November 18, 2016 - Alexander Neely, Reporter
How the e-commerce company solidified a spot on the marketing technology frontlines
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
The quote by Austrian-born American author Peter Drucker could easily be a slogan for Wayfair's recent bolstering of its marketing and expansion into augmented and virtual reality.
The online retailer has spent 2016 pushing boundaries on its marketing, launching an AR app where users were able to engage with 3D models of products in their home, a VR app that transports users to an immersive lakeside retreat, and a A+E show that blends commerce and storytelling in a format for home enthusiasts
Why the push into technological realms and marketing partnerships?
Well, as e-commerce company, it is imperative Wayfair be at the forefront of new technology adoption, in order to maintain the best possible shopping and consumer experience for its customers.
The strategy appears to be paying off, as the online retailer reported a 57.2 percent jump in revenue during the third quarter compared to a year earlier. In comparison, Wayfair generated $2.25 billion in net revenues in 2015.
The online retailer's website has 614 million monthly page views, while its social media followers have increased to an estimated 3.3 million. In addition, Wayfair has 150 content pieces published monthly, totaling to approximately 7 million products from over 7,000 suppliers across five distinct brands - Wayfair.com, AllModern, Birch Lane, DwellStudio and Joss & Main.
How did Wayfair get here? Is this merely a successful side effect of technological acceptance or is there something more here? Can other brands learn to predict their future from an online retailer who created its own?
The answer is in Wayfair's innovative collaboration of marketing and technology.
Wayfair believes that VR and AR are cornerstones of an ongoing marketing structure and have built out appropriate resources to handle that work.
“Wayfair Next is laying the groundwork for new innovations that will change the face of retail – all with first-party technology,” noted Steve Conine, co-chairman and co-founder, Wayfair said in a company press release. “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.”
The Wayfair R&D department team of seven employees began its AR and VR work by digitizing its catalog and create 3D models of products to be used for photographic rendering. This spawned the creation and development of WayfairView, an AR application for Google's Tango platform, where users were able to engage with 3D models of products in their home.
“My team has leveraged our extensive infrastructure to tap into Wayfair's large selection of products,” said Mike Festa, the head of Wayfair's R&D lab. “The tools we have built to search and access 3-D content is being made available to other interested developers through our free developer API.”
To use WayfairView, shoppers were able to view a particular room in their home through the lens of the Lenovo PHAB2 Pro, select a Wayfair product and virtually place that product in the room to see how it fits and looks within the space.
Shoppers were also able to move and rotate products to visualize various layouts and perspectives. Finally, when ready to make a purchase, shoppers could connect to Wayfair's shopping app in Google Play.
In August, Wayfair officially announced the launch of its first virtual reality application, called Patio Playground.
Similar to WayfairView, the application was developed developed by Wayfair Next, the company's in-house research and development team, using the Oculus Rift platform.
Patio Playground allowed a customer wearing an Oculus Rift headset to virtually navigate a lakeside scene and select different outdoor furniture, decor and other products from Wayfair's catalog to create their ideal backyard setting.
Wayfair, last week, expanded its virtual reality offerings with IdeaSpace, a VR application for designing spaces with furniture and decor.
Available on Daydream, Google's new mobile VR platform, the IdeaSpace app was designed by the retailer's Wayfair Next R&D team and allows customers to move through a variety of interactive, custom-designed spaces with a swipe on the Daydream controller.
IdeaSpace can be used with Google's Pixel phone or other Daydream-ready phones plugged into the Daydream View headset. To “get the look,” shoppers can point the cursor at featured 3-D products, click to display additional details and rotate for a complete 360-degree view, then save their favorite products, all within the app.
“We think the future of online shopping is rooted in VR and AR technologies – applications like WayfairView and IdeaSpace offer users the ability to visualize our products like never before,” Festa said. “Home goods is one of the last remaining industries that still retains a strong brick and mortar presence, and we believe that there's an opportunity to further accelerate the shift to online for this category through VR and AR technology.”
Media Solutions Team
“We are continually focused on creating innovative ways to help people shop for their homes,” said Steve Oblak, senior vice president and general manager of Wayfair.com said in the company press release.
From custom content, display and precision targeting to TV, social and influencer integration, the Media Solutions team connects suppliers and brand advertisers to an audience of millions of highly engaged customers in search of everything home.
The media solutions team aids brands to connect with customers through custom content experience, high impact display ads, sophisticated targeting, seasonal sponsorships and TV & social integration.
Currently, the media solutions team is partnering with PayPal, Smart Stuff and Sherwin Williams to capture customers through a variety of platforms, including technological integration.
The team and Sherwin-Williams launched a custom-designed online resource for DIY seekers, including exclusive content that helps consumers bring their projects to life. The platform allowed Sherwin Williams to integrate color matching and inspiration throughout the Wayfair.com shopping experience. Shopper were able to browse paint colors alongside more than two million products in furniture, decor and bedding.
Media Buying Team
The in-house media buying team, commonly referred to as the Waygency, handles all global creative and U.S. broadcast media buying for Wayfair's five retail brands.
Most recently, the Waygency spearheaded the launch of Wayfair's fully-shoppable lifestyle series with A+E Networks – the first of its kind.
The Way Home will blend commerce and storytelling in a format for home enthusiasts. The series is scheduled to premiere Saturday, October 22nd at 11 a.m. ET on Lifetime. Each episode will feature home décor and DIY how-tos, room makeovers and everyday solutions for better living – with all products on display and for sale on Wayfair.com.
The most impressive feature of the new partnership, however, is the focus of data and analytics.
Wayfair and A+E Networks will also take a unique approach to bridging the TV and online audiences. Together with cross-platform analytics, Wayfair and A+E Networks will track how specific on-air programming converts into engagement with Wayfair's website, and for the first time, content and merchandising strategies will be shaped using viewing behavior and ecommerce insights.