Features, Innovation, Marketing

The Science of Shopping

I closed the heavy curtain and was alone with the mattress in the mock bedroom. The noise of the shopping mall was muted in the background and there was a faint odor of orange peel, by no means unpleasant. I sat on the edge of the bed feeling a bit uncomfortable. But the mattress won me over as I sunk into it’s embrace. It was under $2000 including white glove delivery and a sleep-on-it guarantee for 100-nights. The key to success however, was getting me through the door and closing the curtain. No one likes to lie down in public. Let alone in an ersatz bedroom that anyone could come barging into.

Casper has nailed the trial to purchase. I have no idea what the closure rate for their mall mattress pop-up was, but I observed more than a few people with no intention of buying a new mattress pulling out their credit cards. Just listen to Ariana Huffington, and we all know that there are few things in life more important than sleep. Yet the quality of our bedding gear is often neglected.

Getting to Know You

Trial remains one of the powerful tools in a merchant’s playbook. Whether lying down on a new mattress or trying on a blouse in the dressing room, the process of getting someone to trial is a key retail strategy. When it works, the experience is magical. Years ago working for a lingerie chain we monitored the launch of the Wonder Bra – the undergarment that changed women’s profiles. We documented that it was proximity of the bras to the dressing room that affected closure (no pun intended). When we put the lingerie at the front of the store, lots of women looked and only a few bought. When displayed next to the dressing room, fewer women looked, but a lot more bought. The common refrain, “I’ll just slip in and try it on and see what it does for me…”

Casper’s mattress pop-up was in the Oculus, the new Westfield Mall in downtown New York City. The previous store sold clothes, and from the looks of it, the store had lasted about ten minutes and then failed. The dressing rooms in the back were requisitioned as storage space and offices. The floor of the store had been set with four curtained-off mock bedrooms. Visitors were invited to pick a bedroom, close the heavy curtain and lie down and experience the mattress. Pillows and bed coverings were provided. The set-up could not have been more simple.

I’m sure the former tenant and the landlord were happy that someone wanted the space. The margin on mattresses is high – with an average 20 sales a day, you’ve met your quota. But even when sales aren’t made, a great experience is a step toward a future purchase. All in all, Casper has mastered the art of a great pop-up.

It Takes a Village Tribe

The playbook for trial is getting both more scientific and more creative. We know that thanks to WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram that the average time spent in a dressing room has increased by almost 20 percent. Younger consumers are consulting their tribes to get approval. Staging the dressing room for social media is a quick and low-cost guerrilla marketing exercise. We can look at dressing room design and often make simple adjustments that get to better conversion rates. Lighting, seating, messaging, cleanliness and service are a start. Where you plant the chair to you park your two-legged male pet is important too. Keep him close enough, but far enough away not to interfere.

For the broader shopping industry, the pop-up centered on generating trial is a modern-day smart play. From Everlane to Glossier to Untucked, not to mention Casper –- having a place to touch, feel smell and try is a good return to the basics of the Science of Shopping.

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