Working for Growth Instead of “Wishful” Thinking-E-commerce Giant Wish’s Turnaround Plan

Working for Growth Instead of “Wishful” Thinking-E-commerce Giant Wish’s Turnaround Plan
Kamya Pandey in partnership with eTail

Wish’s CEO Vijay Talwar sheds light on how Wish’s business model and the new initiatives the company has in store for 2022!

Over the past few years, people across the globe have been transitioning to online shopping. As of 2021, 2.14 billion people are estimated to be shopping for goods and services on the internet, with e-commerce accounting for 19.6% of all retail sales worldwide. One of the companies contributing to the exponential growth of the e-commerce industry is Wish. 

Those of us who spend most of our time on the internet would be familiar with Wish. A single YouTube search would tell you that “Wish hauls” have been all the rage in the past couple of years. It is your one-stop-shop for all kinds of unique products—from clothing to household items and even electronics! 

In January this year, Wish embarked on a journey to improve its user and merchant experience by appointing its new chief executive officer (CEO), Vijay Talwar. In partnership with eTail Asia 2022, Jumpstart Magazine spoke to Talwar to learn about his plans for the company and what merchants and prospective customers can look forward to under his leadership. 

Experience-based leadership

Talwar has had an illustrious career and has held executive positions at various global companies, like Nike Inc. and the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Before he signed on as Wish’s CEO, he was the CEO of sportswear company Foot Locker, which has helped him gain a unique understanding of what the customer wants. 

When asked why he chose to work with Wish, Talwar said, “It is the convergence of tech and retail that really drew me to Wish.” The e-commerce giant’s parent company, Context Logic, was originally made as a recommendation engine that would use a person’s browsing behavior to match them with product advertisements. With his expertise in customer behaviors and the tech roots of Wish, he was keen to explore how technology can be harnessed to get even closer to consumers and serve them better. 

Wish’s business model

Wish’s business model
Wish’s mobile interface 

To make sense of Talwar’s plans for the company, it is important to know how Wish operates. For those of our readers who aren’t familiar with Wish, it is an online marketplace for value-conscious consumers. Products on Wish are heavily discounted, with most items being marked down 80-90% off their original price. 

The way the company manages to do this is by cutting out the middleman. Products are sold directly from manufacturers in China, Myanmar and Indonesia to customers across the world. Another way the company has managed to reduce costs is by leveraging a special shipping agreement between China Post and the U.S. Postal Service, wherein goods that weigh less than 4.4 pounds (or 1.99 kg) are shipped at low costs. Talwar said that this has “unlocked e-commerce for the masses by focusing on affordability and accessibility.” 

Talwar explained that one of Wish’s biggest strengths is the shopping experience it offers. “Wish is designed to mirror social media by providing an endless feed of items to ignite and inspire a purchase,” he mentioned. The company is trying to leverage its strengths as a discovery-based shopping experience. Their technical strength has resulted in about 95% of products on Wish’s shopping feed being potentially relevant to the customer. 

Navigating a rocky path 

Wish’s business model has proven to be fruitful, helping the company reach a value of US$14.1 billion in 2020. However, Talwar has joined Wish at a unique point in the company’s financial history. In the fourth quarter of 2021, the company’s total revenues were US$289 million, which, while impressive, was a year-over-year decrease of 64%. Moreover, Wish’s stock prices have fallen significantly from trading at US$31.19 per share this February to US$1.54 (as of May 16 this year). 

Suffice to say, Talwar has a lot of work cut out for him. Despite the challenges, he is optimistic about the future of the company. “The financial health of our business and the future growth of Wish is dependent on us improving our user experience, deepening our merchant relationships, and achieving organizational efficiencies. When we get these three foundational pillars fortified, we expect to drive the company into a new era of growth,” said Talwar. 

Shaping up 

Besides listening intently to feedback from customers and merchants, Wish is also making changes to the platform based on their changing needs. 

Improving customer experience

One of the main critiques that the company received was poor product quality. To help customers get a better idea of the products they are buying, the company has introduced a shoppable video feature to give a 360-degree view of the product. Merchants can track the performance of their videos using Wish’s merchant dashboard. Talwar also divulged that the company has been working on reducing customer service response times and post-shipment refund rates.

Instating product standards 

To encourage merchants to provide better services, the company has created new programs, like the Wish Standards. Wish Standards is a tiered program under which merchants get special perks to increase the impressions on their stores and build customer loyalty. A merchant’s tier and the perks they receive are directly dependent on user feedback ratings as well as other criteria, like compliance with Wish’s policies and refund rates. 

Expanding merchant base 

Finally, the company has been expanding its reach internationally by bringing in sellers from more countries. To do so, the company has collaborated with software company Wix to facilitate the integration of Wix stores directly into Wish’s web and mobile shopping experience. “This closely aligns with our own goal of working with more local suppliers on a global scale,” Talwar added. 

He explained that the company’s recent efforts are already showing positive results, which is visible through an improvement in the company’s net promoter score (a measure of how likely a customer is to recommend your product or service to others). 

On sustaining growth 

“When a company grows as quickly as Wish did, it can often take on too much in a short space of time. We need to strip back the business and get back to what we do best—which is providing affordable goods that are accessible to all,” Talwar said. 

He shared that in 2022, the company intends to have a merchant-first approach. “The better the merchant experience, the better the user experience,” he added. He also emphasized the importance of future-proofing the business to stay relevant in the e-commerce industry, especially by making itself relevant to Generation Z. 

“Looking ahead to the second half of 2022, we have some more exciting features in the pipeline, and a marketing program that we intend to start ramping from early summer,” Talvar said. With that reassurance, we are all looking forward to Wish’s exciting marketing initiatives in the near future. 

Talwar and executives from many other companies all over the world will speak about the future of marketing post-COVID and so much more at eTail—Expo for Asia’s Leaders in E-Commerce and Digital Marketing—between June 7 and June 9 at Resorts World Convention Centre, Sentosa, Singapore. Check out eTail’s website to get your tickets and make the most of this chance to increase your business know-how!

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Header image courtesy of Wish

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