Wayfair has experienced significant success since 2011, however it wasn’t always smooth sailing. In fact, it was a major name change that turned things around for the home and furniture company, demonstrating the critical role a business name plays in branding. Let’s take a look at their story.
Wayfair wasn’t always called Wayfair. Originally founded in 2002, the e-commerce company initially operated under the name CSN Stores. CSN Stores was the project of two entrepreneurs, Niraj Shah and Steve Conine, both graduates of Cornell University. The original name was derived from the pair’s initials, CSN.
The company began offering storage furniture and media stands, before branching off into patio and garden supplies in 2003. They moved from a two-person company to one with more than twelve employees, opened three online stores, and moved their headquarters from Conine’s spare room to an office in Boston.
The growth didn’t stop there. The expansion continued into a range of markets from home decor and furniture to luggage and lighting. The company had a revenue of $100 million in 2006 alone. This prompted further expansion across the USA and into international markets. By 2008, CNS Stores was operating in the UK, even opening a London office to service its clients in that area. They were also named the ‘fastest-growing private e-commerce company in Massachusetts’ by Boston Business Journal, an aptly awarded title given the speed of their expansions.
The problem Wayfair faced
While CNS Stores experienced huge success, thus leading to their rapid expansions, they continued to face one key problem – nobody knew their brand. Up until this point, CSN Stores was the overarching brand for a variety of niche websites that each focused on a specific house or furniture product. While consumers were familiar with the specific sites, they did not make the connection between one of CSN’s specialty sites and another.
As CNS Stores expanded into new markets, they would simply create a new website and name specifically for that product. Shah and Conine’s entire approach was cemented in SEO techniques, and new websites worked to an extent. They identified a gap in the market, chose a product and created a website that would be visible in Google searches. This approach was successful because consumers would somehow stumble across a CNS Store during their research.
The problem was that CNS Stores had very few repeat customers. This occurred for two reasons. Firstly, the majority of customers had landed on the page unexpectedly to begin with, but the other issue was the fact that there was no link between the different CNS Stores websites. There was no umbrella brand that people recognized or any link between the sites that would refer consumers between them. Customers were simply landing on the page, buying a product and never really engaging with the stores again, unless they happened to find one of the stores through a Google search in the future.
How they chose the name Wayfair
Shah and Conine recognized this problem. They needed a new, stronger brand, one that would connect all of their products together and that people would recognize. And it needed a name.
They engaged a marketing agency and the Wayfair brand was born. There is no special story or unique meaning behind the name Wayfair. Instead, it is simply a combination of two words that performed well during focus group testing: ‘way’ and ‘fair’.
That being said, it passes all of the tests. It is simple, easy to remember and most people would be able to understand what you are saying if you mentioned the term to them in a crowded room. And as it turned out, a new name (and united brand) was exactly what Wayfair needed.
Why the name Wayfair resulted in success
As of September 1 2011, CNS Stores was no more. By July 2012, all of the niche websites had been consolidated under the Wayfair brand. Shah and Conine had addressed the disjointed nature of their company and the move paid off.
Wayfair generated revenue over $900 million in 2013 and was the largest home and furniture e-commerce brand in January 2014. It was also the 33rd largest e-commerce brand in the USA, and the success didn’t stop there. The brand has gone from strength to strength, bringing in a revenue of $4.7 billion in 2017. All because of a rebranding exercise and a name change.
If you’ve ever doubted the power of an e-commerce brand name before, Wayfair proves why the right name (and good branding) is essential to success.
Grant Polachek is the Director of Marketing at Squadhelp–transforming the way names are developed by combining an affordable agency-level brainstorming process with the unmatched creativity of “the crowd.”