Williams-Sonoma, one of the largest e-commerce retailers in the U.S., and one of the biggest multi-channel specialty retailers in the world, has over 200 locations nationwide that feature a variety of store layouts, specialty features, and clean aesthetic. We were tasked during the 2020 holiday season to develop, test, and rollout a graphic signage program to all 200+ stores. Along the way, we also developed a custom store database to track detailed store merchandising assets, and produce a more reliable distro list for future projects. We knew just what to do.
With our experience in manufacturing, we provided multiple options for the base and backer solution. From wood species and metal finishes for the slotted base to eco-friendly and reusable backer materials, we made it easy for them to select the solution that most aligned with their values and budget. The solution was elegant and quick to manufacture, so we skipped a rendering and produced a prototype in 5 days for their team review
Once the base look and feel was established, we built a prototype set and sent them to their mock store and a live store for testing. Combined with their internal analytics, Williams-Sonoma was able to estimate their additional sales coming from the signage update, and to calculate their return on investment. From these tests, we received valuable feedback about how the fixture stood up to real in-store abuse, and made additional tweaks to dial it in.
The final spec was signed off: a white oak base with white painted finish and a 90 degree dado cut to support a graphic. The graphic would be unprinted, but cut to a specific size to support a variety of graphic sizes that would be able to last more than a year in the field. We rush produced these and shipped out finished kits as they came off the line, farthest points first, in order to get them in by holiday.
You usually don’t think of your print and fixture supplier as one that can develop a software solution that checks all the boxes for your company’s specific needs. Having been on the receiving side of distros for product rollouts the last 20+ years with Williams-Sonoma, we had both the insight and knowhow to bring it all together. We took an existing store survey and created more than 300+ custom fields that were specific both to Williams-Sonoma, and each location. Once loaded, the web and iOS enabled app allowed all users the ability to view location specific details on each store, track fixture and print inventory, and generate custom reports by department to streamline the entire procurement process.
For fixture design, we have at our disposal both digital rendering and physical prototyping capabilities. Depending on the specific project goals, we use the tool that makes the most sense to develop the product. In this case, we could build it just as fast as blocking the time off for our designer.
In the world of retail - everything is a rush. With fastest-in-the-industry turn times of two weeks, we weren’t concerned about delivering on time. Instead, we focused on the client’s wants and providing them with material and techniques that directly solved the problem.
The genesis of the database project was both a push and pull. Being the producer of their retail graphics since 1996, and working with both purchasing and marketing departments, we found that the distro lists often differed, and it was unclear which was most current. Mix in store relocations and openings and it was realistic that at any given time, neither was correct. We also audited a retail location after a top-of-season graphics update and noticed the store merchandising manager had thrown away a large number of graphics due to not having the fixture to hold them after a recent store relocation. Coincidentally, or not, we were developing an internal software to track projects, and provide real-time access to clients and suppliers to make the entire process from sales to billing more efficient. We found it the perfect answer to both our internal issues, and those that Williams-Sonoma faced. So we built them a simple software, provided support, and brought our past experience as a supplier to provide a solution that was easy to use on both ends.
When reviewing their fixture program, we understood their decision makers worked most effectively when they had a physical fixture to review, but the high cost to produce a single fixture each time an idea came up was not sustainable. Additionally, the cost for their team to conceptualize, design, prototype, get pricing, produce, and manage each project made the process that much more difficult. Our fixture team was able to help streamline the design process, provide incremental visual examples without producing a prototype each time, and produce prototypes in as little as 2 days. By using CAD renderings from SolidWorks, or non-engineering visual concepts in AutoDesk Fusion360, and 2D visuals in Adobe InDesign and Illustrator, we were able to advance the process quickly from napkin sketch to real life product. As a result, we provided the horsepower so that decision makers could quickly see if they had a project they wanted to roll out or put on the shelf.
This project involved woodworking, print-material cutting, and software. We were able to execute them all with a single email, and delivered on time and on budget, elevating both purchasing and marketing departments in the process.
By combining different areas of services and experience, we were able to help Williams-Sonoma save time and money for the design, production, and management of their company-wide marketing campaigns. They not only had great products, but also a process that was thoughtfully crafted with experience from start to finish.