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Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
Source: Impact PR

An innovative new retail model developed by a Kiwi social enterprise is set to provide a solution for consumers wanting to trial products after hours, and away from other shoppers during COVID, as well as high pressure salespeople.

The experience is described as a hybrid between a keyless entry hotel room and a bricks & mortar retail showroom and can be adapted for a range of industries which have displays of bulky or high-ticket items – including automotive suppliers and furniture.

The remote access showroom was developed by Comfi, the country’s first online bed retailer with a social purpose, which provides a full sleep solution for a child in need – including a single bed & base, and a pillow for every five beds it sells.

The new retail model allows the customer to first browse from a range of beds online and then receive a code to remotely access an inner-city showroom to have a ‘Goldilocks’ experience.

Vicki Eriksen, Comfi co-founder, says shopping is still a tactile experience for many Kiwi consumers.

She says the launch of the new retail storefront has increased their sales conversion rates by around 100%, with almost every physical trial in the showroom leading to a sale.

“We know that for many of us, one of the main barriers to online purchasing is the need to see and feel a product.

“This is particularly the case for high involvement purchases, such as a bed, where the consumer will spend a large amount of time in it but traditionally spends only a few minutes evaluating its suitability in a retail store environment.

“Despite offering a 100-day free trial for online purchases, we rapidly identified a market niche that still needs to lie down on a bed before committing to a purchase,” she says.

Eriksen says the concept has been developed from consumer behaviour insights that are unique to their industry.

“For some people, bricks & mortar bed shopping can create a degree of unease when it comes to lying down with your feet up on a bed – all while standing beside a stranger in a big box retail showroom.

“We also know there are a number of customers, many of whom are female, who prefer to shop at their own pace, insights which have led to the development of the immersive Goldilocks shopping concept – a showroom environment designed to mimic their own bedroom.

“In this way they can try a bed in a tranquil, private space away from the gaze of high-pressure salespeople as they lie between the sheets during their trial,” she says.

Eriksen says there are applications for the retail model in a variety of industries.

She says one of the company’s shareholders operates a chain of hotels with the remote access technology which has helped extend the concept into a retail environment.

“The reality for many consumers now is that they want to be able to shop online any time of the day or night and the traditional bricks & mortar retail model has not effectively caught up with this shift in expectations.

“The ability to do this during a COVID environment is also increasingly important for a large segment of consumers who are now risk averse to traditional retail store environments,” she says.

Eriksen says CCTV cameras allow the retailer to monitor the showroom without needing to have it staffed and the one-time access codes permit entry only within a defined period.

“We’re conscious that having a bed showroom that is accessible at all hours might entice some consumers into more amorous activity during their visit; however we are confident the security measures we have in place will act as an effective deterrent in this situation!”

Eriksen says their Auckland CBD showroom, the Comfi Sleep Hub, will be the first of many throughout the country.