Brand Experience Breakdown: One Aspiring Chef Returns to an Old Favorite to Broaden His Culinary Options

My wife and I do a ton of our own cooking and quarantine has forced us to kick our stove time into overdrive. Ninety-nine percent of our cooking is either done in a wok, a dutch oven, single-serving baking dishes, or a small skillet. 

The one hole in our cookware game? Wide, shallow cooking vessels for recipes with lots of ingredients. A casserole dish fit the bill for baking, but a larger skillet would really help for stovetop cooking.

Before my wife and I got married, we walked around our local malls for registry ideas and we kept coming back to Williams Sonoma. The store was always beautifully arranged and everything looked and felt high quality. The plates we picked out had a great heft to them and the pots and pans on display were sturdy and elegant. 

Fast forward six years later and I felt confident going back to Williams Sonoma for a skillet knowing how well my current cookware was holding up. 

My onsite experience

Williams Sonoma’s site mirrors its store by featuring gorgeous, original photography that never fails to inspire me when I visit.

To get started, I searched for “casserole dish” and “skillet” on Williams Sonoma’s site and scrolled through the results to see what the on-site reviews were saying. I saw some negative reviews, but the important thing to me is if I’m seeing any trends. One person saying “this casserole dish scratches really easily” might raise my eyebrow, but six people saying it raises a red flag and removes it from consideration.

In order to save time, I decided to narrow down my choices to two brands: Le Creuset and Staub. I’ve had a lot of good experiences with both brands and that experience has earned a lot of trust from me. 

I eventually settled on a 12” Staub skillet, but once I put it into my cart, I decided to sleep on my purchase and left the site. I ended up receiving an abandoned cart email the next morning and then a second abandoned cart email the following morning.

Both emails offered a lot of good insight, so I decided to subscribe to their main email list to see what else I could learn before I purchased.

Upon submitting my email address, I triggered a simple modal form that allowed me to narrow the focus on my incoming emails by entering in my location. There was also a brand cross-sell where I could sign up emails from other William Sonoma brands. 

Giving new subscribers a way to indicate areas of interest is an important opportunity in the beginning of the company-to-customer relationship to get some early insight before a purchase occurs.

The first email in their welcome series arrived in my inbox two days after I signed up and it presented four different ways to enter the sitea good move since everyone signing up has different motivations.

My checkout experience

At this point, I was feeling pretty confident about my two choices of cookware and was ready to purchase.

Right after I added the skillet to my cart, I triggered a modal that displayed what I had just added and a secondary section featuring the classic “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” product recommendations. In this section was a splatter screen that would go with the skillet and two other pieces of Staub cookware that could handle dishes the skillet was ill-suited for cooking.

This was a great way for the brand to up-sell me based on my current purchase by recommending items that go hand-in-hand with my new skillet. While I didn’t decide to add these items to my cart, the cross-sell definitely piqued my interest and had me considering whether I needed other cookware. 

My post-purchase experience

I received an order confirmation email a couple of minutes after I placed my order, it included: 

  • My estimated delivery date range (usually part of the shipping confirmation email, but getting that information earlier on in the ordering process is always welcome) 
  • Clear pictures of what I had ordered (this is a best practice to let the customer know that you processed the order correctly and that the right items are heading their way) 
  • Items that complimented my current order (another good time to cross-sell when someone has clearly shown they’re willing to buy from your site)


After that, I received two shipping confirmation emails (the first was two days after I placed my order, the second was three days after since my order was split into two shipments). 

This included a tracking link, which is crucial to let customers check package progress themselves and free up your support team to deal with more pressing issues.

I also received two delivery confirmation emails. 

Williams Sonoma’s first email fulfilled its primary role of letting the customer know a delivery had arrived. This particular email also did double-duty as a shipping email because my order has been split and it provided a handy link to see the progress of the other half of my order. 

Delivery confirmation covers that last step before the customer has their order in their hands. They know their order has shipped, but is it at their house yet? Basic things like checking your front door can sometimes be forgotten in today’s mile-a-minute news cycle and your customers will appreciate the heads up. I know I did.

My unboxing experience

The boxes itself was plain brown cardboarda missed opportunity for a brand with such stunning photography on their site. 

The skillet came wrapped in some branded tissue paperalways a plusbut there wasn’t any branded insert or coupon, just the order form. All that being said, the casserole dish and skillet themselves were gorgeous with a good, solid feel to them and I’m totally satisfied with my purchase.

Final thoughts on my overall experience buying from Williams Sonoma

One major strength of William’s Sonoma’s email marketing was the clear and thorough order, shipping, and delivery confirmation emails. There’s nothing worse as a customer than ordering from a site and then having no idea what’s happening with your purchase. Great confirmation emails manage customer expectations and provide prompt updates on progress.

Williams Sonoma also clearly understands what their customers buy together because they did a great job cross-selling relevant products throughout the entire customer journey. Everything they suggested was either from brands I had been browsing or went perfectly with my current purchase.

Overall, I felt like my experience shopping online with Williams-Sonoma was positive and extremely thorough, especially since I was never left wondering about the status of my order.

Interested in more Brande Experience Breakdowns? Find out one long-time Gray Malin fan’s experience buying photography online.

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