Monday, 1 October 2012

Compare and contrast: Wayfair

It’s been said that US online retailer Wayfair has its sights set on being the “Amazon of homewares”. To achieve its ambition, the company has embarked on aggressive international expansion, and now has international offices in Ireland, the UK, Germany and Australia.

The business, which is on track to beat last year’s turnover of $500 million, has recently signed a deal with UK-based supermarket Tesco that will see it extend Wayfair’s reach into the UK by offering an expanded range of home goods through Tesco Direct. This, says Wayfair cofounder and chief executive Niraj Shah, offers the Boston, MA-based company “an unparalleled global channel to reach millions of new households in the UK”. Wayfair currently offers 20,000 products on Tesco Direct and plans to increase that number to 60,000 by end of the year.

In addition to its presence on the Tesco marketplace, Wayfair also operates the UK website, which the company says is seeing “rapid growth”. Although the websites of the UK and US operations look similar, there are some subtle—and not-so-subtle differences. Let’s start with the homepage.
Wayfair UK homepage
The first thing I noticed on the UK homepage (above) is that it is static. The largest box in the centre displays a take on the company’s strapline “zillions of possibilities”, with an image of a woman looking at what appears to be a chandelier. The call to action is to shop now, which when clicked on turns into a search bar—a nice touch. Below the main image are nine smaller boxes labelled bedroom, dining, lighting, bathroom, garden, cookware, living room, children, office, which when clicked on take the user to a dedicated landing page.
Wayfair US
Now contrast this with the Wayfair US homepage (above). Here the retailer uses a rotating main banner that shifts between four images: the Angelo home collection, “Welcome Home”, 45 percent off kitchen carts and islands, and things we love. Although I prefer this to the UK approach, in my opinion the banner moves far too quickly to really take in all the information.

Below the main banner is another dynamic image next to the “shop by category” section designed to show the breadth of the range. Moving further down the page is a gallery of recent press, with Wayfair showcasing its coverage in Coastal Living, Good Housekeeping and House Beautiful. Both sites have a similar space for company information such as about, my account and “info & policies”. Notably though, the US site features more social media than the UK website with a link to its Facebook page, Twitter stream, Pinterest page and Google+, as well as the Wayfair blog. The UK site only mentions Facebook and a measly 938 fans, compared with the US website’s 50,993 likes.

Both sites operate a dropdown menu from the main horizontal navigation on the home page, but I noticed the menu is divvied up slightly differently on each site. Mirroring the boxes below the main image, the UK site repeats most of the categories along the top nav bar, adding more and special offers at the end. The US site has the same number of categories along the top, but when a user hovers across the site, it’s evident that the product choice on the US website is much, much broader.

Let’s go shopping
To start my shopping journey I headed for the search bar, placed above the main nav bar on both pages. Both sites make use of predictive search, bringing up options as I type (towel rails in bathroom; towels in bathroom; paper towel holders in kitchen, and so on). Reassuringly, both sites have plenty of options to filter down the search even further on the left-hand side.

UK product page
The product pages were also very similar. The free shipping offer was very prominent and customers can earn Wayfair rewards—the company’s loyalty points programme—on both sides of the Atlantic. At first I completely missed the social networking icons, but eventually located them at the top right of the product description. I would normally look for these in the same area as the price, or nearer the image, so the placement of the social links threw me. I wonder whether this affects others too, and whether Wayfair could boost social sharing, but trying out new positions for the icons.
US product page
After adding to basket, the US could take some tips from the UK website. Whereas the US site takes me to the basket, where I can either pay for my order, go back to the home page, or click “save for later”, which takes me to my wish list. None of the options allow me to go back to the towel section where I started my shopping journey. The UK site (below) handles the “add to basket” move a lot better.

Add to basket
Upon clicking to purchase an item, I am taken to a page that shows what I had just placed in my basket, and on the right-hand side I’m explained all the costs. Below the item is the cross-sell and upsell of “Also In This Collection” and “Customers Also Bought”. Best of all, if I click continue shopping, just under the price, I am taken to the exact page where I left off, so no hunting around to find what I was previously looking at.

Where the UK site falters is in the copy—especially for higher value items.  Here’s the copy for the “Julian Bowen Supra Sofa Bed in Black”, priced at £222.98:

• Supra range
• Black fabric
• Closed sitting position: 79cm H x 197cm W x 88cm D
• Open sleeping position: 38cm H x 197cm W x 99cm D

Followed by:
Supra Sofa Bed in Black,    79cm H x 197cm W x 88cm D,    Weight: Unavailable
Colour: Black
Product Category:  Sofas
Style: Modern
Type: Sofa Beds, Sofas
Upholstery:  All Fabric

Now compare it with the US approach, here for the “Ave Six Mainstreet Sofa”, which costs $302.99:
Make an eye-catching change to your home with this classic Mainstreet Sofa in Seaweed. The Mainstreet Collection from Avenue Six brings us a contemporary line inspired by a classic design. This sofa brings fashion and elegance including solid wood legs and plush foam filled cushions. With its durable fabric detailed design, and sturdy arms this sofa is up to par with the fanciest of rooms. Its combination of style and price make this piece a great option to complement the current décor of any home or office.

•    Available in Woven Seaweed and Cream fabric
•    Stylish solid wood legs made to match the most elegant of room setups
•    Covered in a high performance, easy care fabric
•    RTA design for convenience and easy shipping
•    Frame constructed of a sturdy kiln dried hardwood
•    Dacron wrapped foam cushions for ultimate comfort
•    Tools included for quick and easy assembly
•    Dimensions: 32" H x 49" W x 29" D
•    Avenue Six Limited Warranty (for details click here)

While it’s accepted that there is no one-size-fit-all answer to how much copy is the right amount, I think we can all agree that the way the US site describes the item is more likely to educate, reassure and convince potential customers to part with their cash.

Overall, while the UK site still has some catching up to do—certainly when it comes to product description and depth of range—Wayfair UK is on the right tracks to overtake its home-grown rivals with a site that ticks many boxes.--MT

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