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Wayfair: Powering e-commerce supply chain with AI and ML

Wayfair: Powering e-commerce supply chain with AI and ML

Wayfair, the online furniture retailer, is revolutionizing the e-commerce supply chain with the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Ankit Menzie, the Director of Global Supply Tech at Wayfair, discussed the company's approach and the technology they are using during a talk at the AI Summit in New York.

Wayfair operates as a two-sided marketplace, serving approximately 20 million customers worldwide. To achieve this scale, they collaborate with over 20,000 suppliers spread across the globe. These suppliers work with manufacturers in different parts of the world to source furniture products and ship them to Wayfair's customers. Ankit Menzie's role involves working closely with these supplier companies to ensure they provide the right products that meet the customers' needs.

Wayfair utilizes a platform called Partner Home, which offers AI and ML services to their suppliers. This technology helps the suppliers grow their businesses by providing algorithms and tools for various tasks. For example, when a supplier wants to add a product to Wayfair's website, they can utilize the platform's algorithms to determine the optimal price to sell the product and choose the right imagery to showcase it. Computer vision plays a crucial role in assisting with image processing tasks, while forecasting algorithms aid in price prediction. Bots are also utilized to crawl other websites and gather information on competitive pricing.

Ankit Menzie provided an example of how Wayfair uses computer vision. When customers browse for furniture on Wayfair's website, they often rely on images uploaded by other customers to gain trust in the products. Computer vision technology analyzes these customer-uploaded images to ensure they meet quality standards and are suitable for prospective customers to view. This image processing helps Wayfair sort and present customer images in the right order, enhancing the overall shopping experience.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on Wayfair's business. As people turned to online shopping during lockdowns, Wayfair experienced exponential growth. Their year-over-year sales saw nearly 100% growth, exceeding expectations. Although Wayfair remains primarily an online store, they are now striving to cater to the larger percentage of customers who still prefer shopping in physical stores. Wayfair has already opened specialty retail brand stores and plans to open a massive-scale Wayfair-level store in the future.

While Wayfair provides their suppliers with advanced technology capabilities, the level of adoption varies among suppliers. Some suppliers are exceptionally advanced and keep up with Wayfair's requirements, while others still rely on outdated technologies like spreadsheets. Wayfair aims to meet suppliers where they are by utilizing their own technology to extract information from documents like PDFs and Excel sheets, reducing the need for extensive upskilling.

Keywords:

Wayfair, e-commerce, supply chain, AI, ML, online store, computer vision, image processing, COVID-19 pandemic, retail stores, technology capabilities, suppliers.

FAQ:

  1. How is Wayfair utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning in its supply chain? Wayfair uses AI and ML technology to provide their suppliers with tools and algorithms for various tasks, such as determining optimal pricing and selecting suitable imagery for products. They also employ computer vision for image processing tasks.

  2. How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact Wayfair's business? During the pandemic, Wayfair experienced exceptional growth as more people turned to online shopping. Their year-over-year sales nearly doubled, exceeding expectations.

  3. Is Wayfair planning to open physical retail stores? Yes, Wayfair has already opened specialty retail brand stores and plans to open a massive-scale Wayfair-level store in the future. These physical stores incorporate augmented reality and virtual reality technology.

  4. How does Wayfair support suppliers with varying levels of technological capabilities? Wayfair aims to meet suppliers where they are by utilizing their own technology to extract information from documents like PDFs and Excel sheets. This reduces the need for extensive upskilling on the part of the suppliers.