Wayfair, the US-based home ecommerce retailer, has enjoyed continuous growth over the past couple of years. It recently announced a 32% increase in direct retail sales year-on-year for Q1 2017. 

Another significant point of growth for Wayfair has been its presence on social media.

The brand has consistently grown its audience across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, with the latter platform seeing particularly high levels of engagement. From October to November 2016, the Wayfair US Instagram channel accounted for 84% of the brand's total social engagement for the period. 

So, what can other retailers learn from its strategy? 

Here’s a run-down of why I think Wayfair is an example worth following. 

Create consistency (but keep it fresh)

The home and interiors category is a saturated space, especially on visual discovery sites like Pinterest and Instagram. With stiff competition from big global brands like IKEA and West Elm, plus the increasingly popular channels of design and style bloggers - it can be hard to stand out.

The biggest challenge is to create a consistent feed without becoming repetitive or dull.

Consistency on Instagram is important for creating a point of difference - it can help brands establish a unique and recognisable identity. Many often use colours or tones that reflect their overall branding in order to do so. Art retailer Desenio is one example, using a combination of blues, dark green, grey, and monochrome in the majority of its posts. This helps users recognise the brand and allows for a much more seamless and visually pleasing experience.

If posts are too similar, however, it can soon become a negative. With many Instagram users typically engaging with posts directly in their news feed, similar or repetitive posts could eventually be ignored over time.

Desenio is also guilty of this on occasion. And while I personally enjoy its style, I can see how the below screenshot of consecutive posts could appear monotonous.

While Wayfair occasionally uses imagery matching its core colours of yellow and purple, it has chosen to go with an overarching bright and colourful theme, meaning it is not limited to a reduced palette. As well as colour, it also uses a variety of different types of posts, ranging from standard beauty shots of interiors to animals and other more lifestyle orientated photos.

This is perhaps a reflection of its expansive product range. Unlike Desenio, which only sells art, Wayfair sells mattresses, storage, rugs and a whole array of home furnishings. However, even when posting similar images, Wayfair still ensures variety and difference in order to capture user interest.

Engage and respond

While Instagram is a less communicative platform in comparison to the likes of Twitter or Facebook, it is still important for brands to engage with users and respond to comments. 

One way Wayfair helps to prompt user engagement is through its photo captions – some of which ask questions or promote discussion points. Others involve whimsical or humorous comments, but again, it tends to always be varied.

With Instagram’s algorithm favouring posts that generate high levels of engagement, comments and likes can be effective for ensuring high or boosted visibility.

Meanwhile, effective community management on Instagram also involves responding to user queries and comments. 

Wayfair does this by directly replying, offering helpful tips and suggestions to satisfy users and promote loyalty. By reassuring customers or simply pointing them in the right direction, it is able to increase positive sentiment about the brand. 

Make users feel valued

Instagram famously instils ‘FOMO’ in users, with many brands using slick and beautiful imagery to instil desire for a product or lifestyle. While Wayfair does this – it also takes steps to ensure its brand is also accessible and attainable. 

One way is through user generated content, with the brand’s Instagram description asking users to share their own photos of Wayfair products for the chance to be featured online. 

As well as diversifying its feed, this type of content promotes a sense of authenticity, helping others to imagine how their own homes might look instead of merely viewing products from the perspective of the brand. Perhaps even more importantly, this also makes those selected users feel special, helping to strengthen the connection between brand and consumer. 

User generated content is not the only way it does this. Wayfair also uses exclusive competitions, sales and discounts to provide extra value for Instagram followers. It recently used the platform to tease an exclusive series of upcoming sales on its app, prompting users to take action. 

While posts like these can potentially take away from the aforementioned design consistency – and poses the danger of appearing too sales-driven – Wayfair manages to strike a good balance by only doing it every so often. 

Make it discoverable 

According to research, posts which include at least one Instagram hashtag generate on average 12.6% more engagement than those without. 

Hashtags can help to collate user generated content, like in the case of #wayfairathome, but they’re mostly used to aid discovery. Wayfair often uses hashtags related to product categories, such as #serveware or #summercooking, and while these sound rather niche – it means the brand will become visible to users searching for specific inspiration or products.

This falls in line with the view that the more specific the search, the more likely the person is to actually convert to a buying consumer.

That being said, Wayfair doesn’t stick to only product-related tags. It often uses those related to trending or popular topics. And although it’s also guilty of using random and somewhat pointless hashtags this adds to its quirky and slightly humorous identity.  

It’s not only the content itself that needs to be discoverable. As Instagram becomes increasingly shoppable, product links can help make the user eperience much more seamless, allowing users to easily make the transition from browsing to buying. 

Wayfair does think by using Like2Buy – a platform that allows users to find and shop the items featured in an Instagram channel. With 60% of Instagrammers saying they learn about products and services on the app, this means users can directly access them without asking in the comments or endlessly searching the main site. 

Capitalise on influence

Wayfair has a history of using influencer marketing to spur on its social strategy. In 2015, it even launched a conference called HeartHome specifically to foster collaboration between the brand and bloggers.

Its Instagram channel is no different, of course, with the brand regularly featuring content involving and created by influencers. It does not necessarily partner with the most obvious or popular people, instead choosing micro-influencers, or those with a mid-level following, for higher levels of authenticity. 

This more targeted approach extends to the audience, too. Wayfair often works with personalities from TV shows such as the Bachelorette and Pretty Little Liars, drawing on the typically female fan base of these programs. A post featuring actress Shay Mitchell was one of the most popular posts of last year, demonstrating that influencers have the power to generate high levels of engagement. More specifically, how this can be increased when the influencer is aligned with the brand, its audience, and their interests.

In conclusion…

While Wayfair’s Instagram account is by no means the biggest, it is an impressive example of how to capture and engage a community around a core theme.

Other brands owned by Wayfair, such as Joss & Main and Dwell Studio have also rolled out similar Instagram activity – a sure-fire sign that the strategy is effective for generating social growth.

And while the home furnishings category is arguably more aligned to the visual nature of Instagram than others, Wayfair shows why a mix of creativity, usability, and customer insight should be at the heart of any social strategy.

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Nikki Gilliland

Published 23 June, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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