Wayfair’s Test and Learn: Alternative Currency in Action

As a participant in NBCU’s Q1 test and learn, Wayfair is one of few brands with firsthand experience using alternative TV currency. At TV Disrupt 2022, Lauren Sutkowski, Head of TV and Branded Content Marketing, presented how the online furniture retailer is refining its strategy for the 2022/23 upfronts based on key takeaways from the test and learn.

Wayfair’s Cross-Screen TV Ad Strategy

To ensure an appropriate level of spend to achieve efficient growth, Wayfair puts a huge emphasis on building forecasts from the bottom up. This provides Wayfair the leeway to drive growth and ensure each marketing channel is optimized based on performance, while capitalizing on trends when they see fit. 

Wayfair uses a multi-pronged approach to accomplish its cross-screen TV advertising goals. First, the company looks at incremental revenue when building spend forecasts and TV campaigns. 

“We are constantly looking to quantify the impact that that last TV touchpoint had on a purchaser’s ultimate journey and conversion. So we actually use the iSpot Individual User Level Data feed to help enable a lot of this. We look at incremental revenue that TV drives both at a total TV level, as well as at the individual network level.”

Lauren Sutkowski, Head of TV and Branded Content Marketing at Wayfair

Wayfair also uses an immediate impact survey to build TV spend forecasts, which helps Lauren and her team understand harder-to-quantify pieces like brand perception and awareness of emerging categories. 

Wayfair constantly looks for more ways to support a data-driven approach. So, Wayfair was understandably excited to partner with NBCU and iSpot for the alternative currency test and learn. Ultimately, the brand wanted to gain a granular level of visibility into its delivery across linear and digital. With weekly training and Q&A sessions, it was a lighter lift than Wayfair expected and “very, very seamless from an advertiser perspective”, says Sutkowski.

“We had some hypotheses going into this around which platforms would truly be incremental to what we’re doing on linear, but we really wanted to be able to validate that. Then, we saw the next layer was that once we validate which platforms are incremental, how can we use that to help really tailor our creative messaging by platform.”

Lauren Sutkowski, Head of TV and Branded Content Marketing at Wayfair

Wayfair’s Test and Learn: Concrete Results

Wayfair found the test and learn especially helpful when it came to cross-screen insights. In one instance, Wayfair discovered that 40% of impressions on an unnamed NBCU digital platform were incremental to linear within the core demo.

“This was incredibly exciting for us, because we do not have a small footprint on NBCUniversal properties. We have a pretty strong linear presence across the board on NBCU networks; therefore we were a little afraid that it might be hard to really drive double digit incremental reach there.”

-Lauren Sutkowski, Head of TV and Branded Content Marketing at Wayfair

Additionally, incrementality at the program level was also revealing. News programming across NBCU’s linear networks is a high value audience for Wayfair. The online retailer did not prioritize seeking news audiences out on digital since their linear presence was so strong and didn’t want overlapping audiences. Through the test and learn, Wayfair discovered one digital video news program drove significant incremental reach, which Lauren and her team didn’t necessarily think would be feasible given their linear presence. Initially, Wayfair was hesitant to lean more heavily into news, but ultimately, it turned out to be a significant unlock for the brand.

Wayfair’s Next Steps – Ensuring an Effective Upcoming Upfronts and Beyond

  • Proving linear-led with CTV complementing as the optimal strategy

Wayfair has historically taken a linear-led approach to TV. The strategy is that CTV should be entirely complementary to linear. This means that, for linear, they want mass reach on their messages. On the other hand, CTV allows the brand to make sure that they are hitting people the exact number of times to drive conversions. This strategy also ensures that Wayfair is hitting people with the right messages at the right time of the customer journey. 

Wayfair was initially hesitant about effectively managing a linear-led strategy with network-direct buys. The test and learn made it clear that the brand was too shortsighted in this thinking. Wayfair was able to see that, with the right insights, they can get incredibly tailored with their digital buys to complement linear.

  • Aligning messaging more closely with viewer frequency

Wayfair is also altering its approach to creative messaging to be linear-led with CTV complementing. The brand realizes certain platforms are driving significantly more incremental reach. This presents the opportunity for the brand to be more intentional about pushing core evergreen Wayfair messaging; ensuring that those audiences are starting to get familiar with the brand, since they’re ultimately not seeing it on TV.

  • Tailoring messaging to feature more emerging categories

On the other hand, there are different platforms that are much stronger frequency plays than incremental reach drivers for Wayfair. So, Lauren and her team want to tailor creative to align with the optimal frequency of those platforms. With this, the brand is always trying to push the emerging product categories that they have. For example, Wayfair can tailor their messaging pretty exclusively to those emerging categories to make sure that mature audiences see the creatives and value propositions that the brand wants them to see.

Wayfair found that whether or not a given platform’s audience drives frequency and/or reach is a lot more important to linear spend than originally anticipated. With this knowledge, Wayfair has disproved a few hypotheses and made sure that they are extremely effective with spend on digital.

Wayfair is always hungry for stronger measurement models to validate and measure the efficacy of advertising performance. This test and learn environment gave the brand insights where they did not have opportunity to dig into beforehand. Ultimately, Wayfair discovered new opportunities and ensured effective campaign optimizations; which will also influence their approach to TV buying in the 22/23 upfronts and beyond. Through the test and learn with NBCU and iSpot, they achieved a more appropriate, more ideal balance between digital opportunities and linear lead campaign.

Watch Wayfair’s Session from TV Disrupt 2022: