Oftentimes the best ideas come from trying to solve a problem.
And when that problem is a personal one, the drive to create an innovative solution that actually works is even stronger.
For Marc Werner, founder and CEO of Nature’s Sleep, this meant making a mattress that actually helped him get a good night’s sleep, despite dealing with chronic neck and back pain.
Though the mattress market is crowded — with both traditional powerhouses and digitally powered new entrants — Werner said GhostBed is carving out its own path based on a foundation of quality.
In this week’s Warby of X installment, Werner explained why drawing on experience in the market and focusing on value and quality is helping GhostBed stay one step ahead of the growing number of competitors in the mattress eCommerce space.
Here is an excerpt of the conversation.
PYMNTS: How did GhostBed get started?
MW: GhostBed launched in December 2015, but the idea and design for it came to me nearly ten years ago. To provide a little backstory, I had been having severe back and neck issues for more than two decades, dating back to being a collegiate golf player and eventually undergoing multiple (and very serious) neck surgeries. The worse my back got, the harder it was to find a comfortable mattress/pillow combination. I woke up one day and just said to myself, “If I can’t find a bed that works for me, I’ll make one!” That way of thinking is just in my genes … going back over 100 years with my family business of Werner Ladders, I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and innovators who create products that solve critical problems.
PYMNTS: What was the inspiration behind using a direct-to-consumer eCommerce business model versus using a brick-and-mortar or physical channel?
MW: GhostBed has the advantage of learning from the parent company — Nature’s Sleep. Since we’ve been in this industry for 15 years, there’s an accumulation of knowledge and experience that simply can’t be acquired otherwise. In this particular instance, what we learned and later applied to the GhostBed model is a genuine respect for how busy consumers’ lives are these days, and how obsessed we are all becoming with convenience, as a result.
Of course, there were some nuances we had to figure out. But selling online was a part of my original vision. I knew back when the first prototype was developed that this bed was going to appeal to the masses, and limiting it to physical locations would only be a handicap.
PYMNTS: How has the company disrupted or changed the mattress industry?
MW: Our rule has been and always will be quality. What you see today is people making mattresses because they saw the market trending a certain way or other reasons that tend to be powered by trends and opportunism. Unfortunately for consumers, sometimes their products are not up to par. And these are not my words. I’m abstracting from hundreds of very real reviews from our customers who tried the other guys and ended up with a GhostBed.
Without a doubt, the guiding light that led them to us is the value and the quality. GhostBed is bigger than the competition and also more affordable — two important characteristics only made possible by our years of experience — that really make us stand out. In the words of my grandfather, “Profits follow quality.”
PYMNTS: How does the 101 Night Risk Free Sleep Trial work for consumers? How successful has that program been in customer adoption?
MW: The Sleep Trial is really what makes this model work. For generations, consumers have been accustomed to going to [a] brick-and-mortar and [lying] on a bed for five minutes before making a commitment that could often last eight years and cost thousands of dollars. In today’s evolving society of busy people obsessed with convenience, that simply doesn’t work for everyone. I like to say that a bed is like a leather jacket (since we live in Florida, people may not get the analogy, so let’s say new shoes). But when you first try it out, you don’t get the feel of how it is going to support you and conform to your body until you wear it for a few weeks.
Now you can order your GhostBed and have it delivered to your front door for free. Try it for 101 nights, effectively removing the risk — and if the bed is not right for you, let us know and we’ll come get it. However, very few of our customers actually take advantage of that. Once they have the bed, they tend to keep it.
PYMNTS: The direct-to-consumer concept for mattresses is an increasingly crowded market. How is GhostBed working to stand out? How does GhostBed differ from the rest?
MW: Crowded is an understatement! There are now over 100 competitors in this space. But very few of them have the experience that we have — which guarantees the quality. And even fewer of them have over 10,000 reviews from real people raving about the bed. As long as we focus on creating a great product and keeping our customers happy, both of those metrics will continue to grow.
PYMNTS: What is your take on the “Warby of X” concept? Do you see direct-to-consumer evolving as a sustainable business model that can continue to spark disruption?
MW: I think it’s reasonable to say that the bricks-and-mortar in the mattress industry are not likely to die out anytime soon. Still today they hold 90 percent of the market share, but that is shrinking.
Every day I read about another industry venturing into D2C; even iconic brands like Nike are shifting their global focus. Then there [are] the other stories like the wine industry, which has not quite found their footing to use D2C to lift sales.
Is it sustainable? Indeed. Risky? Absolutely. There’s a secret sauce germane to your brand, and if you don’t know it, D2C is probably not for you.
PYMNTS: What’s next for GhostBed? Do you have any news or updates you can share?
MW: Thankfully, we’re in a business that appeals to the masses, which is why we have a robust product roadmap. Sleep is a universal need that we continue to learn more about every day! As that happens, look for me around the corner already devising the next solution to help people get the sleep they deserve.