Wayfair.com may have went public in 2014, but the furniture empire was created 15 years prior by college roommates Steve Conine and Niraj Shah. The evolution of Wayfair has resulted in it becoming a one stop shop in the U.S. home goods market with a vast selection of products. Home furnishings are sold not just through Wayfair.com but through five branded sister sites as well. Customers benefit from the low prices and free shipping that seems to be the norm with online shopping. What is next for a niche e-commerce store such as Wayfair?
Evolution of Wayfair
Long before Wayfair was Wayfair, Conine and Shah took a different approach when marketing the concept of buying furniture online. They established various websites through the original name CSN Stores such as allbarstools.com and bedroomfurnituredirect.com. The only problem with CSN was the lack of repeat customer base. When Wayfair.com was launched in 2011 the goal was to be the ultimate home store.
Creating Wayfair.com changed the landscape of Conine and Shaha’s operations. The issue was with the various stores, customers had no idea they were under one brand. In creating Wayfair.com, there were five retail brands added within: All Modern, Birch Lane, Dwell Studio, Joss & Main, and Wayfair Supply. The product selection is similar across all five brands, with slight price differences. For example, a sofa bed on Wayfair.com is sold for $319 while the same sofa bed is sold for $293 on All Modern or Birch Lane. These prices will vary daily.
This model is very similar to that of TJ Maxx, Home Goods, and Marshalls. All are operated under TJX Companies. You will find the same product selection throughout the various location with slight price differences. Each brand operates independently when it comes to merchandising and pricing.
Wayfair already has five brands in place and there was recently an announcement of adding a sixth. Perigold sells luxury home furnishings and décor. Customers will have access to over 75,000 items and over 300 marquee brands. These brands include: Matouk, Schumacher, Brownstone, and Noir. This prestigious selection is typically found in design showrooms, specialty shops, or only through trade. Making this available to the public gives them unique designs in their homes that they would not find elsewhere as consumers.
When it comes to anything e-commerce, Amazon is always in the forefront. Despite their e-commerce success, furniture is a newer addition to the Amazon. Amazon is known for daily sales in addition to discounted items and Prime Members are eligible for free shipping. This is a part of their formula for all products. While Amazon has dominated the e-commerce industry, they have not been able to dominate Â Wayfair with the Amazon effect. Wayfair’s CEO, Niraj Shah stated:
“Home is a pretty unique category that I think consumers think about differently than grocery or consumables and paper towels and their TV, where they all want to buy the same items and mainly replenish those items.”
Wayfair is able to differentiate themselves with their product selection, daily deals and free shipping over $49. Amazon may have the speed and robust, but Wayfair has domination in the furniture industry.
As for a competitor that primarily sells furniture, Ikea is a key contender. It is a Swedish brick-and-mortar store with products sold online as well. Ikea stands out among the competition due to the simplistic, modern design that works in a variety of spaces; smaller apartments especially. The functionality and affordability of the furniture is what draws customers to Ikea. The price cuts found on Amazon and Wayfair are typical within the Ikea pricing strategy.
Integrating Augmented Reality
Augmented reality blends virtual and physical worlds. This is very popular throughout video games, but it works amazingly with furniture. Buying furniture online is always a problem because it is harder to visualize how it will look in their space. Wayfair has an Android app, WayfairView, that allows shoppers to see the furniture in their homes. This a huge asset for Wayfair with them not having brick-and-mortar locations as an alternative.
Co-chairman and co-founder of Wayfair, Steve Conine stated:
By digitizing our vast catalog through 3-D scanning, we will dramatically improve the visualization of products to create the best possible shopping experience for our customers. With smartphone augmented reality, we can take this a step further. WayfairView will allow shoppers to visualize furniture and décor in their homes by virtually placing real products from Wayfair’s extensive catalog in any room at full-scale.
This integration changes the landscape of how shoppers can buy furniture. They will be able to see how it fits in their space with the added feature of moving it around for the full-effect. Having this addition to the brand allows consumers to have a different interaction with a product since they are not able to touch it any other way.
What’s Next for Wayfair.com?
With the consumer experience in mind, Wayfair will continue to make strides to ultimately capitalize in the home goods market. The competition will continuously evolve, but the edge that Wayfair has is understanding their niche. Whether it’s furniture, décor, lighting, or appliances, home essentials always have a place on Wayfair.com. With sister sites in place the reach expands while simultaneously maintaining differentiation with the product selection. Pushing the envelope with augmented reality and providing affordable home goods will keep Wayfair at the top of the list for consumers.
Sharon Shichor is the CEO of Eighteen Knowledge Group LLC, your solution and knowledge base for brand building and getting your products in the hands of consumers. With over 15 years of wholesale-retail experience, she speaks the language of Walmart fluently.