Data insights give Wayfair’s print catalog a digital edge

Discussion
Mar 08, 2016
George Anderson

Wayfair.com is on a roll. The furniture and home furnishings e-tailer, which last month announced that its sales jumped 70.6 percent to $2.25 billion in 2015 and its active customer base grew by around 67 percent year-over-year, is not resting on its laurels. Instead, the company is doubling down on customer service and looking to improve its retail experience with a new “full spectrum” print catalog.

The 92-page document will showcase 775 unique items sold by Wayfair, including sofas, custom upholstery, bedroom collections, rugs, lighting and more.

“Wayfair is changing the way people shop for their homes,” said Niraj Shah, CEO, co-founder and co-chairman, Wayfair, in a statement. “Part of that process is helping consumers discover all of the new possibilities enabled by our online retail experience in terms of selection, price, service and inspiration.”

According to Wayfair, product selection for the new catalog was developed as a result of “quantitative and algorithm based insights.” The home furnishings e-tailer uses the same information gathered through its own proprietary technology when it comes to its national advertising and partnerships with media brands including HGTV, This Old House and others.

“Technology enables us to serve our customers better than anyone else in the industry,” said Mr. Shah. “We are using our proprietary data and insights to make the shopping experience more tangible while not limiting our customers’ access to selection and great prices.”

Mr. Shah’s claim of superior customer service received some recent backing when Wayfair was received the Gold Stevie Award in the Customer Service Center of the Year retail category. Wayfair was also named tops in the People’s Choice Stevie Award for Favorite Customer Service in the retail category.

Source: Wayfair.com

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What role do you see print catalogs filling for e-commerce operators today? Do you expect that Wayfair’s catalog will be more or less effective in generating sales than the norm as a result of the company’s use of “quantitative and algorithm based insights” to develop the document?

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Braintrust
"Today’s omnichannel consumers consume anytime and everywhere across a variety of media. They still explore things through email and even printed media. If these media are targeted to core customers, they can be very effective IF they create value in targeted offers."
"For products that help create an in-home environment, catalogs can help consumers visualize the end result...not just the specific products. It seems that the quantitative and algorithm-based insights have led Wayfair to approach potential customers directly."
"Restoration Hardware clearly has led the way with their catalog investment and this plays into the theme of today’s shopper. She is wired but looks across the spectrum of shopping options and almost never just leverages one of those options."

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9 Comments on "Data insights give Wayfair’s print catalog a digital edge"


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Dan Frechtling
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

For new customer acquisition this can make a lot of sense. Catalogs are an excellent way to both present product and drive web traffic.

The results will depend on addressable audience, cost per name, cost per piece, response rate and average order. Presumably Wayfair’s algorithms and 450 engineers give them an advantage in optimizing, but print is a different discipline than digital.

Pillows, which are more of an impulse buy, seem to be a better fit than couches.

Chris Petersen, PhD.
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

Today’s omnichannel consumers consume anytime and everywhere across a variety of media. They still explore things through email and even printed media. If these media are targeted to core customers, they can be very effective IF they create value in targeted offers.

The key is not “print” or digital — the key is CURATED assortment.

Today’s customers are overwhelmed with too many choices. They are looking for those retailers that will spend the time to curate selections that fit their style.

There are two keys to Wayfair’s catalog success:

  1. Use of data and analytics to target the items to key customer attributes;
  2. Curating UNIQUE items sold by Wayfair.
Bob Amster
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

Receiving this catalog in the mail may well be the first time that a potential customer sees the name Wayfair. From the catalog, the customer may decide to go to the Wayfair website and actually shop. If all this happens at a reasonable cost per catalog, with sufficient frequency, then the program is successful and the print catalog will have served its purpose.

I would hope that Wayfair uses “quantitative and algorithm-based insights” not only to design and customize the catalog, but also to determine to whom to send it and to find out where their potential customers live. (What type of consumer is “our” customer, and where are these people?)

