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Q&A with Casper's international expansion boss on its UK launch

US mattress brand, Casper, has bought its award-winning sleep aids to Europe, launching in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in July, followed by a UK launch last week.

The mattresses, which start at £350, are sold online and delivered – compressed in a box – the following day. The start-up has received $70 million funding to date and generated $100 million in sales in 2015. But how does this new pureplay brand intend to stand out in the UK sleep market? Essential Retail speaks to co-founder and European MD, Constantin Eis, to find out.

ER: What makes Casper mattresses so special?

CE: Casper mattresses combines comfort and durability with temperature control. There are hundreds of different foams out there, and a lot of them are considered the best, but they get hot. Our product allows air to circulate underneath you and provide the same comfort.

ER: Why did you launch as a pureplay retailer, what do you have against bricks and mortar?

CE: We consider the experience in a retail store the same across the globe – 1,000 sq ft, high price and mark downs. What we wanted to do was transparent pricing and vending proposition, and we discovered people would prefer the online option.

In the US we do have touch points where people can interact with the brand, including pop-up stores for people to discuss the concept and try out the product. You can still order in the shop, but it is not a classic retail concept, it's for customers to experience the brand offline.

ER: So, do you intend to replicate those US pop-ups in Europe?

CE: We want to understand the dynamics in Europe, but we're two-and-a-half years old, handling multiple things at the same time, and we want the customer to have multiple touchpoints with the brand.

ER: How have you innovated the Casper website?

CE: We're reducing the choices for the customer who is already overwhelmed, which is why our product design was always to fit the vast majority of people and so much thought has gone into learning about pressure release parts of the body.

From our website design, everything is very simple and clear and that's how we want to communicate – we do believe in cutting out all this noise. And you will never see us doing a big-time promotion. Instead, we reward people for a positive results, so if you tell someone else about us and they purchase, we would give you a £50 Amazon voucher to redeem and your friend £50 off the mattress. How we always try to grow the business is through positive referral.

ER: How do you intend to stand out in a crowded market?

This is a trend we started two-and-a-half years ago, which has developed into a global trend, and we expect that trend to pick up even more, which is why the market is getting more noisy.

Other competitors might have copied our marketing, but at the same time, the offline experience and the whole buying process and purchasing decisions are going to change. Compare the time you invest into the product in an offline store, five to ten minutes on each mattress? Customers take that decision and live with it for 10 years, and spend a third of their time on the mattress. This purchasing decision should take a bit longer and customers should try it out in their natural habitat, see if it suits them while they're reading a book before sleep.

This is something the customer values and there is no risk involved – they can try the product for 100 days, and if they do not like it, ring us up and we'll come and collect it. We couldn't do it if we hadn't designed a stellar product and researched into product design, sleep habits and behaviour – we have high confidence in our product.

ER: What about fulfilment?

CE: Standard delivery is included in the price and if you order by 5pm, it's generally next day delivery – if we don't have a backlog. And in urban areas in San Francisco and New York, we have a delivery courier service for same-day fulfilment, which we're working on launching in London. If people are moving house, they really want a specific delivery window and short fulfilment times and people in urban areas especially don't want to wait – there's a huge appetite for same-day delivery at an extra charge in New York.

We have a lot of urban consumers. They have more hectic lifestyles and adopt to global trends quickly and convenience comes into play – they don't want to commute out to a store, they want to order online and have it delivered to their doorstep.

ER: Will Brexit impact your expansion plans?

CE: We always thought London would be a town with a great challenge, and this continues to be the case and by having a local supply chain in the UK, we think it will strengthen local economy, while the rest of Europe is fulfilled from Germany. The market currently is a bit unsecure, it never effected our decision to bring belter sleep products to the UK.