Cross-Channel Integration: The Integrated Shopper

How well do 3 home and kitchenware brands cross channels?

What’s in a name? When it comes to the three brands I’ve looked at this month … everything.

The sign of a great brand isn’t only name recognition, but the image you get in your head when you hear the name. You should immediately feel something when the name is mentioned. The best brands allow you to see something as well. Distinct visual images should pop into your head at the mere mention of the name. Crate & Barrel, Dean & DeLuca and Williams-Sonoma are masters at this — three very recognizable names, each with a distinct brand positioning and an identifiable visual aesthetic. Because they’re so good at what they do, it made it difficult to find weaknesses in their execution, but there are some. Let’s take a close look to see how these three popular brands deliver across multiple sales channels.

Crate & Barrel
I first looked at Crate & Barrel’s Holiday Inspiration 2012 catalog. I always look forward to receiving Crate & Barrel catalogs in the mail because, in my opinion, they’re some of the best in the business. While other catalogers continue to fill every square inch of their books with as much product as possible, Crate & Barrel realizes that the role of the catalog has changed … dramatically. The retailer no longer expects to sell every product it offers in its catalog. Crate & Barrel understands that the primary role of its catalog is to be a driver of traffic to its website and/or brick-and-mortar stores. A brand’s catalog should incite action, tell a story, engage and promote the brand. And yes, sell.

Talk about storytelling. Crate & Barrel’s catalog was filled with stories about the holidays, friends and family, relationships, and memories. I couldn’t put it down. From the warm and inviting cover to the authentic-feeling photography (actually showing products being used in real-life situations, messy and all) to the short yet sensational copy, this book was a masterpiece. Integrated throughout were all kinds of ways for consumers to engage with the brand — e.g., references to videos about the relationship between a mother and daughter or a grandfather and grandson, apps you could download to access 200 cocktail recipes, instructions on how to order free custom party invitations, etc. This wasn’t just a catalog filled with products, it was a way to connect with the brand on my terms in a variety of ways. It made me want to go to a Crate & Barrel store. Mission accomplished.

I checked out Crate & Barrel’s website next. The theme started in its catalog continued online: fresh, clean design with no clutter, no screaming promotions and no clunky navigation. Everything seemed to be stripped down to the bare essentials. Things were easy to find. All of the “engagement” techniques used in the catalog now paid off on the web. There were the videos, the downloadable apps, the recipes. Truly a seamless shopping experience, I must say.

I then checked to see if Crate & Barrel had a mobile-friendly site on my iPhone. Yep, of course it did. It was optimized nicely to fit the small screen, yet didn’t lose any of the flavor and functionality of the desktop site. Nice and efficient.

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