The mattress e-commerce site Casper has had quite a year, launching a new mattress called The Wave and partnering with American Airlines to make flying more comfortable, while also dealing with controversy over its recent lawsuits against various mattress review websites (like Sleepopolis). But one thing remains consistent: Casper’s design vision which has changed little since the company opened for business in 2013. At this year’s Fast Company Innovation Festival, Casper’s chief of product Jeff Chapin spoke to attendees about Casper’s design philosophy and how he motivates his team. Here are the major takeaways:
Use clear analogies to communicate the idea internally.
Though Casper sells a product to consumers, the product design team also has to sell it to its internal marketing and communications teams so that the message filters through in a way that is impactful. Chapin makes sure to use common, memorable reference points to create vivid pictures that are easier to explain than getting into the nitty-gritty of mattress layers.
“Aesthetically on the first mattress, we had this analogy of a cappuccino cup,” he says. “Like this rigid shell on the outside and then this frothy, floaty milk on top, which is the white top of the mattress.”
Have a singular point of view.
Casper figured out a way to sell mattresses without the usual (figurative and literal) pain points. “Whatever you want to design in this world, there are a thousand options already out there that exist,” Chapin says. “There’s nothing really that new. But your take or point of view can be new. Make sure you actually get there before you go too far [into the design process].” But you also have to be ready to find a new point of view or sharpen your original vision, when you come up against competitors. Casper has learned that firsthand with similar (and sometimes less expensive) offerings from rival companies like Leesa and even Sealy and Mattress Firm.
Adapt to your market.
When Casper decided to enter the German market, the company knew it had to rethink both the product and how it was sold. The main reason? The original Casper mattress didn’t go over well during testing.
So Chapin and his team created The Wave, a firmer mattress with an extra layer that was targeted specifically for the European market and tested by German people. “We want to understand that customer base. Everything from what products might make sense to what the shopping experience is,” Chapin says. “It’s at your own peril if you don’t.”