Eye on Experience: Casper Flagship
Casper disrupted the mattress industry by doing the unthinkable — enticing people to buy mattresses, sight unseen and back support untested. They found ways to minimize perceived risk, such as a lengthy trial period and glowing reviews, but few could see their success coming. With the opening of their flagship experience in New York City, Casper is once again trying to disrupt a once sleepy industry by rethinking the brick and mortar shopping experience.
At a basic experience level, we assumed Casper’s physical presence would be overcoming the natural hesitance that exists for a digital-first brand. Try it, and buy it.
We were obviously curious how a digital disruption would translate into physical space. Brands like Warby Parker and Birchbox moved into physical retail by rethinking nearly every step of their category experiences and have set a pretty high bar for their digital peers.
Two themes thread throughout the Casper experience: construction and comfort. Their product development expertise shines through in every display that showcases the make-up of products. This is done through low-tech, high-touch displays that add a lot of dimension and understanding. The overall experience within the store focuses on peace-of-mind, not just in the product reliability, but the emotional space that bedding occupies in our minds. Our beds are very personal choices, after all.
Casper uses their brand voice to add charming details to their storytelling, and something as simple as a decorative window shade further pulls you into the experience. There are day and night story modes that remind you sleep is more than falling into, but waking up with a refreshed, energized feeling. The takeaway is that Casper is not just about a mattress but the benefits of a great night of sleep, and every detail and product that lends itself to feeling well-rested. The store feels like a paradigm shift for the brand in that sense, and a follow-up visit to their website confirms that through magazines and other products, Casper wants to be the authority on all things sleep.
The showroom is bright, clean and simple. At times perhaps too simple, like an upscale IKEA. This demonstrates that brands need to consider many contexts during creative development so it engages in all channels. Zones are carved out to learn more about pillows, sheets, accessories, and of course the mattresses themselves. A typical mattress showroom lines beds up side-by-side, and this typical shopping experience can leave you feeling exposed and actually not able to relax. Haven’t we all awkwardly contorted our bodies to avoid putting our feet on the bed, or tried to not get too comfortable as strangers roamed around you?
Casper removes this barrier by creating individual tiny houses for each mattress. Customers can close the curtains and draw the shades, and a footer at the end of the bed makes it a-ok to put your feet up and get comfortable. You can even book a nap ahead of time (free of charge!) and take advantage of the comfy surroundings. As a refreshing and unexpected choice, the Casper showroom is absent of any technology, aside from iPad checkout. The back-to-basics approach feels authentic to the brand and brings in a more human element, instead of translated a web experience to a store.
Casper is a brand that, as digital-first by nature, is fairly straightforward and does not rely on human interaction to succeed. The in-store service is friendly and approachable, and their permission to try as many beds as you like is the key to the space’s success. It was surprising to find the farewell a bit pushy and transactional, as if there are quotas to meet. It is the one element of the experience that feels like the mattress store of yesterday, where moving inventory is the primary goal. And it’s hardly the way one wants to end a nap experience.
When a digital-first brand extends to brick-and-mortar the expectation is that something special and unique will pull you in. The concept of marrying mattress showroom with by-appointment nap salon is really intriguing, and the houses add a touch of low-key spectacle. It’s fun and unique in a way that makes you wonder why it hasn’t been done before. The online booking feels like a missed opportunity to heighten this offer to something truly special. Later we found out each house supposedly has its own sound effects — maybe somebody forgot to flip the switch on when we were there?
The high point for every member on our team was the opportunity to try out the legendary Casper mattresses for themselves, and to do so in such a fun environment. Casper has rethought this moment of truth and it pays off. Whatever reluctance each of us had about the brand before going into the store disappeared.
But the beginning and end of the experience ranked as low points all around. Winding through the accessories, some perhaps too expensive, delayed the main event for some. This is where it becomes obvious Casper is trying to expand its reach, but there may be a lack of clarity around how accessible or upscale the brand really is.
Service is the real low point though. Some customer segmentation work could go a long way to help associates navigate different levels of interest and need. Not every customer who comes into the store will be ready to buy that day, or maybe even that year. Ending on the appropriate high note will leave a memorable and favorable impression, and ultimately pay off for the brand. For those who come in ready to buy on-the-spot, an innovative service experience can be one more reason that loyalty is earned.
The Casper flagship goes a long way in presenting their product line in fresh and inventive ways that bring a level of purchasing comfort for those that are on the fence. Especially for mattresses, significant long-term investments, the experience does an important job while bringing in an element of delight. The lingering feeling is Casper missed a big opportunity to thoroughly redefine not just how their products are bought, but how they are ultimately sold. Yes, the flagship is one store and will receive a minimum number of in-person impressions. But if the entire experience were innovated, the brand could land on some signature gestures that would further distinguish it across many platforms. When one team member went online to check out the nap booking process, social media targeting resulted in five other brands immediately begging for attention — a reminder that the playing field is more crowded than ever, and more difficult to tell brands apart.
Now is the time to play to win, and Casper has every right to own the category for years to come.