A quest to take the agony
out of mattress shopping
Like many a good story, ours starts at a crossroads. Fifteen years ago, we were a family-owned mattress manufacturer with a pioneering technology for applying the mattress-in-a-box format to coil as well as conventional foam mattresses. The new process held much promise on both the retail and logistics fronts because it reduced the shipping volume of mattresses to a quarter of what could be achieved with standard packaging methods. None of the existing mattress brands, however, were willing to take a chance on such an unconventional process. After repeated rejection, we decided to launch our own brand—Keetsa—with headquarters in San Francisco.
As we planned for the launch of Keetsa, we toured other mattress specialty shops in the Bay Area for informal market research. But what started out as a light-hearted amble through the mattress marketplace quickly soured into a series of outright painful shopping experiences. The big box retailers were essentially mega-warehouses with oppressive waves of mattresses stashed on all sides. In each case, a salesperson descended upon us with fierce determination to fulfill a quota, turning an already unpleasant experience into a downright distressing one.
The unrelenting sales pitch
—and outsized prices
The common trait across that survey of retailers was a palpable lack of concern for what we needed and wanted as customers. The majority of the sales pitch tended to be a firestorm of technical jargon used to push the sales representative’s chosen product. Our requests for other recommendations merely led to progressively more expensive product lines and glimpses of exasperation on the sales representative's face. Even after all these years, the memory of trying to extract ourselves from those stores is a vivid one. In exchange for escape, we had to promise that we would return later, and as we reached the door, we were barraged with unrelenting offers of special discounts and free add-ins. To add insult to injury, we walked out of each store with a wholly inexplicable sense of guilt at having disappointed the sales person.
Another unexpected finding of our tour of the marketplace was the sheer expense of the bedding on offer—price tags that did not add up, given our knowledge of mattress manufacturing expenses. We quickly figured out that a significant portion of the inflation was owing to expensive and ubiquitous ad campaigns and multiple intermediaries between the manufacture and final sale of the mattress.
A fresh, fun
—and less expensive experience
Those unpleasant memories of the retail mattress universe fueled our motivation—and our imaginations. We resolved to create sleep shops that provided a more comfortable, pleasurable, and customer-centric experience. An environment where customers felt free to test out all available products, an environment where customers were supported by sleep consultants interested only in their individual needs—not in making a sale.
Soothing music and a warm cup of tea rounded out the experience. And our direct-to-consumer model, which bypassed most of the issues involved with conventional supply chains, meant that the prices were sweeter, too.
It is common for consumers to feel anxious and confused when faced with too many choices. And when we consider that most customers compare dozens of options across brands before buying a mattress, the staggering number of possibilities only serves to thwart decision-making.
So we analyzed representative sleep types and designed specific product lines to serve each of them. What we saved with our direct-to-consumer model, we invested back into manufacturing, allowing us to use higher quality components to differentiate our models while we also tightened our quality-control pipeline.
a new kind of sleep shop
We opened our first store in September of 2007 on 9th street in San Francisco, proudly debuting our radical new retail model—serene, stress-free shopping, high-quality products, reasonable prices, and thoughtful customer care. That model resonated with people, and we quickly built a loyal following. Despite being a new brand, we soon were able to expand, opening two additional sleep shops in California (Berkeley and Venice Beach) and one in New York City (Soho). We also carefully increased our partnerships with furniture retailers and hotels. We have extended our customer-first ethos to our online shop, established in 2007, which serves Keetsa sleepers across the United States and Canada, offering free shipping to most locations.
The dual values of creating an honest product and an honest, stress-free shopping experience continues to motivate us—and continues to drive our success. More than 60% of Keetsa sales come from existing customers and the people they have referred, and we will never take that customer appreciation for granted—ever.