TORONTO – This time last year, a writer for Business Insider sang the praises of a mattress in a box produced by Casper, vowing to never buy a mattress in a store again. She wasn’t the only convert. The innovative online start-up was wildly successful almost from the get-go, attracting such big name investors as Leonardo DiCaprio, Toby Maguire and Adam Levine.
The concept – shipping a compressed mattress in a modestly-sized box directly to the end consumer’s doorstep – resonated with the modern shopper who preferred the ease, simplicity and quickness of purchasing goods online.
It should be noted Casper began shipping to consumers in Canada in December 2014.
The concept was widely featured at this year’s Canadian Furniture Show, with a number of mattress manufacturers and distributors offering their own versions to attending retail buyers.
“As always in the mattress industry, there is a great marketing team that pioneers a new technology and selling approach. The incredible success of the pioneer creates awareness of the category and forces change in the entire industry. Today, it is the success of Casper that is driving the trend,” says Adarsh Shah, chief executive officer of Foamco Industries Corporation, the Concord, Ontario-based parent of Dreameasy Sleep Products.
“Before Casper, I can think of only two other game changing trends: Tempur changed the way we thought of foam and, Serta introduced gel to the masses. Casper has not re-invented the product. In fact, compressed memory foam mattresses have been around for over 10 years. Casper has re-invented the sales pitch,” Shah explains.
“They understand how to connect with today’s consumer better than traditional retailers,” he continues. “Casper’s genius is in recognising the consumer’s pain points (the challenge of evaluating a plethora of mattress choices) and convincingly addressing these pain points by providing great simplicity of choice and convincingly assuring the consumer of comfort, durability and convenience.”
Steve Amis, vice president of sales for Springwall Sleep Products, agrees the bed-in-a-box trend is simply a response to evolving consumer needs.
“The consumer wants a different buying experience and it’s simple as that,” he says. “They don’t want to drive to a brick and mortar store and speak to a salesperson and try all of the mattresses. They want to receive their mattress free of hassle. They do their own research now.”
There are also benefits to the manufacturers who have jumped on the technology, with cost savings being one of them.
“The technology exists to ship a regular mattress coast to coast more affordably,” Amis notes. “We can also ship [on behalf of the retailer] from the factory to the consumer – farm-to-table. It saves time and money.”
Other manufacturers agree.
“It’s [good] to be able to ship the mattress anywhere,” says David Gélinas, executive vice-president of Zedbed. “Freight costs are a big part of our price. When we compress it, it gives us a better price so we can ship it via UPS from our factory to the customer’s house.”
At a time when farm-to-table policies are top of mind, manufacturers and retailers are smart to capitalise on a trend that cuts out the middle man while still keeping everyone in the loop. In some cases, a retailer can ship a boxed mattress to a shopper. In cases where the retailer, particularly a smaller one with limited showroom space, cannot easily ship to the end consumer, the manufacturer can take care of the delivery on their behalf.
In terms of challenges, there are inherent risks (to the consumer, mostly) in purchasing an important commodity without seeing and touching it first. Most bedding execs agree the best way to confront said challenge is to have a consistent return policy that works for online shoppers.
“It’s the policy,” says Gélinas. “Retailers might offer a home trial guarantee for 60 or 90 days [for goods bought in the store]. It should be the same for people who buy online. If it doesn’t work out, someone will take it back and the consumer can buy a new one.”
Gélinas also points out that the bed-in-a-box market is a little more forgiving. It’s also comprised of people who are looking to save a little money. “Young people can sleep on anything,” he says. “It’s not too expensive and most of them have never bought a mattress before.”
Although the category is growing, some retailers are reticent to jump on board and their hesitation makes some sense – trends usually do fade over time and the idea of people ordering a mattress they cannot test beforehand is, indeed, a strange one. That said, online shopping is here to stay – as are consumers who would rather do anything else than spend an afternoon hopping from mattress to mattress at their local big box store.
For that reason, it’s important for manufacturers to focus on educating retailers on the basics of the mattress, not just the simplicity inherent in the delivery process. End consumers have to know that the product is comfortable, above all else.
“We are educating our retailers about what makes high quality foam and how it impacts recovery and durability,” says Foamco’s Shah. “We are keeping the program simple and highly competitive, so it is easy to execute and explain. Retailers don’t have to stock up and can avoid driving long distances to make home deliveries. This is possible because we have negotiated incredible rates with FedEx, so we can ship these mattresses to almost any urban location in Canada for $45 on their behalf.”
However, Shah also believes buying mattresses online won’t dominate the industry. “We do not believe consumers will bypass traditional retailers. In fact, we want to educate them that traditional retailers are their best source for curated information on sleeping better.”
Boxed beds still comprise a decidedly modest portion of the average manufacturer’s sales, something that could change slowly as time goes on.
“It’s a really small part of sales,” says Zedbed’s Gélinas. “It always depends on the retailer’s promotion. For them, it’s a new thing and the opposite of what they normally do. But it’s the future. If we look at data, we’ll see a year over year increase in e-commerce business. Retailers will see this change, too.”
The bed-in-a-box is trend is interesting in the sense that it probably won’t overtake the traditional mattress buying experience. Rather than changing the industry entirely, it’s simply targeting another consumer – the younger one with limited time and a tighter budget.
“It will never disrupt the standard of business because mattresses are still a big expense for consumers and you can find mattress stores everywhere. We’ve given people the choice to go in the store or go online,” Gélinas points out.
So while the idea might seem strange, major manufacturers believe retailers should embrace it.
“There’s value in the concept,” says Springwall’s Amis. “It’s driven by the consumer. [It’s important] to make retailers aware of what’s going on around them. There are all kinds of success stories. It’s growing, not just emerging.”
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