BOSTON— The Wayfair wedding registry is a year old and, over that time, the e-tailer has learned and adapted to the bridal preferences of Millennial couples, the consumer group most often getting married today and a core retail demographic.
Matt Curley, general manager of Wayfair registry, said that traditional wedding purchasing lives on but trends have changed. Consumers still need to set up a home, which commonly means registering for tabletop and small appliances, but today’s couples have a somewhat different sense of how to do that, so they’re asking for furniture and electronics in addition to more traditional gifts.
Curley characterized Wayfair as having an advantage in building its registry given its focus on Millennials, a demographic reaching the period in life when couples are most likely to marry.
Even so, registry is a new operation and Wayfair had to get up to speed fast. Getting a wedding education was part of the process.
“We’ve learned a ton,” Curley said. “We’ve learned what we could from customer activity, and we made sure we got a lot of feedback from customers and though our dedicated registry specialists.”
Wayfair began its registry with employees trained to help customers put together a personalized registry based on the tools and features it offers online. With the help of trained specialists who can interact with registrants, customers can determine how they want to prepare before the wedding. This includes how they wish to balance the traditional and the trendy.
“Putting together a registry can be overwhelming, especially in the context of a million other things to do in wedding planning,” Curley said. “If you are not sure what to do, that specialist team will be helpful laying out high-level options. Millennials are looking to do some stuff that’s not as established. There are a lot of options out there. It can be a tricky balance.”
Whatever the focus a couple has, whether it’s pulling together a downtown loft environment, creating a suburban dream home or making a mid-city townhouse into a functional space, Wayfair’s specialists can help couples take those steps that will set them on the path to their goal, Curley said.
Wayfair encourages couples to personalize their registry listing not only to guide users in search of the right gifts but also to provide an ongoing narrative that will keep families and friends abreast of developments. They can upload photos, tag favorite finds, share notes with guests, control gift shipping destinations and track who purchased what to make sending thank you cards easier. Wayfair also has moved to make using the registry more interactive and seamless, and to speed the checkout process.
From the start, Wayfair thought of its registry as a community helping couples pull their post-nuptial homes together. However, today, couples very often live together before they are married and have established a household. They also are more confirmed in their personal tastes. Still, Curley said Wayfair’s registry can be an element to bring people together with the bride and groom in the lead up to the wedding.
Communications can be important because non-traditional preferences are more prevalent. Online interaction among wedding planners and guests suits Wayfair as a home operation targeting Millennials.
Although many couples do need basics, they may not adhere to past practices. Fine China and champagne flutes do appear on registries, but so do trendier variations, including, for example, stemless wine glasses. Other couples already have many basic items but may be looking to upgrade to more elaborate or luxurious alternatives, for example, a stand mixer or a sectional sofa. As couples often blend possessions, they may be looking for items to establish a coordinated identity in their domestic space.
“Up until this point, people usually registered for a narrow range of things for the kitchen, the dining room,” Curley said. “But some people also want a piece of furniture. We’ve been removing obstacles to register for larger items that are tough to register for. Pieces that are expensive, which are tough to wrap, that require delivery. It’s tough to bring a dining room table to a bridal shower. If we remove some of those obstacles we have a better registry experience.”
In its group gifting function, Wayfair lets registry shoppers put a set amount up against the price of a sofa or other expensive items, and the company can deliver the goods. In that way, couples can put products they really need on their registries and not feel restricted by price or other factors.
“Couples today have given themselves permission to broaden the notion of what a registry can be,” Curley said. “I wouldn’t say there’s a formula to it. It’s more custom and about personal aesthetics and the needs of the customer.”
At the same time, couples recognize they are taking a life step and that effects how they approach registry.
“People are building a more mature home versus living with furniture they bought for college,” Curley said. “Maybe they are living in a small space, but they want more sophisticated pieces like upholstered furniture. A surprisingly high proportion register for bedroom furniture but smaller pieces are pretty popular, such as coffee tables and stools, as there are more urban environments involved.”
From a business perspective, wedding registry is a way for Wayfair to establish a relationship with the customer.
“The really exciting thing about registry for Wayfair,” Curley said, “is the chance to build relationships with Millennials. A wedding is a moment when the home becomes more important. That’s when they become Wayfair customers. Around 35, people get themselves a home because are getting married around 30. Millennials are comfortable purchasing more online, and that’s the core demographic. It’s a great way to build a relationship. We’re building a home together, and that’s a lifetime journey. We’re learning about preferences, age, geography. We will have a better offering for Millennials as we learn what’s important to them.”
So far, Curley said, Wayfair’s wedding registry has proven successful.
“We really feel good about the traction in year one despite the fact we want to do more long-term investment. A primary area of focus is building the customer experience. We’re focused on giving more options to couples. We’re working on improved navigation, personalization for the experience, more options and flexibility. We really want to help couples make the registry their own. We’re also hyper-focused on the mobile experience to make it easier for customers. We’re going to go on making the experience more intuitive and faster,” said Curley.
Wayfair also is prepared to invest on getting the word about its wedding registry out to more consumers.
“We want to broaden awareness and reach,” Curley said. “A lot of it has been word of mouth from registry users. That’s strong stuff. We’re now aimed at doing more from a marketing perspective, but we feel best about marketing where people hear from our customers. When people see something iterated like that, they respond.”