MADRID: For the US homeware giant, Williams Sonoma, the entrepreneurial spirit is baked in, according to CEO Laura Alber, with the list of the company’s innovations a testament to this.

Alber was speaking at the World Retail Congress in Madrid, where she expanded on the company’s heritage under previous CEO, Howard Lester, and how she has continued and enhanced the legacy. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Williams Sonoma’s culture of transformation).

Despite the need for innovation in retail, Alber said, consumers have not stopped going to stores to complete purchase. “75% of people shop once a week, and 26% once a day, so our customers are still shopping.” But while they’re still shopping “we know they’re shopping differently”.

She considers disruption more of an opportunity; for a company that prides itself on a culture of innovation, “it’s in a challenging retail environment that you innovate”.

Some of its new ideas tap into an emerging trend of personalisation. Design Crew is just that: a bespoke home-design consultancy service that draws from across the company’s brand portfolio.

Most of the company’s new ventures have been internal innovations, but in 2017 it acquired a start-up, Outward, which provides 3D imaging, in order to “enhance and extend its high-touch customer service platform”.

Understanding performance in conjunction with innovation, however, is the company’s “secret sauce”. The fact that 55% of the workforce and 50% of the company’s board are women, Alber suggested, reflects the emphasis on performance.

The proof of innovation, meanwhile, can be counted in the number of brands that have stemmed from internal ideas. And all of these are guided by a simple mission, if not a purpose: “to enhance life at home”.

Sourced from WARC