Try before you buy: Kiwi bed retailer Comfi develops 'remote-access' retail model so shoppers can trial beds in peace

The new showroom with images of people trying out their beds in peace
The new Auckland CBD showroom allows bed-buyers to try before they buy, but without high-pressure salespeople or nosy customers. Photo credit: Supplied

If you've purchased a mattress before, you'll be familiar with the slightly awkward process.

If you're buying one for you and a significant other, testing will typically involve the both of you self-consciously bouncing from bed to bed, attempting to assess the size, softness and comfort while strangers peruse the furniture around you and a pushy salesperson hovers nearby - all while trying not to get your shoes on the expensive linen. Humans are truly bizarre.

But that could now be a thing of the past, with a Kiwi enterprise launching an innovative retail model in Auckland that allows consumers to trial beds at a remote-access, after-hours showroom - so say goodbye to judgemental strangers and try-before-you-buy in peace.

The experience - described as a hybrid between a keyless entry hotel room and a bricks-and-mortar retail showroom - could potentially 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, developed by online bed retailer Comfi, allows customers to browse a range of beds online before receiving a one-time access code to enter the central Auckland showroom, with the code able to be used 24 hours a day. Once in the showroom, bed-buyers can enjoy a 'Goldilocks-like' experience and test out mattresses to their heart's content - without hovering, high-pressure salespeople or nosy customers. 

The innovative new system has increased Comfi's sales conversion rates by around 100 percent, co-founder Vicki Eriksen said, 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," she said.

"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."

The concept of the 24-hour showroom was developed based on consumer behaviour insights that are unique to the industry, Eriksen added.

"For some people, bricks-and-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," she said.

"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."

The first of the showrooms has opened in Auckland's CBD.
The first of the showrooms has opened in Auckland's CBD. Photo credit: Supplied

The retail model can also be applied in a variety of industries, Eriksen noted. For example, 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 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."

And no, the remote showrooms are not places to add to your bonking location bucket list. There will be CCTV cameras in place to catch out any amorous couples, so there's no point risking getting frisky.

The cameras allow the retailer to monitor the showroom without requiring staff on-site, while the one-time access codes only permit entry 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," Erikesen added.

Comfi's Auckland CBD showroom, the Comfi Sleep Hub, is the first of many, with others planned to open throughout the country.

The enterprise has also launched a charitable arm, providing a free bed and bedding for a child in poverty for every five sold.