5 Minutes With Martin Reiter, General Manager, Wayfair

Recently, online furniture and home decor retailer Wayfair announced a partnership with ITV presenter Lorraine Kelly that will see her become the face of the brand in the UK. Ahead of the November launch of the campaign, we spoke to the brand's general manager, Martin Reiter, for this week's '5 Minutes With' profile.

Wayfair General Manager

Congratulations on the partnership with Lorraine Kelly! What brought it about?

We were looking to collaborate with a much-loved personality for our latest marketing campaign. As one of the nation‘s favourite presenters, Lorraine was the perfect choice and her fun and down-to-earth nature makes her a great fit for Wayfair.

How will this benefit Wayfair?

Our first TV advertisement with Lorraine highlights our range of budget-friendly finds to high-end styles, as well as how easy it is to shop for every room in the home at Wayfair.co.uk.

Lorraine brings approachability and warmth to the campaign, so we are delighted to have her onboard as a brand ambassador.

Can you provide more details on the November launch?

In addition to this autumn‘s TV campaign, Lorraine will be collaborating with Wayfair on a festive dining room makeover. At Wayfair.co.uk, Lorraine will give shoppers a look at how to style their homes for the season, using a wide array of unique yet affordable finds.

Lorraine will also be sharing her top gift picks for the festive period in another shoppable sale.

Describe your role as General Manager of Wayfair Europe.

I‘m responsible for the business across all functions in Europe, spanning everything from category management to buying and pricing, enabling us to offer the very widest selection of and affordable homeware, through to engineering, merchandising, operations and marketing, which all ensure we deliver a top-notch experience for our customer.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background before Wayfair.

I started at management consultancy, McKinsey, after a brief stint in academia. This took me to Japan and Russia, where I learned a lot about management, sales and different cultures.

After that, I headed up international organisation at Airbnb, building the team from two people to more than 300 people, in 13 offices within 18 months.

What got you into the retail sector in the first place?

I like retail as it‘s the ultimate B2C business. It‘s accessible to all. Despite that, it has a certain complexity and every day presents a new challenge, which I find very rewarding.

How has your previous experience aided your current job?

I‘ve got a lot of experience building brands internationally and thrive in a high-growth environment. Leading international teams from different contexts and cultures has also been very helpful. It humbles a lot, and there is no learning without humility.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

That depends on what I need to do that I know least about. And that changes, as the business changes and as I learn.

And the most rewarding?

Being able to build a work environment that people can genuinely thrive in. Low-ego, appreciative and non-judgmental. Where people can admit failure, and get celebrated for it and not chastised. I want it to feel like we are in a boat rowing across the Atlantic. You don‘t think who reports to who, or anything like that. You row as a team – when it rains and when the sun shines. And when someone struggles, you are there to help. You would never think what is in it for you. Your life depends on working as a team.

How is Wayfair addressing some of the challenges facing the UK high street?

Consumers are increasingly embracing the selection and convenience of shopping online instead of in physical bricks-and-mortar stores. Wayfair is taking advantage of that shift and capturing market share by offering a customer-centric shopping experience.

We‘re doing a lot of work in augmented reality technology, making it possible for shoppers to see items in their home at scale before they make a purchase. We‘re also growing our proprietary logistics network to offer faster delivery speeds and a seamless shopping experience from start to finish.

Finally, we are continuously expanding our product offering across multiple categories including plumbing, flooring, door and cabinet hardware, mattresses, seasonal décor and housewares. These developments are resonating strongly with customers, who are embracing the many benefits of online shopping as opposed to shopping on the high street, which has more limitations.

Do you hope to open bricks-and-mortar stores for Wayfair anytime soon?

We see a significant opportunity online – and we‘re constantly innovating to enhance the shopping experience for our customers to make it more convenient than ever to shop for their home, from their home. From delivering visual merchandising to leveraging innovative technology such as augmented reality to let customers preview items in their home at full-scale before placing an order.

Wayfair is currently available in the US, Canada, UK and Germany, so we also have a strong international presence.

Can you talk about any other projects that you‘re working on?
In the coming weeks, we will be launching a “Search with Photo” feature in Europe that will enable our customers to find a look-alike item on Wayfair in a matter of seconds, making it easier than ever to find just the right pieces for their space.

What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail?

I think it‘s important to think about high growth and low growth environments. I think that‘s the biggest difference across industries. High growth is for people who thrive on change. If that‘s not you, I wouldn‘t do it.

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