The TV ads are compelling. A young couple in their late 20s eagerly anticipates the arrival of a new mattress. It shows up in their bedroom, a crisp, clean box – the type that should contain something much cooler than a mattress, perhaps a product from Nest, or an Amazon Echo.
The couple does not just simply open the box, they make unboxing into an event. They might even video the unboxing and post that to YouTube. The mattress expands itself and becomes a queen-sized, memory foam-covered bed, and as it does so, it becomes a digital transformer.
The fact that the mattress arrives in a box, one that can be driven home easily in the trunk of the average Uber, is significant. It can be carried up the stairs easily. The experience of receiving this item into the home is pleasant and effortless. Assuming the lifespan of a mattress to be between five and ten years, this delivery day comprises a fraction of one percent of its entire time spent in the customer’s house: one day out of a couple of thousand.
Influence and Disruption?
The box-based delivery is a key influencer in the buying decision. But is it the sole disruptor? Or is there more?
There is likely something more. Something that symbolizes the digital transformation that is changing the world. There are well over 20 companies currently offering boxed mattresses. The most successful, like Casper, are doing so in part because of their digital strategy.
Casper’s customer base consists of digitally connected people, mostly of the younger demographic, who carry their smartphones with them everywhere, and who buy everything online from those same devices.
According to a report by Milward Brown, the smartphone has emerged as the number one screen worldwide, with 151 minutes (two-and-a-half hours) spent on it per day, more than TV, PC or tablet. These are customers who are willing to pay more for a better experience. The self-service nature of the online ordering and customer service website puts them in control.
Youth Factor = Hip and Cool
Older, more established mattress manufacturers like Sealy initially rejected the mattress-in-a-box concept, but as it gained traction, they too started to offer a boxed product. But their boxed offerings have not been embraced quite as enthusiastically, in part because their brand represents an older generation. Andy Prochazka, co-inventor of the boxed mattress, put it this way: “They look just as hip, but lack the cool factor of a startup company. It feels disingenuous.”
The panache of “the startup” is symbolic of this data-driven, customer-focused economy. In earlier decades, innovative new companies were looked upon with caution, their youth perceived as a liability, when competing against established brands. But the mobile digital economy is changing that very quickly.
The youth factor of a startup now connotes an organization whose business hypothesis is validated by real-time data, that focuses on the customer. This market-facing agility is matched by a silo-free back office, populated by individuals who have in large part grown up with technology in hand.
Removing Physical Stores from Big Box Sales
The mattress-in-a-box removes the retail store completely from the picture, along with its expensive floor space. Customers are protected by the same extensive money-back guarantees as their brick-and-mortar predecessors, but the relationship exists entirely through the smartphone. In the case of Casper, these competitors are not restricted solely to other mattress chains. Its line of dog beds means that pet store chains, too, must sit up and take notice.
It has been traditionally accepted that mattress customers are once-per-decade shoppers for whom brand loyalty may be diluted by time. Casper, however, recognizes the potential of building a community to generate loyalty and referral business, and to also collect vital customer data and build a social media-style community. It achieves this in large part through its sub-brand Van Winkles, a website community dedicated to discussing the art and science of sleep.
This is what high-tech transformation means. It is about managing change by leading change, by recognizing the needs of the customers and connecting with them everywhere they happen to be: online, in their homes, and now, even where they sleep.