Bricks-and-mortar retailers have for years tried to guard against “showrooming,” in which shoppers scope out products in stores before buying them online on sites like Amazon.com
Now mattress start-up Tuft & Needle is embracing the practice — encouraging it, even — by linking its upcoming store to Amazon technology.
The company, founded in Phoenix in 2012, was among the pioneers in those selling mattresses online. It specializes in foam mattresses at moderate prices. Among its selling points: Free shipping and a 100-night trial period. In five years, the start-up has opened three stores and sold more than 500,000 mattresses.
The company’s newest location, opening in October in Seattle, will be equipped with a number of Amazon devices, according to tech news site Recode:
Inside, customers will find tablets to read product reviews from Amazon; Alexa-powered Echo devices programmed to answer customer questions; QR codes to enable one-click purchasing through the Amazon app; and, eventually, the company hopes, the perk of two-hour delivery through Amazon’s Prime Now service, too.
Amazon.com already accounts for one-quarter of Tuft & Needle’s sales, according to Recode. (Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)
“We’ve had a lot of internal debate about this since the beginning: The approach to resist Amazon as a force and see how we can go head-to-head against it,” Daehee Park, who co-founded Tuft & Needle in 2012, told Recode. “But where we’re at right now, we’ve decided why not just embrace them. We focus on what we’re good at, and plug in Amazon technology for the rest.”
A spokeswoman for Tuft & Needle declined to comment for this story, and representatives from Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The news comes just weeks after Nike and Sears announced they will begin selling their products directly on Amazon, joining the ranks of other big-name brands like Bose, Samsung and Microsoft. More than half — 55 percent — of Americans now begin their online shopping trips on Amazon.com, according to a recent survey by marketing research firm BloomReach. And even if shoppers don’t begin their search on Amazon, they often end up there, with roughly 90 percent of consumers checking Amazon before they make a purchase, the survey found.
“Large, household brands that had previously viewed Amazon as a fierce competitor that was eating everyone alive, are now viewing them as a necessary partner,” Pat Petriello, a senior strategist for digital marketing agency CPC Strategy, and former account manager for Amazon, told The Washington Post last month. “They’re saying, ‘Our customers are there, our competitors are there, so we need to have a presence there as well.’”
On the flip side, shoppers are still window-shopping in person, too. Roughly 56 percent of shoppers check out products in stores, at least occasionally, before ordering online, according to a recent consumer survey by trade publication Retail Dive. That is especially the case with big-ticket purchases like mattresses and home furnishings, which are often a matter of personal preference.
“It remains critical for retailers to provide a high-touch, in-store experience,” the publication said. “Turning physical retail space into showrooms — where customers can try and test products and generally get to know the product better before making the final purchase online — may be the logical next step for retailing.”