5 Lessons Learned From Wayfair

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Around the time that furniture retailers were struggling to swallow the bitter Amazon pill, another jagged edge contender shook the market foundation. Wayfair. Seemingly overnight, this company shushed the common misconception of everyone in the space, “No one will EVER buy FURNITURE online.”



So, other than the Number One lesson: “We are not living in a state of absolutes,” what other key takeaways we glean from the rise of Wayfair? Read on.



1. Start Small

If you don’t know the Wayfair story, it’s worth the Google, but for illustrative purposes, here’s the abbreviated version. Owners, Niraj Shah and Steve Conine, didn’t jump onto the scene with Wayfair intact as you know it. In fact, they started by selling a single item – stereo racks and stands. The goal? To offer the largest selection available on the web. After the concept’s initial success, the duo tried again with multiple other stand-alone websites (250 to be exact) dedicated to providing the largest selection of ABC and XYZ on the web. Only THEN did they combine all the entities in to Wayfair.com.

For you, store owner, this offers a tremendously freeing lesson. Start small. You don’t have to burst onto the scene guns blazing! Try something new and if it works, implement it. Then, scale for growth. It’s so much more enjoyable than aiming to be everything to everyone.

2. Be a Student

When Wayfair started, Shah and Conine didn’t know all the ins and outs of running a business of this size and complexity. But they were willing to roll up their sleeves and figure it out.

That’s why we believe you should never stop learning. Whether you’re figuring out how to install a new speaker system in your store; elevating your understanding of color therapy in marketing or learning how to complete your website or POS system with enhanced vendor catalog data for better search and increased sales . . . never stop learning. Ever.

3. Spend Wisely

According to Motley Fool, Wayfair grew their business strictly out of cash flow for the first nine years with a focus on infrastructure for long-term growth. They didn’t accumulate massive amounts of debt or go crazy with their budget.

So, if you’ve been trying to keep up with the Joneses, let yourself off the hook. Make smart, strategic decisions with the cash available to you now and resist the urge to acquire additional debt. (See: Lesson 1, Start Small)

4. Take Care of Your Employees

From killer benefits to an amazingly designed office space (C’mon, it’s Wayfair – it must be cool!) this company provides their employees with opportunity for growth and advancement in an atmosphere that enables individuality..

While you may not be in a financial position to offer an expansive 401K match, you can offer training or generous time off allowances. Or, you can get creative and negotiate deals with other small businesses that benefit your employees – like discounts on personal training or a free appetizer at the restaurant down the street. The moral? When employees feel cared for and heard, job satisfaction improves . . .  and where satisfaction goes, performance follows. This increases retention and decreases HR costs. Two gold stars for you.

5. Be Social Savvy

No one knows how to meet customers where they are quite like Wayfair. After all, when you’re exclusively an online retailer, you have to be digitally present to make great connections that lead to sales.

Retail owners can take a page from their social media platforms. Share high-quality photographs, make your page/post/story relevant to your target market, show up, participate and be authentic. Look at this snip from Wayfair’s Insta to see what we mean.



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Overall, the lesson from Wayfair is easy – it’s all about the little things that add up to something spectacular. So, why not put one small thing on your task list this week? Even a tiny step in the right direction will eventually get you where you really want to go!