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How Programmatic Revolutionized Catalog Marketing

Even decades-old companies with well-earned customer confidence and near iconic status are realizing that if they don’t take advantage of the digital landscape they risk missed opportunities and loss of market share.

Anjalee Vasvani, a programmatic leader at Williams Sonoma, recently discussed how her company -- widely known among consumers for its evocative catalogs -- is using marketing tech to drive ROI.

In an interview with Paul Alfieri, Amobee SVP of Marketing, she said, “This is the first year our digital spend has surpassed our catalog spend, and moving forward, our major initiative is to better understand the customer journey: what’s working, what’s not, and when do we need to insert a promo into the path to purchase.”

Ad tech, she said, lends itself to quick shifts in a way that catalogs simply can’t replicate. “We might, for example, decide we need to get a promo up the very next day,” she said. “That happens almost every week. We now can quickly turn it around, ship it off to our partners, and they can execute it immediately.”

Despite such advantages, it’s not an “either or” situation when it comes to print and digital, and Williams Sonoma has no plans to altogether discontinue their catalogs, which help to strongly define the brand and convey compelling narratives about its products. Instead, a strategic combination that includes both digital targeting and traditional print catalogs sent via mail has proven to be an enormous driver of ROI.

Vasvani described to Alfieri one recent campaign in which the company sent a cohort of consumers bed-and-bath-themed catalogs from Pottery Barn; concurrently, it targeted those same people digitally, and the resulting ROI was three times their usual overall ROI. “We’ve seen sales lifts of up to 15 percent when consumers receive the catalog and then view a promo on Facebook,” she said, adding that it is because of digital data that they know their audience is spending increasing amounts of time on social media sites.

Williams Sonoma is now enthusiastically committed to ad tech, said Vasvani, although getting to that point took a great deal of education within the company. Everyone agrees about the power of big data and ad tech’s ability to increase ROI, but there will always be a need for human strategy and insight. “We just have to make sure we’re equipping ourselves with the right people and the right partners,” she said.

For more on Williams Sonoma’s success, watch the video below.