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Bye, Bye Banners at Williams-Sonoma?

While others plaster the Web with banner ads, Williams-Sonoma.com is shying away from the medium, testing banners at only one site, Women.com, during an extensive fourth-quarter marketing campaign.

“Banners are not effective these days,” said Shelly Nandkeolyar, vice president for e-commerce at Williams-Sonoma Inc., San Francisco. The banner ads were placed on Women.com Nov. 8. “We’re going to try out [banners] and determine their validity for future usage,” said Nandkeolyar.

In place of banners, the company is spreading the word through traditional direct marketing and an e-mail campaign. The company alerted offline customers about its online presence through two mass mailings of 250,000 each. The two batches, which included an offer for a free apron with an online purchase, went to top customers the first week of this month.

It has mailed 200 million catalogs for Williams-Sonoma as well as its Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, Hold Everything and Chambers brands — all of which list the Williams-Sonoma.com Web site on every page. An in-store bag stuffer is being distributed at the company’s more than 335 locations. The Web address also appears on counter cards, bags and windows at stores.

The company’s target is women ages 45 to 60 with annual incomes of more than $100,000.

Under a partnership agreement with American Express, 3 million card members will receive an envelope stuffer announcing the site’s unveiling.

The company also sent e-mails to 500,000 opt-in addresses compiled from lists captured at stores and through the catalogs as well as lists purchased from [email protected], ConsumerNet.com, [email protected] and Yahoo.

Through portal partnerships, consumers will have one-click access from Della & James gift registry, and Epicurious. Next quarter, there are plans for the site to take part in a promotion at eHow.com. This how-to engine, which functions in a similar manner to AskJeeves, will offer up to 75 recipes along with a recommendation for the proper pots, pans and utensils to be found at Williams-Sonoma.com.

The site is advertising in most major dailies including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Chicago Tribune while also participating in a large public relations campaign.

The company would not quantify the dollar value of this campaign, but did say it was a “significant investment.”

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