Innovation by engineering products specifically for omnichannel delivery
To put it bluntly, omnichannel is everywhere. Amazon, or its equivalent, is rapidly growing sales online in every corner of the world. Almost every vendor and retailer I speak with is working on some kind of omnichannel framework to sell online. Online enables sales anywhere in a very compressed time frame of a couple of days, or even hours in some countries. That works fine for smaller products that meet size and weight restrictions of the carriers. But, what about something as large and bulky as a mattress? By reimaging a better bed time, Tuft & Needle has designed a mattress to specifically fit inside a box that meets omnichannel shipping requirements. This is a classic case study of reimagining a product category to fit the packaging, with a unique consumer value appeal.
Why this is important: Online sales of large products have been constrained by the physical requirements of logistics. Innovating to fit the supply chain requirements changes paradigms of both the products and the consumer purchase experience.
Online purchases are great … it they fit in the shipping box
A huge component of omnichannel today is the consumer preference to buy virtually (online or mobile from within store) and ship to home. For the vast majority of the goods shipped to home in the United States and western countries, home fulfillment is through a carrier such as FedEx, UPS or DHL. Admittedly, this is not a problem for the majority of small items shipped through carriers for online today.
All 3rd party fulfillment carriers have upper limits in terms of size and weight. Typically, in the United States weight is limited to a maximum of 75 pounds and a size of a box that a person can lift. Anything larger requires special shipping, increased time to deliver and substantial additional costs. These restrictions have ruled out items with large physical dimensions such as furniture and heavy bulky items.
What if you need a new mattress and don’t have a way to haul it home?
Statistics suggest that many millennials will not purchase a home in the near future. Most will also not own a large vehicle capable of hauling a mattress home from a store. So, if you are a millennial living in a city apartment (or at home) and you don’t own a vehicle, how do you buy a quality mattress?
Where we live does not mean that they don’t value quality sleep and the desire to own a good mattress. Yes, we could shop their local retail store. Chances are most of us will shop online first. Yes, we could rent a truck to haul a mattress home. We could pay someone to deliver the mattress, but you have to arrange to be there when they arrive. The bottom line is that there are very few options for millennials or the rest of us to purchase a mattress online.
Innovation from thinking “inside the box”
Sure, there are ways to buy mattresses online without going to a furniture store. You have been able to buy one over the phone (1-800-Mattress) for some time. The challenge is still the shipping time, cost of delivery, and being present when the delivery truck arrives. The even greater challenge is how you return it if it just doesn’t feel right. The cost of the return is substantial and a big hassle in terms of how to even ship a return.
To solve the speed of delivery, the lower cost of shipping and the hassle of returns, the guys from Tuft & Needle literally designed a mattress from the perspective of being able to fit it into a box that could be shipped by FedEx or UPS. It required thinking about how to take the springs and frame out of the mattress so that it could be compressed and “stuffed” inside a box meeting carrier requirements. Innovation came from abandoning the traditional paradigm of what a mattress “is”, to designing a product for shipping in an omnichannel marketplace.
How do you create a mattress shipped in a box?
I’m not privy to the details of how the guys from Silicon Valley set out to design a new mattress. My sense is that they were frustrated with their mattress buying experience. Rather than start with designs for a mattress, what if you started with the question: “How do you completely change the possibilities in the mattress buying experience?”
Tuft & Needle was started by a couple of guys who were NOT mattress manufacturers or even retailers. They simply imagined the possibilities of being able to ship a good quality mattress in a box to anyone ordering online. They developed an “adaptive foam” mattress that can be compressed and folded to fit the box. In order to meet the box size requirements, they packed the mattress in a bag and literally sucked all of the air out. In the video clip below, you can see the box and watch the mattress “unfold” after packing:
Mattress with a very unique value twist for consumers and “green”
The marketing for the mattress company does a good job of touting the technology and how it will benefit your quality of sleep. Tuft & Needle offers a very competitive price and a generous 100 day guarantee, with a full refund if you don’t like the mattress. Enough to entice even skeptical millennials.
But, what if you don’t like your new mattress in a box? Now here is the WOWSER that is not only green, but highly compelling from a human compassion standpoint:
If you don’t like your mattress after the 100 day period, the company asks that you donate your mattress to a local charity instead of returning it!
High quality mattress, price guarantee, with charity giving instead of a return – all in a box.
Lessons learned from an omnichannel mattress shipped in a box
In the words of Kevin Coupe from Morning News Beat, this is an eye opener!
A couple of creative guys applied technology to get a mattress to fit in a standard carrier shipping box. From a purely product perspective, this innovation enables reduced shipping costs and wider distribution potential through omnichannel sales. It is the sign of the times to come where manufacturers will be designing from an omnichannel perspective, and not just the retail store sales floor.
But, the bigger story here is customer experience. They guys designing the mattress were frustrated with the omnichannel mattress buying experience. Not only did they think “inside the box” to make the product accessible everywhere, they completely changed the returns paradigm by enabling consumers to donate the mattress to charity if they didn’t like it. How much more consumer centric can you get!