Review site showrooms online-only brands

Discussion
Photo: Sleep Sherpa
Nov 02, 2016
Tom Ryan

A variety of websites offer third-party reviews of consumer electronics, running shoes, beauty and other categories. Many of those items are new, online only and otherwise hard to find at retail. One, Sleepsherpa.com, has opened its first physical store so that customers can test products in person.

Launched in 2014, Sleepsherpa.com, reviews a wide range of mattresses, bedding, pillows and sleep gadgets and draws more than 70,000 unique visitors each month.

The showroom, opened in the Twin Cities region in Edina, MN, is designed to provide a space for customers to try out a selection of online-only brands. Any item can be purchased online from the showroom.

In a statement, Sleep Sherpa noted that many online-only mattress companies such as Leesa, Nest Bedding and Brentwood Home have broken into the category over the last few years by offering generous trial periods, with pricing far below traditional retailers and offering a high level of customer service.

However, many consumers still want to try before they buy. The showroom promises to merge the value of online shopping — informed reviews and the lower prices for online-only brands — with physical retail’s prime advantage of being able to touch and feel the product.

“Comparing great online brands against each other leads to a better fit for customers and the confidence of knowing they made the right choice, which greatly reduces chances of a return,” said Ben Trapskin, founder.

Sleep Sherpa’s showroom investment doesn’t appear to be supported by any funds directly from the mattress makers. Some reviews on the website include “affiliate links,” in whichSleep Sherpa gains a commission if someone clicks through to make purchase. Much of the reviewed product is also provided for free.

Mr. Trapskin, a librarian who developed the site after years of struggling with insomnia, notes on the website that he only recommends products or services “I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do showrooms make sense for review websites that are supported by affiliate commissions? Would such showrooms work for other review-driven categories beyond mattresses?

Braintrust
"While the concept is great, it is difficult to see how the website showroom can make any money. "
"I must be getting old — we used to simply call these stores."
"I’ll take this as evidence of brick-and-mortar’s evolution (and not extinction)."

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7 Comments on "Review site showrooms online-only brands"

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Chris Petersen, PhD.
BrainTrust

The concept would seem to have a lot of merit for products that are “personal.” Mattresses are a good example of a product people want to try before they buy. Mattresses are also a bulky product, expensive to ship and return.

While the concept is great, it is difficult to see how the website showroom can make any money. One could argue that such showrooms could add more products, but that quickly becomes a retail “store” that sells products at a profit.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

I must be getting old — we used to simply call these stores.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Guest
Patricia Vekich Waldron
11 months 17 days ago

Right on, Bob. It’s just that these newfangled ones don’t have inventory!

Kenneth Leung
BrainTrust

Guess the difference these days is with good delivery logistics, stores don’t need to carry inventory to sell. In the case of beds, some of them have inventory, the smaller ones like Sleep Number beds don’t. This one is odd since it is a showroom for products it doesn’t sell.

Jasmine Glasheen
Guest
Jasmine Glasheen
11 months 17 days ago

Showrooms are the future of retail. Especially for higher price-point items like mattresses, which customers are less inclined to purchase impulsively, yet need to judge by tactile experience. I’ll take this as evidence of brick-and-mortar’s evolution (and not extinction).

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

I think it’s funny that all of us old-schoolers would still wonder how these concepts “make money.” That’s not the goal! Most .com companies understand that the real prize of reaching more people by whatever means is to gain more knowledge, more information about their customer or customers they want to acquire. Money comes after the information, when they know exactly what and how they sell you something.

The days of store “ROI” in the old sense of the term are over. That’s how we ran our businesses when stores mattered more. Granted, for some, stores still matter a lot as they have to, but I’d bet that if you asked any store-centric CEO if they could rid themselves of their physical locations right now and only be online without losing any money, they’d do it in a heart beat. But they don’t have that choice!

Anyway, we all need to stop judging stores by how much money they make. It’s information we need to get . . . . . .the money comes after that.

Christopher P. Ramey
BrainTrust

The question is whether opening a showroom make sense for a “review website.” The answer is generally no. Unless you’re growing and you need space and, what the heck, make your warehouse into a showroom.

In that case, he’s opened a mattress store in a high margin, high volume and fragmented industry. To consumers it’s a low passion and low interest category where he has established himself as an authority.

Lest we not underestimate the power and pull of being an industry authority.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"While the concept is great, it is difficult to see how the website showroom can make any money. "
"I must be getting old — we used to simply call these stores."
"I’ll take this as evidence of brick-and-mortar’s evolution (and not extinction)."

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