Per a survey by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the trends for online shopping have changed tremendously since the pandemic. While many brands have had to revamp their business models to ensure business continuity, one brand had already mastered the online business model for nearly two decades: Wayfair. The home furnishings and goods giant based out of Boston was headed to its most significant customer, profitability, and revenue surge since its inception. This blog covers the three main factors behind Wayfair’s roaring success.
The Wayfair Journey
Before diving into the three pillars, let us look at how it all began.
Back in 2002, when online shopping was met with skepticism, Niraj Shah & Steve Conine, friends from Cornell University, sold storage furniture and media stands in the United States through racksandstands.com, their first step to building the Wayfair empire (Formerly CSN Stores). Little did they know they were building the future of retail. In the years that followed, the duo expanded the business to include garden goods, birdhouses, home decor, office decor, home improvement goods, B&B goods, lighting, and more. By 2011, they had more than 200 online stores (separate websites) that brought enormous business.
Fun fact: While meeting up with suppliers back in the initial years, the duo wouldn’t start with “It’s an online store” due to skepticism. Instead, they would talk about the new possibilities the supplier could achieve and then tell them it is an online store. By then, the suppliers would already be convinced!
While looking at efficient ways to grow the business, the two realized that while their sites were doing well individually, not everyone knew of the various other sites under the CSN Stores banner. The duo merged all their websites to scale up and drive traffic to a single source, and Wayfair was born, making it one of the largest online retailers in the country. In June 2011, the company raised $165 million in funding to market its new brand and continued its expansion. In September 2012, Wayfair launched its first television marketing campaign, and brand awareness rose from 6% to 27% over the next year. In 2014, Wayfair raised over $300 million through an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. Wayfair opened its first physical, brick-and-mortar store in Massachusetts in 2019. In addition to offering complimentary design consultations at its Wayfair Home Bar, the store allows customers to digitally design space through virtual reality technology.
Today, Wayfair’s net revenue stands at $12.6 Billion, with its customer base increasing steadily to more than 23 million. Its most prominent competitors are Amazon and Walmart. Of the cofounders, Niraj Shah is the CEO, while Steve Conine is the co-founder and chairman.
Three Pillars Behind Wayfair’s Success
Three things stand out when we look at Wayfair’s growth over the decades: Its love for technology, super-cool social media channels, and seamless supply chain process.
Wayfair LOVES technology
Wayfair, though known for its furniture and home decor, is predominantly a tech-heavy business. Data and tech have always been a strong base for their operations. Be it leveraging user insights or product data, data has helped the brand personalize shopping experiences for its customers.
Bonus: Wayfair has its own first-party event tracking platform called Scribe. It powers teams across Wayfair, including those delivering shoppers’ experiences, customer orders, managing suppliers, and optimizing marketing to drive revenue for Wayfair. It helps them monitor the different actions on the site or within the Wayfair systems.
Wayfair was the first retailer that allowed customers to browse for a product via their smartphone and, once they identified items of interest, view them in the context of their space using Augmented Reality (AR). The brand also has a “View In Room 3D” feature with spatial awareness capabilities that lets users visualize the product in their homes. Another feature they have is the “Fused photos.” All you have to do is click a picture of your room and choose the product you want to buy. The AI superimposes the product on the picture for easy visualization.
Another mind-blowing use of technology was their first venture into Virtual Reality (VR), the “Patio Playgrounds.” This facilitated the customers to enter a digital world where they would select products. Once chosen, the items would be delivered by digital drone, after which they could be arranged on a virtual patio. An upgrade to this was the “IdeaSpaces” feature. The feature basically was more like a store where customers could “visit” different lifestyle spaces. In each space, be it the living room or the bedroom, they could move around, look at products, rotate them a complete 360 degrees, access additional information, and then move to the next room, wish-listing products along the way. How cool is that!
Wayfair aces social media
One look at Wayfair’s social media channels, and you will know how in-sync the brand is with the current trends. Whether creating fun reels or sharing unique decor ideas, Wayfair’s social media game is off the charts. With 1.7 Million followers on Instagram and 7.9 Million followers on Facebook, the brand is touching all the right chords when it comes to social media marketing. Let us look at ways Wayfair aces social media marketing:
Customers today do a lot of research online before buying any product. User-generated content can boost your sales significantly as they are real-life stories of how your product/service has benefited the user. Wayfair showcases real customer stories and content on its social channels. For example, the brand’s Instagram channel posts weekly Instagram stories of real-life people and how they used the product from Wayfair.
Notice how the brand has gone a step ahead and leveraged features like the question stickers and links? We will discuss this soon and tell you how they help the brand.
Influencer marketing is not a brand new concept. We all grew up seeing celebrities talk about and vouch for brands. However, with digital marketing birthing a new concept daily, companies have had to reimagine their marketing techniques. That is how online influencers became an overnight hit. Wayfair hasn’t shied away from leveraging this technique. For example, see how the brand has roped in a digital creator who usually creates content about fashion, to create content for Wayfair.
What we love about this kind of content is how it truly brings out the essence of Wayfair. Notice how they have made the content look like expert tips, so people would actually take hints and buy similar products.
Here’s another example of how subtly they leverage influencer content. Here, the recipe post is actually meant to promote their kitchenware:
Social media is constantly changing, and Instagram, with over 2 billion monthly active users, is no exception. That is why staying up to date with the latest trends is important. And Wayfair does a great job at it. For example, while Instagram Reels have been around for a while, Wayfair has made sure it uses the latest audios and concepts to stay ahead of the competition. As we mentioned, Wayfair likes to experiment on social media. Be it the umpteen number of stickers, the various Instagram Reels options, or the shopping feature, Wayfair has tried it all.
And, it is not just on Instagram. See how Wayfair’s Pinterest is full of unique trendy decor ideas that users can leverage.
Wayfair has an efficient supply chain process
Wayfair started as a drop-ship-dependent business. The orders were fed directly into suppliers’ warehouses, and the e-tailer would arrange delivery logistics to the customer via third-party carriers.
In today’s instant-everything world, customers expect to get their hands on their purchases fast. That’s why Wayfair invested heavily in building out a logistics network called CastleGate, which delivers the competitive prices and fast delivery that online shoppers expect.
The network provides end-to-end services from sellers worldwide to end customers across the United States, Canada, and Europe. Wayfair’s control of the supply chain from the manufacturing origin to the customer’s home allows us to make the right trade-offs between product positioning cost and customer order fulfillment cost while leveraging scale and buying power to strengthen unit economics. The software, integrations, and algorithms aim to make the process as low-touch and frictionless as possible while optimizing and prioritizing those tasks that must be escalated to a human.
Wayfair operates 16 million square feet of warehouse space. Its large-format last-mile delivery facility count rivals that of Amazon, allowing it to offer free 2-day shipping on most items. Wayfair is so adept at managing its supply chain through an asset-light model that the company actually has a negative cash conversion cycle! This means that Wayfair typically receives payment from customers before it pays its suppliers. Isn’t that great?
In conclusion, it is safe to say that Wayfair has constantly adapted itself to the changing market, because of which it has been able to capture the attention of its audience. What do you think about their strategies? Let us know in the comments section below.
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