Ross Ely
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

Print catalogs are an expensive and outdated means of generating demand. Response rates to print catalogs are dropping and Wayfair’s catalog will follow this trend despite their best efforts to use algorithm-based insights. Wayfair would be better served to enhance its website and double-down on digital marketing including a leading mobile and social media presence.

Joan Treistman
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

For products that help create an in-home environment, catalogs can help consumers visualize the end result…not just the specific products. It seems that the quantitative and algorithm-based insights have led Wayfair to approach potential customers directly, rather than wait for them to find the retailer online. So there are two positive outcomes of the catalog: brand awareness and enhanced product imagery. Now Wayfair can calculate the ROI.

Ken Morris
Guest
2 years 6 months ago
Many of today’s online and in-store shoppers first look at catalogs to get inspiration. Restoration Hardware clearly has led the way with their catalog investment and this plays into the theme of today’s shopper. She is wired but looks across the spectrum of shopping options and almost never just leverages one of those options. She does her research — consults catalogs, visits stores, goes online to Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook, looks at competitors, get’s ideas from movies, TV and magazines. Shopping is not a simple act for non-commodity items. Wayfair is fashion for the home and as such this is a very complex sale that will greatly benefit from an omni-channel approach. I like the quantitative and algorithm-based insights but this is nothing new. Retailers have been doing this for many years but maybe not to the level of Wayfair. Paco Underhill’s “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping” talks about using this technique across channels, an interesting read. Just like Paco says about the in-store experience, you need to ask yourself — is there… Read more »
Ken Morris
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

Many of today’s online and in-store shoppers first look at catalogs to get inspiration. Restoration Hardware clearly has led the way with their catalog investment and this plays into the theme of today’s shopper. She is wired but looks across the spectrum of shopping options and almost never just leverages one of those options. She does her research — consults catalogs, visits stores, goes online to Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook, looks at competitors, get’s ideas from movies, TV and magazines.

Shopping is not a simple act for non-commodity items. Wayfair is fashion for the home and as such this is a very complex sale that will greatly benefit from an omni-channel approach. I like the quantitative and algorithm-based insights, but this is nothing new. Retailers have been doing this for many years but maybe not to the level of Wayfair. Paco Underhill’s “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping” talks about using this technique across channels, an interesting read perhaps just like in-store there is a “rule of the right” online?

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest
Naomi K. Shapiro
2 years 6 months ago

Quantitative and algorithm based insights — superior customer service — and “Using our proprietary data and insights to make the shopping experience more tangible while not limiting our customers’ access to selection and great prices” is a winning combination for Wayfair.

They may be among the first to the starting gate, watch for others to follow this formula for success.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

One would expect that smart use of data and the development of proprietary algorithms would yield positive results for Wayfair.

The bigger concern is the transformation of the furniture business for consumers. It is rare to be able to purchase “quality” furniture online. Why? Shipping costs of course.

The reality of buying furniture online dictates that every consumer becomes a DIY purchaser, like it or not. Even furniture purchased offline at IKEA and other outlets require assembly. The components of this genre of furniture is centered on pressed wood and other low end components, accompanied by cryptic assembly guides as a backstop.

When I think about customer experience with Wayfair of late, my mind cannot escape the travail of having to pay for my furniture, then piece it together myself.

I am not sure how this dilemma can be addressed, but I believe an opportunity exists for someone to create mini-stores with higher quality assembled furniture in metro-locales.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Today’s omnichannel consumers consume anytime and everywhere across a variety of media. They still explore things through email and even printed media. If these media are targeted to core customers, they can be very effective IF they create value in targeted offers."
"For products that help create an in-home environment, catalogs can help consumers visualize the end result...not just the specific products. It seems that the quantitative and algorithm-based insights have led Wayfair to approach potential customers directly."
"Restoration Hardware clearly has led the way with their catalog investment and this plays into the theme of today’s shopper. She is wired but looks across the spectrum of shopping options and almost never just leverages one of those options."

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