Seeing a mattress commercial these days feels as out of fashion as your favorite early aughts low-rise jeans. Never mind that you probably don’t have cable television, but those bed-testing ads of yesteryear, typically featuring smiling actors bouncing on mattresses, have gone out of fashion along with other iconic mainstays of the era.
These days, a number of consumers are skipping the big box (and big ticket) store trip in favor of shopping for a quality sleep product through a hip, millennial-friendly startup. Both Casper and Leesa have found mainstream success selling dreamy mattress setups online, albeit with the help of endless podcast promo code shoutouts. But it didn’t take long for bedding delivery brands to rediscover the advantages of brick-and-mortar, especially given the importance of touch and feel when it comes to investing in a mattress. After all, a direct-to-consumer (DTC) website may be a lot sleeker than an outdated carpeted showroom, but as it turns out, nothing beats that first lay back reaction to convince a customer they’ve found their next mattress.
This is why e-commerce companies specializing in selling bedding items without the middleman are coming full circle and embracing physical sales floors. Take for example, disruptor Purple Mattress, which is going the hybrid online-retail route. As CEO Joe Megibow recently told eMarketer, the company’s partnership with Mattress Firm and Macy’s highlights the “two sides to our storefront strategy.”
“We now have mattresses you can lay on in over 1,500 stores—which means the majority of the U.S. is within a 30- to 40-minute drive of being able to lay on a bed,” Megibow said. “That’s part one of the strategy.”
Another company planning to incorporate stores into its sales model is Saatva, a home furnishings brand that focuses on mattresses and bedding accessories. Launched nearly a decade ago at the dawn of the DTC era, it aims to offer luxury sleep products at affordable price points. With the recent shift to brick-and-mortar in the DTC industry, “Saatva plans to open up a number of viewing rooms in the next few years, on top of a Macy’s partnership.
Saatva co-founder and chief strategy officer Ricky Joshi tells Observer that the online-to-retail trend is no coincidence, as brands are finding the investment to be worth it—not just for sales but also for acquiring new consumer interest.
Saatva, which considers itself the original highly-branded “mattress startup,” uses mapping data to grow and scale beyond e-commerce. “There are many reasons why a showroom works well for us,” Joshi said. “First, I think it’s because we’re a data-driven company and can detect our customers’ patterns through local geography and overall sales.”
Saatva’s showrooms will act as an extension of the company’s website. “But unlike traditional brick-and-mortar sales tactics,” Joshi explained that the sales floor will be a place for new and existing customers to discover products before making a decision.
He also went on to note that startups like Saatva—those confident their products’ (mattresses’) quality can stand up to shoppers’ close scrutiny—could benefit from the in-person buying experience instead of relying on social media hype and marketing spending.
Furthermore, DTC brands are now looking to stand out among a sea of often-indistinguishable, minimalist branding. Joshi explained that with Staava’s “high touch” white glove service, the buying experience goes beyond online checkout, making another case for implementing a store. “We’re not a bed-in-a-box brand,” he added. “We have a national infrastructure with 18 factories and offer installation and remove the mattress,” with 24/7 customer service.
An IAB study released in July supports this claim, showing that with nearly half of consumers opting for “disruptor brands,” shoppers now expect DTC companies to offer omni-channel access and high quality customer service.
In fact, the mission to provide an “educational interaction” even has traditional mattress sellers rethinking their store designs. Take Sleep Number, known for making adjustable beds since the late ’80s, opening a Manhattan showroom in 2018 to revamp its brand and go up against the new guys. Upon its opening, the company’s VP of brand experience, Angela Gearhart, said the store is “one of those must-see retail destinations,” thanks to its use of “seamless technology” throughout. The Flatiron District location offers 3-D digital mapping of the customer’s body to help determine their sleep settings, as well as one-on-one consultations with a “Sleep Professional.”
And because often direct-sales companies have the advantage of an online-native infrastructure, the ability to gradually compete with physical retailers is a lot easier than the other way around.
“Many DTC brands are highly integrated and understand how different types of sales work, not just in store-transactions,” Joshi said, noting that while Saatva’s retail locations may “break even,” its dual functioning as an experience opportunity that drives people to the brand is worth the investment.
“At the end of the day, as long as shoppers are walking out loving the product, that’s all that matters,” he said. “We’re not concerned whether the transaction happens in the showroom or online.”