The Strategy Behind Williams-Sonoma's Global Expansion
In an effort to tap into the $532 billion global marketplace for housewares and home furnishings, Williams-Sonoma, the San Francisco-based omnichnannel retailer, took its business beyond its domestic borders. In a session yesterday at NetSuite's SuiteWorld conference in San Jose, Calif., Rob Bogan, vice president of international systems for Williams-Sonoma, discussed the brand's experiences going global.
At the center of Williams-Sonoma's international strategy was building out robust e-commerce sites for customers in Australia and the U.K., the two countries the retailer targeted first for its international presence. Helping with this mission is NetSuite, a provider of cloud-based software suites, with whom Williams-Sonoma partnered with to be the platform for its international sites. Specifically, Williams-Sonoma is using SuiteCommerce as its multichannel platform. The retailer has also opened brick-and-mortar stores in Australia and the U.K.
We sent out an RFP for what we called "retail in a box," Bogan said, noting that Williams-Sonoma wanted to expand internationally without cost crippling the company. He said that the company's domestic platform was too expensive to develop for international sites. In addition to cost, time to market was a critical consideration for Williams-Sonoma in choosing its web platform. We knew there was money to be made here, Bogan said in regards to Williams-Sonoma's international expansion, but the company needed to move quickly to seize the opportunity. We couldn't spend two years developing our own web platform and miss the opportunity at hand, Bogan said.
Within 100 days of signing a contract with NetSuite, Williams-Sonoma launched four websites in Australia; the U.K. was next. The retailer chose those two markets for a number of reasons — it scored data by country, including which international visitors were shopping on its domestic website and in its U.S.-based stores; population and market size; and it wanted to launch in English-speaking countries first. After its market analysis, Australia and the U.K. became the top targets.