Buying a mattress, something you’ll sleep on for probably the next eight to ten years, without touching it first sounds like a bad idea; but that’s exactly what Casper wants you to do. They’ve built a successful eCommerce business by selling customers mattresses sight unseen. Using a direct-to-consumer (DTC) model, Casper disrupted a notoriously brick-and-mortar and highly entrenched industry, fundamentally changing how mattresses are sold.
With smart content marketing, they’ve garnered trust and built the authority necessary to position Casper as a subject-matter expert in their field. Using content to build credibility as an expert in sleep and mattresses helps to alleviate any fear that Casper’s customers have about purchasing a mattress without touching it first. The company’s social media and referral marketing efforts, which focus on amplifying actual experiences with their products from customers and reviewers, backstop their content and enhance the effect.
Casper also offers customers a 100-day guarantee, which perhaps more than anything else alleviates trepidation of making such a large purchase online.
Combining these tactics, Casper has been able to overcome a significant amount of potential customer pain and caused a visible shift in the way the mattress industry thinks about their product. Their successful deployment of the direct-to-consumer eCommerce model has changed the way millions of consumers now buy mattresses and precipitated the launch of dozens of competitors.
Using content marketing, Casper has positioned their brand as a subject-matter expert in all things sleep, comfort, and relaxation. Their strategy spans the entire sales funnel, top to bottom, with content that speaks to customers at each point along the buyer’s journey. This gets their brand in front of the customer, boosting overall awareness, and differentiates their product from the rest of the market.
Before Casper brought DTC to the mattress industry, people had to visit a brick-and-mortar retail location and go through a long and sometimes arduous sales process to buy their mattress—that’s just what you did. Mattresses are relatively cheap to manufacture (about $250), but personal (so people wanted to try them first) and bulky (so shipping them was relatively difficult). Those economics led to an explosion of mattress stores, each selling essentially the same product for a high markup.
“At store number one, they sold you ‘posturepedic best sleep’ and then the next store, so they wouldn’t have to compete, they had ‘posturepedic good sleep’ — the same mattresses with slightly different colored threads or what have you and a different name to make price comparison more difficult,” University of Wisconsin professor Hart Rosen told Retail Dive.
The industry was ripe for disruption. So when companies figured out how to stuff a foam mattress in a box for easy delivery by mail, mattresses could finally be sold via eCommerce, and the DTC revolution arrived. Casper has been the vanguard of that shift.
In the year’s since Casper’s founding, the mattress startup space has exploded. Some estimates put the number of bed-in-a-box companies at over 150.
Casper was the first company to find massive success using the DTC model for mattresses, and they used their content to make it happen. From the product comparisons on their blog to their wellness, comfort, and relaxation magazine, Woolly (available online and in print), Casper makes sure their customers understand as much as possible about their purchases.
Whether you want information on relaxation techniques, getting more sleep, or measuring your room for the best bed size, Casper has content to fill the needs of their customers. Once you’ve come across that content, the next time a potential customer starts their search for a new mattress, pillow, etc., they’re more likely to think of Casper than another brand. It’s no surprise that their largest traffic sources are Search and Direct.
Regardless of how you come across their content, Casper does an excellent job of including strong CTAs and links back to their product pages to boost conversion on their organic traffic.
Through their content marketing, Casper has differentiated their brand in the mattress market. Instead of relying on a person-to-person sales experience, they’ve off-loaded the knowledge you’d get from those interactions to their online content.
As an eCommerce store competing with established brick-and-mortar brands, their content is designed to help customers overcome any fear or reticence about buying a mattress online. Following their meteoric growth, the mattress industry itself is changing to follow Casper’s lead and embrace the direct-to-consumer model.
A robust referral marketing program is a way for Casper to bypass the need for an on-site salesperson by tapping into the power of social proof and peer recommendations. When customers hear about a product from a trusted source, whether it’s a friend or an influencer, it helps alleviate some of the concerns of making a big-ticket purchase online. These recommendations also help to build on Casper’s position as a credible seller of mattresses.
Casper incentivizes their customers to share their stories by offering a $75 Amazon gift card for every successful referral, as well as a 10 percent discount on the purchased for the referred. Casper magnifies the power of those referrals by using customer testimonials in ads and social media content.
Each of the ads above taps into a different aspect of Casper’s social proof and influencer marketing strategy.
- Left: Kim Komando is a radio host and podcaster who talks about consumer technology on a weekly call-in show. Casper leverages her influence through a customer testimonial.
- Middle Top: Another testimonial ad, but this time using short blurbs from Casper’s existing customers.
- Middle Bottom: This is an ad for New York Live, a daily lifestyle show that airs on NBC in New York City. By sponsoring this show, Casper put their brand in front of people who tune in for lifestyle content that aligns with their product (and it doesn’t hurt that city dwellers are the perfect customers for the DTC model—it’s much more appealing to have a product shipped directly to your apartment than have to schlep it home from a showroom or arrange costly delivery).
- Right: This ad shows their product in use, which is important for Casper as an eCommerce brand. It acts as their version of the nap test customers would usually be able to do at a brick-and-mortar location.
