Wayfair To Engage Consumers With Brick-And-Mortar Store

BOSTON— Wayfair is primed to open its long-anticipated first full-on retail store in the Natick Mall in Natick, MA, where it opened one of two pop-up shops in this past holiday season, continuing an initiative to generate additional interest in what it has to offer and boost customer acquisition.

The other holiday pop-up shop, visited by HomeWorld Business, operated in the Paramus Mall in Paramus, NJ, and the description of the retail operation suggests that Wayfair will expand on what it did and what it learned in its temporary retail endeavors as it establishes the retail store.

As Wayfair characterized it, the store will give consumers a location to shop for home and experience the company’s award-winning service and vast selection. When it opens in the fall, the Natick Mall operation will give shoppers a sense of what the Wayfair brand is about in an engaging format emphasizing convenience and ease, the company added. To do that, Wayfair is designing the store to encourage shoppers to not only purchase but also, by creating a complete shopping experience, to explore the wide-ranging possibilities its flagship e-commerce site offers. Shoppers will be able to immediately purchase from an in-store product assortment or place orders for delivery to their homes.

Further, Wayfair will staff the store with customer service and home design experts who can offer complementary design consultations to customers, providing recommendations on topics ranging from home improvement projects to décor.

Wayfair has been in a process of exploring brick-and-mortar retailing with the pop-up shops first appearing late last year. In the past few weeks, the company announced that it was opening an outlet in Florence, KY, near Cincinnati. As part of the new store announcement, Wayfair also said it would open four pop-up shops later this summer as additional venues where consumers can interact with the Wayfair brand via a curated selection of products, including decorative accents, wall décor, and seasonal pieces, for immediate, in-store purchases.

In a fourth quarter conference call, Niraj Shah, Wayfair CEO, co-founder and co-chairman, detailed how the company approached the development of physical locations. About a year-and-a-half ago, Wayfair began considering how to get some value from returns it received from online customers and conceived of a limited initiative to develop locations to sell them.

“So the store in Kentucky is the first of what would be a relatively small number of stores focused on more of the liquidation and sale of returns,” he said.

At the same time, Wayfair was developing its pop-up shop initiative, which it conceived as a fresh means of engaging consumers— one that included a mix of merchandise, graphic presentations and dedicated personnel— who might not know much about and had not yet proved willing to check out the company’s e-commerce platforms.

“We learned a lot from that,” Shah said, adding that the company quickly started to consider seasonality, location and other factors facilitating the introduction of more pop-up shops that offered an effective return on its investment.

As for the dedicated retail store, Shah said, the primary goal considered was “customer acquisition and increasing the value of revenue per customer per year.”

He added that return on investment in the retail case didn’t just mean revenues generated but also marketing opportunity, in which case, the dollars committed would be “like ad spend.”

Shah noted that all the physical retail developments build on Wayfair’s established core operations.

“The Wayfair proposition is a very broad proposition, and so there’s a lot of opportunities still ahead of us,” he said.

When it opens this fall, said Wayfair spokesperson Susan Frechette, the Natick store “will feature a variety of products across categories spanning decorative accents, décor and housewares, as well as furnishings for bedroom and living room, home office and outdoor.”

Although it intends to operate a money-making physical store operation, the opportunity to engage consumers in the real world and establish still another way to entice them with the Wayfair proposition is an important element in the company’s plans to continue growing its shopper base and remind existing customers of the breadth of what it offers.