Online mattress retailer Tuft & Needle is deploying Amazon technology, including Echo devices, in a new brick-and-mortar store slated to open in October in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle, Recode reports.
That store, the fourth brick-and-mortar location for the online retailer, will feature in-store tablets that customers can use to read product reviews from Amazon, as well as Echo devices that customers can use to ask Alexa questions about the store and merchandise.
The store will also post QR codes that customers can use for one-click purchasing through the Amazon mobile app while in-store. Amazon Prime members who shop at the store are eligible for one-day Prime shipping of mattresses from inventory held by Amazon, rather than Tuft & Needle, according to the report.
Every merchant that sells through Amazon has to make choices about how much it is willing to trust the e-commerce giant, and how much of its operations (particularly logistics and fulfillment) it wants to turn over. But, that's life online, where Amazon dominates, and sellers that want to maximize online exposure sooner or later seem to end up partnering with Amazon.
Tuft & Needle, having started as an online retailer selling on Amazon, knows that very well. Yet, this retailer's latest adventure is in brick-and-mortar — a segment in which Amazon, too, is only beginning to get its feet wet.
So, why use Amazon for in-store technology and fulfillment needs? Wouldn't it be better for an online retailer looking to establish its own brick-and-mortar identity not to share the stage with Amazon? As Recode explained, Tuft & Needle gets as much as 25% of its online sales through Amazon, and as Tuft & Needle itself explained in the story, it saw the advantages of relying on Amazon for some things while focusing more on what it did best itself — selling mattresses — even if it means forgoing the profit margins it would realize by selling and shipping from its own stock.
It also clear that by using Amazon technology in-store, and leveraging its fulfillment capabilities — even to the point where it would like to offer customers Prime Now express delivery, Tuft & Needle is differentiating itself in a wildly competitive retail mattress market, in which it is not the only online seller looking to make a brick-and-mortar impression. In May, Target announced a partnership with online mattress upstart Casper, in which its mattresses and accessories will be available in more than 1,200 stores.
The only question that remains is how far Tuft & Needle will go with this in-store plan. Seattle makes a lot of sense as a venue for using Amazon technology, but it's not clear yet if Tuft & Needle will expand those offerings to its other locations.