What does it take to design, construct and sell a new kind of mattress and confidently declare that it's perfect for everyone?
One startup seems to have figured out the answer. It involves greatly simplifying the mattress-shopping experience, and, perhaps more importantly, offering a simple, human-tested, consensus-oriented product built with the best materials for the job of putting people to sleep.
By reinventing both the mattress-building and mattress-buying experience, New York-based Casper has taken on the retail giants that make up the $14 billion mattress industry. These traditional retailers tend to leave shoppers feeling confused, frustrated and exhausted. Casper, on the other hand, is straightforward.
There's just one style of mattress. That mattress comes in six different sizes. You shop, select and order on Casper.com. The mattress ships to your door. You unbox it, unroll it, and go right to sleep on it. If you decide within the first 100 days of owning it that you don't like it, you let Casper know and the company sends someone to pick it up.
How they did it
For Casper's product engineers, the first step in formulating what would become the company's "perfect for everyone" mattress was to dispense with a longtime building block of the classic mattress: the metal spring.
In traditional mattresses, springs provide a degree of structural support and prevent the sleeper from sinking into the center of the bed. The problem, however, is that when a person sleeps on a spring mattress, he or she becomes involved in a rather confrontational relationship. The spring mattress is pushing back against the person's body with the same amount of force that the body is applying to the mattress: They're locked in a battle that the body will eventually win as the person's weight wears down the springs.
Unfortunately, with this victory comes an all-too-real human toll on the back and neck.
Casper engineers found that memory foam was capable of distributing body weight evenly over a mattress, reducing pressure points, while providing the kind of structural support necessary to keep a mattress from becoming a taco. With memory foam, the sleeper and his or her mattress are now from the same dojo; they do not fight.
But the Casper mattress couldn't be constructed with memory foam alone, said Casper co-founder and chief product officer Jeff Chapin, because the stuff is too dense. It has to be augmented with another material to give a mattress the necessary breathability and bounce.
"If you're just using a single material, you get a single set of properties, so we ended up marrying a latex layer on top of the memory foam layer," Chapin said.
Close listening pays off
Discovering the winning memory-foam-and-latex-foam combination took rigorous research and countless prototype mattresses built with an array of foam materials. But most importantly, it took Casper's engineers listening closely to product testers who dozed on the prototypes and reported on how they slept.
Chapin said the vast majority of testers, regardless of demographic category, preferred the memory-and-latex-foam prototype. So that's the mattress Chapin and his team built — the Casper mattress.
"It's important to get other people's experiences, opinions and thoughts to inform what you're making," Chapin said. "We spent a lot of time talking with folks." The result is an "award-winning sleep surface [that] unites four layers of foam that provide just the right sink and just the right bounce," he said.
Thanks to the many conversations — not to mention meticulous, high-tech crafting and careful attention to detail — the company was able to launch "one perfect mattress that's singular in design and universally comfortable," he said.
The amalgamation of real peoples' ideas and hard science has converged to create a mattress ahead of its time. Happy Casper sleeper Shannon Mock of Jacksonville, Fla., best summed up this sentiment when she said, "The whole process was so easy. I dreaded shopping for a mattress and Casper made it simple."
"It sleeps like a dream," she concluded.
For a limited time, L.A. Times readers can take advantage of a $50 discount on any Casper mattress by entering promo code LAT50 at the point of purchase on Casper.com.