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THE LATEST INDUSTRY NEWS
Casper Now Understands The Value Of Brick-and-Mortar
Casper execs admit they knew from day one that their lack of a physical store would challenge them in the mattress industry. According to Phil Krim, a co-founder and CEO of the company, someone actually showed up at their make-shift office door wanting to try their mattress early on in their journey as a brand. This was before the ecommerce mattress boom we are experiencing today. To address this challenge, Casper first experimented with pop-up shops in 2017. By opening roughly 15 temporary spaces around the country, they gave consumers the chance to experience Casper products first-hand. The company also partnered with West Elm and Target to give their beds a spotlight in select retail locations. As the consumer demand to touch, feel and even nap on their mattresses prior to purchase continues, Casper has officially opened its first physical store location in New York.
Other industries have seen online-only brands cave to the pressure of the in-person experience too. Warby Parker (optical) and Everlane (fashion) are just two of the more well-known e-brands to open storefronts in recent years. Though these brands are altering their online models by introducing the stores, they are careful to maintain their digital components and ensure brand consistency across all their platforms. They’ve also made sure that visiting their store locations feels like a bit of an adventure.
These brands are not only successful because they’ve provided consumers with convenient experiences as ecommerce businesses, they are also hyper aware of how they tell their stories. The Casper store is approachable for consumers because they’ve paid attention to what they do and do not like about shopping for a mattress. Using this information as a guide, the company has attempted to do something vastly different.
In the Casper store, private “bird houses” create individual bedrooms throughout the space to give shoppers a discrete opportunity to rest on the Casper mattress. The store also shares the same clean but whimsical, mod but comfy aesthetic the brand presents on the web. RSA’s at Caspers are not paid by commission, which helps temper the pestering sales associate cliché. This original showroom will be a trial – allowing the brand to collect responses from patrons and continually alter their model to meet the needs and desires of the consumer. Finally, Casper intends to use the store to host wellness events and other sleep/health education centric programming.
Not only do approachable branding strategies and out-of-the-box ideas made reality make brands like Casper tick. Just as hybrids tend to be popular among mattress models, hybridized shopping experiences are becoming sought after in retail and a Casper store combines the convenience of digital with the exclusivity of trying new products in person.
While retailers can and should take note of what companies like Casper and Warby are doing differently with their storefront locations, the fact that online brands feel a need to open brick and mortar locations clearly indicates that consumers still want to go to a store. It’s now a question of what type of store they want to frequent.
Walmart Enters The Online Mattress Market With Style
After a few years of working to bolster its ecommerce business through a series of strategic acquisitions, Walmart is making its first play in the digitally native market with a new online-only mattress and bedding brand. Launched on February 28th, the company’s new Allswell Home brand combines the convenience of direct-to-consumer ecommerce with the hip branding of Walmart-owned companies like Bonobos and ModCloth. While the larger retail industry will be waiting to see how this new effort will affect Walmart’s overall digital revenue (which saw an increase in 2017, but closed out the year at a more sluggish pace than expected), Allswell’s performance in the market may also provide bedding retailers with valuable information on the long-term viability of an aesthetics-first sales strategy.
In terms of its business model, Allswell follows many of the new standard expectations of the online bedding market. It offers a limited number of mattress options at approachable price points, direct-to-consumer shipping and an extended at-home trial. The collection includes just two mattresses: an all-foam model called The Softer One and a hybrid mattress called the Firmer One. Both mattresses feature contouring memory foam and a built-in plush topper, but the Firmer One also includes a support system of individually wrapped 13-gauge coils. Despite the structural differences, both mattresses will retail at the same price point - ranging from $495 in twin to $855 in queen and topping out at $1,035 in king. So what sets Allswell apart from the rest? The company has zeroed in on two elements of the online mattress category that have proven most attractive to many consumers: convenience and “cool-factor.”
Positioning the collection as an “Instagram-worthy dream bed,” Allswell is sold exclusively through a dedicated website - which boasts a sleek design that feels nothing like the low-cost environment of a Walmart store. To further enhance this “luxe” branding, the retailer has teamed up with a number of leading interior decorators and “top industry tastemakers” to create trendy bedding sets to complement the mattresses. Allswell currently offers four limited edition Bedscapes collections designed by people like TLC interior designer Jeremiah Brent and HGTV host Genevieve Gorder. With individual bedding items ranging from $60 to $350 and complete sets running as high as $1,200, these stylish add-on items are an integral part of Allswell’s luxurious branding - and a valuable opportunity to boost each individual sale.
