantage of the tablet platform.

I have argued for a while that publishers need to see in the video opportunity not only its potential to add multimedia content for their tablet editions, but a step towards broadcasting. As more and more TV viewers cut the cord, new broadcast content is appearing from publishers such as the WSJ. AirPlay and GoogleTV streaming options are opening up the family room television to publishers – and, it should be added, to retailers who see the potential of creating content that can be viewed on the family room television.