I bought a mattress online!
Who would buy a mattress online, you may ask? Well, I would, for starters, and so do a lot of others—the online mattress industry is worth about $1.5B. But because a mattress is typically considered a 'fit product' that customers want to try out in person, these bed-in-a-box companies have had to innovate their customer experience to provide value to the buyer in other ways.
Casper, for example, is one of these online mattress brands that provides unique, valuable experiences in the digital world—and in their new pop-up brick-and-mortar locations.
Casper's digital experience
I first came across Casper when I was doing some research for this blog post about the brand's focus on the customer. I had no intention of actually buying a mattress at the time, but I was particularly interested in the fact that Casper does extensive testing with real human sleep subjects in order to develop their products (they must be good then, right?).
Because my own mattress was over ten years old, I began browsing their offerings on casper.com, including watching some of their highly informational product videos and reading through the hundreds of customer reviews on the site. I ended up setting up an account to earn a coupon code for first-time buyers.
BING! Casper now had my email address. But I wasn't annoyed or disappointed with their emails—rather, I was entertained! Sure, I got a few emails introducing their new Wave mattress. But I also got their "snoozeletter" inviting me to digitally squish a mattress on their "foam page" (had to check that one out) and sign up to win a chance to view last summer's solar eclipse from a Casper bed in Casper, Wyoming.
When I digitally squished the mattress (which was certainly a unique call to action online), I got the chance to learn about how the Casper mattress is made, the layers inside it, and the benefits of those layers to the sleeper—fun and informational.
Their Labor Day promotion sent me a coupon code along with an animated (and true, in my opinion) chart comparing happiness to time spent in bed.
Now that Casper had my email address, they were also able to identify me on my various social accounts, like instagram and facebook. Again, I was not disappointed by their content. I actually followed the brand on instagram, and I'm treated to pictures like this the day we moved the clocks forward this spring (check out the relevant, timely caption):
I've also interacted with the Casper chat functionality on the website and via text message (I was psyched to see I could text the brand). I got prompt responses in both channels, and after I made my mattress purchase, I was promptly texted a confirmation and tracking number that I could respond to with questions.
Clearly Casper has put a lot of resources into creating a valuable digital experience for its customers. Entertaining "snoozeletter" content and instagram images kept me engaged during my earlier browsing phase of my buyer's journey. When I was actually in the market to shop for a mattress and needed to research the brand and its products, I had informational videos, product reviews and a handy chat/text feature to talk to a real human on the brand's website.
But there was still something missing—trying out the mattress itself. Sure, Casper and other bed-in-a-box brands have lengthy trial periods during which you can return your mattress for a full refund. But I still wanted to actually lay down on the mattress before putting down my money.
Casper's brick-and-mortar experience
Casper recognized the need for many consumers to test out a mattress before they buy—and responded by opening a dozen or so pop-up stores across the country last fall. This goes against logic for many retail brands that have struggled to create valuable customer experiences and have therefore been closing their stores left and right. But what Casper and other innovative brands understand is that the physical store plays an important role at certain stages of the buyer's journey. Retail locations that create experiences that cater to customer needs at these stages of the journey are valuable to the customer and increase ROI—rather than eating away at profits as a financial liability.
Again, Casper did not disappoint. The website invited me to "schedule a nap" at the store nearest me. In other words, I was invited to sign up for a 30-minute time slot to come test out their beds. But visiting the store to test out their beds was a complete 180 from visiting traditional mattress retailers:
- There were only two different beds to try (the original Casper and the newer Wave model) rather than dozens of indistinguishable varieties at traditional retailers.
- The beds were set up in little semi-private rooms, and I was encouraged to take my time and get comfortable on them. There were hooks to hang up my coat and purse, and I was told to kick my shoes off. The "sales" associate made sure I had lots of Casper pillows with clean pillow cases to help me get comfy, and I was allowed to spend as much time with the bed as I wanted (even actually fall asleep).
- That "sales" associate I mentioned wasn't there to sell me anything at all. She greeted me warmly, showed me around and showed me which mattress was which, then left me alone to do my thing. Yes, she was there to answer my questions about the pillows and sheets, but NOT ONCE was I asked to buy anything.
This is exactly the experience that more brands need to emulate. Casper made sure it was easy for me to find what I was looking for and to get help from knowledgable associates—without the pressure of a heavy-handed sales pitch. This lack of sales pitch is key: a company called mPath created a device that measures customer engagement based on the electric current our bodies carry that changes according to our mood. They found that "...engagement spiked while they were trying out interactive electronics, but dipped dramatically when an employee came over to deliver a so-called 'sales pitch.’"
Thankfully, I didn't encounter one at Casper.
In fact, my trip to the Casper pop-up store was a fun experience that helped me decide that I wanted to start by trying the original Casper mattress. I even texted my husband while I was laying on it and asked: "Would you kill me if I bought one of these today?"
It's easy to get comfy and really experience the Casper mattresses in their pop-up retail locations.
Integrating the digital and physical experiences
The one thing that I think Casper still needs to polish is their integration of the digital and physical experiences. I had done lots of interacting with the brand online before I visited their store location. I even signed up for a time slot to take a nap, so they knew exactly who I was and when I would be arriving at the store. Yet the store associates did not give any indication that they knew who I was or what digital conversations I had been having with the brand before I arrived.
How could this have looked different?
Casper could have taken any number of data points about me and my online behavior to personalize my in-store experience. For example, I had chatted with an associate online about the nap situation. Am I actually supposed to take a nap? Do you change the bedding between nappers? I was a little confused about the process. The store associate could have used that information to say something like, "I know you had some concerns about our nap process. I just want you to know that we change all of our pillow cases between customers, and you're welcome to actually fall asleep if you'd like."
The store assocaites could have also personalized a conversation with me around which products I had been browsing online, which "snoozeletter" content I had interacted with, etc.
Further, after I left the store, the associates could have logged information about my visit (such as the fact that I preferred the original model and was also interested in the sheets). Casper could have provided me with more information about either of those products in a follow-up email, a social ad, or the next time I showed up on the website (or all three of these channels, for that matter).
The data is there—Casper just needs to make that final bridge across the online/offline divide for a truly omnichannel customer experience.
My mattress thus far
I have been sleeping on my original Casper for about two months now, and I have been seriously considering returning it in order to upgrade to the slightly softer Wave model (I'm a side sleeper that prefers some additional cushion on my shoulders and hips). The beauty of this situation is that I've had two months to figure this out, and—thanks to my stellar experiences with the brand so far—I know it will only require a simple chat with customer service to make the switch.
This is mattress shopping evolved. And more retail and consumer brands should take note of Casper's approach.
If your brand needs to polish up its experience a bit, take a look at a reliable framework for getting it done in this post: How to Deliver a Better Omnichannel Experience.
About the Author
Nicole Bump, Director of Content Marketing is responsible for developing the Harte Hanks content strategy, bringing this strategy to life through the editorial board, generating much of the company's content and managing the Harte Hanks social presence. A writer at heart, Nicole also enjoys evaluating ways in which new technologies can enable better content production, distribution and measurement.More Content by Nicole Bump