While convenience has always been a major draw of the online mattress category, many of the leading companies still tout the advanced comfort and technological innovation of their products. Alternatively, the Allswell website does not really drill down on the materials that make up its beds. While the site advertises “innovative technology and luxury materials combined for sleep perfection,” it does not belabor any patented features or exclusive benefits—opting instead to prioritize style and simplicity. It breaks down the shopping process into three easy steps: pick a soft or firm mattress, select from their “curated” bedding looks and then elevate the essentials. That convenience extends beyond the purchase as well. Like most online brands, Allswell will offer an 100-night trial period - but optional white glove service and optional mattress removal is also available for those customers who chose to waive the trial.
For traditional retailers, the Allswell brand is more than just another online competitor - it may provide valuable information on what really connects with consumers. While it could be seen as cynical to assume that people will be more responsive to style over function or innovation, it may be a reality that retailers need to contend with. Savvy sellers will focus on adopting this angle without sacrificing product quality - and that, coupled with a greater focus on stylish accessories, may just be the key to boosting retail revenue.
Are Weighted Blankets The Next Big Thing In Sleep Tech?
Feeling stressed out? Can’t sleep? You’re not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, roughly 40 million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders - making anxiety the most common mental illness in the country. At the same time, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that some 50 to 70 million adults display some form of sleeping disorder - with 40% of the adult population reporting that they experience insomnia. As the prevalence of these disorders continues to grow, more and more consumers are looking for new ways to de-stress and sleep easier. While there are plenty of new high-tech sleep gadgets in the marketplace today, one of the most intriguing is the weighted “anxiety blanket.” Inspired by a decades-old therapy practice called “deep pressure touch,” these heavy blankets have long been used to help increase relaxation and relieve anxiety - and are now entering the consumer market as a non-pharmacological treatment for insomnia. Simple in design and backed by scientific research, weighted blankets are an exciting new opportunity for retailers looking to expand their sleep product offerings.
The science behind the weighted blanket is not new. In fact, the practice has long been used as a therapeutic aid for children with developmental disorders and more recently for adults with acute mental-health issues. Research has shown that having 7 to 12 percent of your body weight resting on top of you reduces the secretion of cortisol and triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain—a combination that works to reduce stress and enhance relaxation. In addition to relieving anxiety, the production of serotonin can also be converted into melatonin, which helps induce sleep. According to a 2015 study from the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology at the University of Gothenburg, the use of a weighted blanket not only increased sleep time and decreased sleep movements, but participants reported that it was easier to settle down and felt more refreshed in the morning. Another study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that weighted blankets help improve sleep satisfaction and reduce both pain and stress.
The use of weighted blankets to promote relaxation and better sleep has become more popular as of late, thanks to a new company called Gravity Blanket. The start-up made a big splash recently, as its Kickstarter campaign quickly blew past its fund-raising goal of $21,500 with a final count of $4,729,263. While the basic concept behind the Gravity Blanket has been used as a therapeutic aid for decades, the company elevated the design to better appeal to the consumer market. Made from 15 to 25 pounds of “non-toxic plastic pellets and a cotton polyester blend mix,” the blanket delivers all the relaxation benefits of increased serotonin and melatonin – while a cover made from ultra-soft microfibers ensures added sleep comfort.
Though the research studies have stopped short of claiming weighted blankets can be used to “treat” or “cure” insomnia, there is plenty of anecdotal information about their efficacy. In a recent article for the New Yorker, writer Jia Tolentino reported of her first night using the Gravity Blanket: “I couldn’t move or see anything, which felt wonderful. That night I slept so deeply that I woke up unnerved.”
In today’s stress-filled world, any product that promises to help you turn off your brain for a while can feel revolutionary. But, ultimately, the appeal of a weighted blanket lies in its simplicity. As some consumers worry about the long-term effects of high-tech devices and pharmacological aids, they serve as an easy-to-understand, analog solution to common sleep problems. And with price points hovering around $250, the growing weighted blanket category could be a new, valuable opportunity for traditional bedding retailers looking to boost their sales.
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