Wayfair moves offline

Why the online furniture retailer is using a direct TV strategy to drive awareness during its first year in Canada.

Wayfair may be the biggest online furniture and home decor retailer in the U.S., but it has been taking an offline approach to attract new customers during its launch year in Canada.

Wayfair was founded in Boston in 2002 and has shipped to Canada since 2008, but launched a dedicated Canadian site earlier this year to make shopping easier and less expensive for shoppers here.

In March, the company launched its first Canadian TV campaign, and next week the brand will launch its first fall spot. The “Musical” spot is focused on the fact that the new “.ca” site is based in Canada and offers free shipping on orders over $70, as high shipping costs have often been a barrier to driving online shopping in Canada.

All of Wayfair’s creative is handled internally, but the company worked with Toronto’s Kingstar Media on a direct response strategy to drive awareness about the site’s product array and shipping options, an approach it has taken in other markets as well.

Direct response advertising in television is nothing new, encouraging viewers to visit a website or, in pre-internet days, call a 1-800 number, with creative that focuses more on educating consumers and driving them to purchase, as opposed to building a brand.

However, Ed Crain, president and CEO of Kingstar Media, said the strategy for Wayfair has been a bit of a hybrid approach.

“They are performance marketers and they look at ad cost and how it correlates to customer acquisition and retention, but they also know the importance of brand awareness,” he said. “They have had the benefit of shipping to Canada over the years and having some spillover brand awareness from the U.S., and their product range has a wide demographic appeal. Now it’s about optimizing the message around what the ‘.ca’ site is about to a captive audience.”

Wayfair and Kingstar have been working together to test its advertising on a near-weekly basis. The team has used different creative cuts on different day parts on various networks to plan the media buying for the weeks ahead, looking at how different plans correlate with revenue and cost-per-visit.

The reason it has been doing that on TV instead of digital channels – where that kind of data is more readily available and where media spending is more easily altered on the fly – is because the company has found that TV is the best way to get its message to resonate with consumers.

“TV has higher engagement and it’s good at creating an emotional response,” Crain says. “You can’t always reach an audience through digital channels alone because it’s a lower former of engagement. There’s five things going on in a screen, where as TV is demanding your attention in a way you can’t always get online.”

Crain said Wayfair’s marketing has tracked above expectations when it comes to cost-per-visit.