If you walked the streets of Boston and asked people the following question, “What company was originally called CSN Stores?” I bet very few of them would know the answer. However, if you ask the same people if they’ve heard of Wayfair, I bet almost 100% of the people would recognize the brand.
CSN Stores was never a brand name that consumers needed to know. The company started in 2002 and their eCommerce business was driven by high value domain names like racksandstands.com, cookware.com, strollers.com, and many more. The SEO strategy worked well and the company grew to $500M in revenue based on this strategy.
However, in order to take the next step as a company, CSN Stores made a risky bet in 2011 to consolidate the 200+ domain names to a single brand called Wayfair.
It takes a team effort to make a shift to one unified brand, but at the helm during this transition was Ed Macri, who is now Wayfair’s Chief Product & Marketing Officer. Yes, he’s one of the few people to lead both product management and marketing in the Boston tech scene at such a massive scale. Looking back at Macri’s background, it wasn’t a typical career path which got him to this leadership role at one of the world’s largest eCommerce companies.
The Background Story
Growing up in New England, Macri was an only child. Family dinner conversations tended to focus on business, as his parents ran one together. In high school, he competed as part of the crew team. He also remembers spending time sketching and designing as hobbies, and even taught himself how to program on his Commodore 64 computer.
Macri went on to attend Dartmouth in Hanover, NH where he built a custom major around math and social sciences. Upon graduation, he joined Bain & Company within their internal IT function. His job turned into a hybrid position where he was ultimately in a product management role, while he was also learning how to code in Visual Basic, ASP, and SQL.
He helped the firm launch lots of several internal applications around knowledge sharing, team management and other functional areas like time & expenses tracking. His position was interesting, but it was time to try something new.
Looking to expand his horizons, he decided that business school was his best option and he ended up studying at MIT Sloan. While attending Sloan, he found the experience to be perfect, as he was exposed to a variety of business concepts and he was even the co-executive producer of the eBusiness awards.
Upon graduation, he joined Digitas, a digital marketing agency, where he ended up establishing the foundation for his marketing toolkit by building expertise around SEO, SEM, and concepts around web design. At Digitas, he was able to work with several marquee clients like Delta, Bayer, and AT&T. He would help these companies with the strategy and implementation of different digital marketing initiatives.
After four years, he decided to work his way into a product company. He joined Emptoris, a supply and contract management software company, in a Product Marketing Manager position. Here, he held a variety of responsibilities like training sales engineers, competitive market analysis, and working closely with IT analysts like Forrester and Gartner.
“It was a great opportunity, however the role wasn’t exactly what I was looking to do long term,” said Macri.
He ended up meeting Niraj Shah and Steven Conine through a mutual acquaintance when they were looking for someone to start an analytics group at CSN Stores. It was 2007 and the company had less than 300 employees. They were growing rapidly and it ended up being the ideal opportunity. He stepped right in and built out the original business intelligence stack from the ground up and subsequently owned SEO & SEM.
Two years into his career at Wayfair, Macri started to run marketing and then, two years ago, he took over the product management function.
Today, Macri is responsible for a 350 person team which includes marketing and product across all their brands and platforms, plus the company’s media business.
“I’ve been with Wayfair for a decade as of last March and every 18 months, it has been a completely different job,” said Macri. “It has been the most challenging and rewarding work of my career.”
Establishing the Brand
So, why did the company decide to disrupt their business and build out a single consumer facing brand?
“We felt like we weren’t maximizing the share of wallet from our customers given how they would come to us and buy products,” said Macri. “We knew our customers would need other products from us down the road, but they didn’t know each website was owned by the same company.”
In 2011, the company took the leap of faith and launched Wayfair. As expected, the first 12 months was a transitionary period due to the massive disruption to their business. But, over time, things started to come together and the brand started to resonate with consumers.
One outlet which helped the company build a strong brand was through television commercials. Nancy Go, Wayfair’s VP of Brand Marketing, was the mastermind for this initiative and although this form of advertising is expensive compared to more transactionally-oriented digital marketing, it proved to be highly effective. Today, Wayfair has their own in-house ad agency called Waygency. This team owns Wayfair’s advertising from soup to nuts, from media buying to producing the commercials that you’ll see on HGTV and other television networks.
As someone who is running an organization of this size, one would certainly understand the challenges which come along with it, especially around prioritizing one’s time. These days, Macri is focused on working closely with the product team and helping them think through design initiatives. Plus, Wayfair is making a big investment in international expansion, which is also a core area of focus for his time these days. And, of course hiring great talent.
Since day one, Wayfair has always had a reputation for having a very data-driven culture, so it comes as no surprise that this mindset is heavily factored in when hiring for Macri’s organization. Potential marketing hires, whether individual contributors or VPs, are required to do a heavy quantitative and analytical case study to make sure they will have the intellectual rigor.
“On top of that we also look for people who are intellectually curious, and highly collaborative,” says Macri.
Outside of work, Macri loves to travel with his boyfriend and spend time in Provincetown on Cape Cod. He’s also heavily involved in a major renovation of his home in Boston, which doesn’t come as a surprise from this particular marketing and product executive. One would assume he is always looking for an excuse to shop at one of the largest online destinations for the home!