As part of our mission to help eCommerce makers of all sizes succeed in the U.S. retail market, the AndMakers team caught up with Wayfair Sr. International Accounts Specialist Izzy Krempa, who works with suppliers in Asia, to talk about the eCommerce boom in the time of COVID and how international suppliers can succeed on the fast-growing Wayfair marketplace.
What kind of products in the home and garden category tend to get the fastest traction?
In the current marketplace, we are finding that Office Furniture is clearly one of the fastest-growing categories on Wayfair as the demand continues to increase with many Americans working from home for an indefinite period of time. Office Furniture encompasses anything within the office space; within that space, we’re currently seeing the largest demand for desks and office chairs. On a more general level, ready-to-assemble furniture that can be shipped in a single box is very well suited for the Wayfair marketplace.
Once you sign a manufacturer, what are the things they should do immediately to ensure a successful partnership with Wayfair?
Once a partner is ready to sell on Wayfair, they should work to increase exposure of their products and make sure your team is learning the platform as quickly as possible. Read everything that Wayfair provides in our portal to ensure smooth tactical operations and experiment with different levers. Generally speaking, there are three major ways a supplier can optimize exposure on Wayfair: reviews, product tagging and promotions.
The first is participating in Wayfair’s Tried and True review program, a program in which sellers provide a few free units of their products to validated end customers who will provide quality reviews on their products. Reviews are a huge selling factor for Wayfair; since we are an e-commerce platform and our end customer cannot touch/feel what she is looking for, product reviews that validate her purchase are incredibly important.
Partners can also improve their product visibility by making sure that the tagging on their products (product attributes) are complete. Many sellers add products with insufficient information because they do not have that information readily available during the product addition project. We recommend that these sellers go back, collect that information, and input it into their listings. The more information provided on the product pages, the more likely the product will be searchable by the end customer based on Wayfair’s built-in shopping filters, and the more likely customers who see those products will feel assured of making a smart purchase.
Lastly, suppliers should be actively participating in promotions on Wayfair to promote their new products.
If you were advising a manufacturer trying to sell on the Wayfair platform, which shortcuts would you tell them not to take?
Don’t take shortcuts on people. Make sure you have the right people managing your Wayfair business (understanding of eCommerce, dedicated time to manage the Wayfair portal/account). In addition, make sure that you’re not skipping out on eCommerce-ready packaging. It is very easy for products to get damaged in transit when their packaging is not good; investing a few extra dollars upfront in packaging will save money down the line in returns/replacements. Finally, plan to be flexible on inventory and production. Ecommerce is fast moving; you cannot do a planning process for the year in the same way you do for traditional container business. You have to review weekly-level forecasts and update production/inventory frequently to adapt to changes in demand.
What are the most common mistakes you see manufacturers make that all but guarantee you won’t see their products?
Inaccurate inventory levels and high in-transit damage rates can affect a supplier’s product sort rank on site. For example, if a supplier has an inaccurate level of inventory listed and their products aren’t in fact in stock, this will lead our end customer to purchase the product to later be informed that the product is back ordered and will not arrive for many weeks. This is a frustrating experience for our end customers, which will lead to cancellation of orders and poor reviews on those products.
Additionally, if a supplier is shipping products out to end customers and consistently receiving feedback regarding products arriving damaged or defective, this should be a flag to the supplier to make updates to R&D or packaging of their products. If the supplier fails to make changes, this will impact their customer reviews and in turn, the chance of conversion on their products.
If you were going to single out one manufacturer or distributor as a great partner for Wayfair, which would you choose, and why?
A great supplier partner for Wayfair is someone who has a dedicated account representative to handle their Wayfair account. Having a point person on the supplier side makes operations and account growth more seamless.
What’s one thing about the U.S. market that overseas manufacturers or distributors must know before they build a business plan to sell here?
For any supplier coming into the US, a focus on assortment and inventory is crucial. We recommend all net new suppliers entering the US market to start with a wide assortment with shallow inventory levels for each of those products. With this approach, the supplier is able to quickly gauge what products will sell well and replenish accordingly and gauge which products might not be as suited for the U.S. market and can make a plan to move the remaining assortment off the shelves as quickly as possible.
Question about images: how important are they? What kinds tend to move the needle?
We see on average that suppliers that have 4 or more images do significantly better, and variety is also very important. When the end customer can’t touch or feel the object, they need images – we say all the time at Wayfair that we’re selling images. You need at least two images for your products to even show up on Wayfair; if you have one image, your product won’t even show up. We recommend a variety of images, including a straight-on shot, a detail shot, a dimensional shot, a shot of the product in use (which we call an environmental shot), etc. We have a great one-pager that breaks down all of our recommendations.
Say a manufacturer comes to you and says, hey, I have a lot of great products I’d like to sell on your site. What are the first couple of questions you ask them, and why are those the most important questions?
I’d ask about operations and logistics and about product assortment.
For logistics, I’d ask whether they have a U.S.-based warehouse and whether they’re familiar with drop-shipping. Do they have a third-party logistics partner (3PL) or resource in the U.S.?
We also want to know about their assortment. Are they selling categories we don’t need (e.g. wall art, which is super-oversaturated at Wayfair), or categories we really need (e.g. pet items, which is a new category for Wayfair, or office furniture)?
Last, we’re trying to understand if the supplier is familiar with eCommerce at all (e.g. Have they sold their products on Amazon? Do you they have someone who is solely focused on eCommerce?). If not, that’ll be a hurdle and will make success more difficult.
In any case, suppliers interested in working with Wayfair can fill out a request here, and we’ll get back to them within a week. It definitely helps to work with partners like AndMakers who have lots of experience in eCommerce. Any suppliers in Asia can also feel free to email me directly with questions.