At a time when retailers and their suppliers are moving to address the environmental concerns more consumers are expressing, Wayfair is helping its shoppers more easily connect with eco-friendly products through the refinement of its Shop Sustainably initiative.
Wayfair took responses to its initial Shop Sustainably initiative and applied them with the goal of making it easier for consumers to connect with products that align with their environmental and social priorities.
Derek Oliver, Wayfair’s global head of corporate responsibility and government affairs, told HomePage News that, as with anything else the company does, Wayfair evaluated Shop Sustainably using market research and customer communication in an effort to make the initial program better conform to consumer needs and preferences.
“We’re always looking for feedback and trying to see what’s happening, so that definitely impacted it,” he said. “I think the whole idea we’ve gotten is to make this as simple and convenient and easy for the customer as possible. So much of the refresh and the learning was: Get this in front of customers in a way that would resonate with them and in an easy-to-understand system. We tried to create so astute observers could see all the information they wanted to see. But the feedback and preferences we got were: Keep it simple on-site so as many customers as possible would feel it’s accessible to them.”
So much of the refresh and the learning was: Get this in front of customers in a way that would resonate with them and in an easy-to-understand system. We tried to create so astute observers could see all the information they wanted to see. But the feedback and preferences we got were: Keep it simple on-site so as many customers as possible would feel it’s accessible to them.
– Derek Oliver, Global Head of Corporate Responsibility and Government Affairs, Wayfair
The program, launched initially in March of 2021, emerged as a function of the Wayfair search engine. By using it, Wayfair provided a way for shoppers to connect with 500,000 products offered on the company’s platform that incorporated eco-friendly and related social features. Each of the Shop Sustainably products met specific environmental, health, indoor air quality, or community-related certifications or standards.
However, the system as launched proved somewhat unwieldy in use. To create the new iteration of Shop Sustainably, Wayfair refined product classes and categories to help customers find what they’re looking for quickly. The company also reorganized categories for greater clarity. So, what had been Local Community Empowerment shifted into the Fair Trade designation and Made Clean translated into Nontoxic.
As part of the process, Wayfair narrowed the scope of third-party certifications included in Shop Sustainably to ensure that each certification connected with a sustainable product class that its customers typically sought. Although that constituted some narrowing of the range, Wayfair continues to speak with potential third-party certification partners as Shop Sustainably evolves as it expands the product offering to meet emerging demand.
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In October of this year, Wayfair announced it was rolling out the revamped and consolidated Shop Sustainably program, highlighting more than 12,000 items across Wayfair’s family of brands. Now environmentally conscious shoppers can filter for the kind of characteristics that are important to them from WaterEfficient and Organic Content to Cruelty-Free and Fair Trade.
The eco-friendly characteristics of Shop Sustainably items on the Wayfair platform reside within the product overviews, descriptions and/or specifications for Shop Sustainably items on the Wayfair platform including logos of certifying bodies in some cases. The offering spans furnishings and appliances and provides product-specific certifications such as LEVEL BY BIFMA, FloorScore Green Squared, MAS Certified Green, and Indoor Advantage. Many of the certifications included in the Shop Sustainably program qualify for building rating systems, including LEED v4.1, BREEAM, WELL Building, and Living Building Challenge.
Wayfair asserts that it is home to the largest variety of sustainability certifications featured by a home retailer. In the refreshed Shop Sustainably program, Wayfair customers can shop for products that meet sustainability criteria for one or more of some 50 certifications.
The Wayfair website in the About section includes a Shop Sustainably destination page that includes a pledge that the company’s goal is to help customers easily find products that meet their needs. So, when shopping on Wayfair, consumers can select a Shop Sustainably filter to find certified sustainable products. The page also includes an introduction to certifications. A click-through provides a more detailed account of how consumers can use Shop Sustainably to view all eco-friendly products or those that address specific environmental and related considerations via certifications including Energy Star Certified, Greenguard Certified and EPA WaterSense Certified cover. Or they can shop by category including Fair Trade or Sustainable Wood Products. Then, the items under Sustainable Wood Products reference certifications from Forest Stewardship Council, PEFC, and/or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
A different click-through on the Shop Sustainably page brings consumers to another one that lists and explains each certification.
The Shop Sustainably assortment spans furniture, décor, and appliances so certifications include a wide range of standards and even building product-specific certifications such as LEVEL BY BIFMA, FloorScore, Green Squared, MAS Certified Green, and Indoor Advantage. Many of the certifications included in Shop Sustainably qualify for building rating systems, including LEED v4.1, BREEAM, WELL Building and Living Building Challenge, allowing both homeowners and business professionals to shop Wayfair that meet their professional needs.
“The certifying bodies are key to the program,” Oliver said. “We did not want to create a Wayfair-specific sustainable certification.”
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The idea is to give consumers standards against which they could make determinations about purchases. Certifying bodies, many widely recognized and frequently linked to well-regarded environmental institutions, provide set standards that not only consumers but also Wayfair suppliers can tap into to address their own efforts, in this case, to manufacture sustainable products consistent with certification standards.
Wayfair wanted to make it easy for suppliers to participate in Shop Sustainably just as it did consumers.
“We wanted to work with our suppliers to create engagement,” Oliver pointed out. “So, in my mind, they are a key piece. The partnership with them is integral.”
Now, Wayfair is waiting to see how consumers respond to the updated Shop Sustainably.
“It’s very early days on the refresh,” Oliver said. “I don’t want to get too far ahead. It was a fairly fulsome refresh. I think we have to go back to any shift of customer preference comparing the 2021 version and marry that out to the 2022 version because they are so different. I think our focus is creating the best retail customer engagement. That will be the testament to where we’re going because it’s really about making sure we have a great offering.”
The revamped Shop Sustainably initiative is a response to the desire expressed by many consumers to quickly find products that are consistent with their environmental and social sensibilities.
“There has been a lot more interest,” Oliver says. “Our goal was to make our offering as simple and seamless and customer friendly as possible. That’s what we’ve focused on. Shop Sustainably gives the customer a way to come and have another great experience on the site.”
Even if not every consumer is looking to tap Shop Sustainably, as not every customer will search for contemporary styles or outdoor dinnerware on the site because those products aren’t within the spectrum of their tastes and needs, to have programs that allow consumers with specific preferences to more easily find what they want enhances the overall satisfaction of customers across the Wayfair spectrum.
“That still is the goal, to make sure the customer has access to more sustainable products on our site. That’s been the driving force, to delight the customer, deliver for the customer and engage the customer, and have them come back,” Oliver says.