Testimonials, social proof, and referral marketing all work together to influence the customer’s purchase decision. By positioning Casper as a subject-matter expert in the market and backing up those claims with influencer and customer testimonials, the company is able to decrease the cognitive work required to find, research, and eventually make a decision about their product.
Without a physical showroom, potential customers are asked to buy mattresses from Casper without ever having actually seen the product. So the company had to essentially reinvent the traditional mattress buying experience, making it easy to purchase, receive, and return a mattress from anywhere.
Mattresses have traditionally been nearly impossible to return to brick-and-mortar stores—and a return guarantee is unheard of. Casper’s 100-night guarantee gave their brand a way to significantly decrease the amount of perceived effort customers needed to expend to make their purchase. (Those returned mattresses aren’t resold—they’re generally donated or junked.) They didn’t have to go to a store, endure a long sales process, set up in-home delivery, or worry about returns; Casper made buying a mattress simple and essentially risk-free.
Visit Casper’s website and you’re met with a straightforward eCommerce purchase flow that guides the potential customer through their purchase. Product options are easy to differentiate:
They use video to showcase the product’s construction, and always present at the top of the screen is the option to move forward with a purchase:
The “Select your size” button takes customers to a standard-looking eCommerce product page where they can complete the purchase. Casper uses a format that is familiar to eCommerce customers, one that highlights not only their product but also puts their 15,194 reviews, free shipping and returns policies, 100-night trial, and 10-year limited warranty front and center.
All of those tactics work together to modernize and streamline the mattress purchase experience. Casper was able to identify—and remove—the most painful parts of purchasing a mattress in the traditional manner (visiting a show room, getting a high pressure sales pitch, facing an overwhelming choice of mattresses that all seem the same, and arranging for delivery).
At the same time, they also found ways to mitigate the anxiety of making a large purchase online using content, social proof, and innovative trial and return policies. Buying a mattress is still a big investment, yet Casper has found ways to make it work for consumers online.
As competition ramps up—Amazon is now selling their own bed-in-a-box for significantly less than the digitally native vertical brands like Casper—Casper’s strategies are shifting. Interestingly, like many other early DTC brands, Casper is starting to take on some of the strategies of the industry it disrupted.
They’ve opened retail stores in a dozen states and they started selling products at Target. Competitors are also shifting from online to offline. Purple partners with old school mattress retailer Mattress Firm, Leesa sells in West Elm and Pottery Barn, and Tuft & Needle merged with Serta Simmons Bedding (the latest mattress maker in America). It’s an interesting dynamic where DTC eCommerce brands are finding growth by cannibalizing offline retail, then turning around and becoming offline retail.
Still, for all the talk of disruption, Casper only has 0.7 percent of the mammoth overall mattress industry (estimates of the total size range for $14 billion to more than double that). That’s tops among eCommerce outfits, but obviously just a tiny slice. Casper, like other DTC brands making the shift to offline sales, are banking on the fact that the wealth of data they’ve collected from their eCommerce operations will give them a competitive edge.
“We understand online very well, we also understand consumer behavior and we’re a very data driven company. Those are all advantages we have, because that is basically where we came from,” Casper cofounder Constantin Eis told MarketingWeek.
Whatever the future holds, content is likely to continue to play a central role for Casper. They’re doubling down on the goal to be seen as a leader in all things sleep (and overall wellness) as they shift more attention offline. For example, they launched a nap center in New York City called The Dreamery, which they describe as, “a magical place […] where you can rest and recharge whenever you want” because “we want everyone to sleep better and live better.”
“This is a secular shift in the world, where we think sleep is becoming the third pillar of wellness,” said Casper CEO Philip Krim. “Customers want to interact with brands and have a deep understanding of the products that influence sleep.”
Casper took the traditional brick-and-mortar roots of the mattress market and threw them away (at least for a little while). Their direct-to-consumer eCommerce model fundamentally changed how people buy mattresses. That gave them the competitive edge they needed to disrupt an established and highly insular market.
► Make yourself an expert
Casper’s content-marketing strategy aims to position themselves as a subject-matter expert in all things sleep. When you’re going up against an established market that is traditionally dependent on retail salespeople, it’s important that your customers believe you know what you’re talking about.
► Create content that converts
Nearly every piece of content that Casper creates fits a specific segment of their inbound funnel. You need to be strategic with your content marketing to build brand awareness as well as convert potential customers into buyers. This is much easier when your company is present at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
► Use referrals to boost credibility
Casper’s referral program taps into the power of friendly recommendations and influencer marketing. Their customers act as brand advocates and word-of-mouth marketers. When your product is a big investment for buyers, it’s important to have the backing of existing customers to lend credibility to your company’s message.
► Highlight value with social proof
Casper encourages customer reviews and uses testimonials prominently in their marketing. Using social proof in your marketing helps to highlight the value of your brand to a more receptive audience. People are more willing to believe existing customers when they talk about your brand.
► Make buying easy
The traditional mattress sales model was frustratingly difficult. Casper made it simple. You’ll have higher conversion rates if your purchase flow makes it easy for potential customers to learn about your product / policies and make decisions. Don’t let a poor purchase experience get in the way.