“Every time we open up Delighted we find a new way to improve, which at the end of the day is why we are doing this.”
New chapters in life call for new comforts. When Tuft & Needle founder JT Marino got married, he and his wife spent a large portion of their gift money on a new mattress. But after sleeping on the bed for a few nights, they realized the mattress was miserable, and returning the product was almost as painful.
“It cost as much as the mattress,” Marino says of the return fee. “It was the worst shopping experience.”
But bad shopping experiences often inspire new businesses with better models than the old guard. Marino, along with his friend and eventual co-founder Daehee Park, listed each aspect of purchasing a mattress. Then, they opened up a few different models to see what was inside, contacted suppliers, and figured out exactly how much each cost to manufacture.
Delighted delivered what they loved – real customer feedback in the form of actionable insights.
They realized most mattress companies were marking up prices by almost 10x. “It became emotional at that point.” Marino says, “We felt robbed.”
So they started Tuft & Needle, which sells mattresses starting at $300 with free shipping and free returns. They have no physical stores...yet. “If you fix a handful of these problems, that’s a business,” Marino says.
Marino and Park bootstrapped the company and have relentlessly focused on making the company as efficient as possible, cutting out the waste and passing on the savings to customers. The company has invested in building a great online buying experience from scratch, skipping expensive salespeople and huge retail locations. They’ve also found a way to avoid a huge cost center – inventory. They’ve designed their manufacturing process so mattresses are crafted after the customer has clicked purchase on their site.
All these savings lead to more affordable mattresses.
Before founding Tuft & Needle, Marino and Park worked at tech companies and developed a deep appreciation for analytics and constant iteration. They wanted to bring these principles, traditionally reserved for purely digital products, to each and every step of the Tuft & Needle experience.
“It just flows into everything we do.”
After integrating Delighted – Marino calls their API “killer” – Delighted delivered what they loved – real customer feedback in the form of actionable insights.
Delighted’s dashboard allowed Marino and Park to dive down on the keywords customers were using and dissect every piece of feedback. Delighted was able to unearth areas for improvement that they hadn’t even considered.
“It just flows into everything we do.” Marino says.
And when a customer did have a bad experience – an unfortunate inevitability in any business – they wanted to vent. But rather than taking to Amazon or Yelp reviews, Delighted gives the customer that outlet.
Delighted was able to unearth areas for improvement that they hadn’t even considered.
As Tuft & Needle improved their products the question became how to move from four- to five-star ratings on Amazon. One of the catches for any business is that happy customers are far less likely to contact a company and say why.
“That’s what was missing in the early days, just using the telephone,” Marino says of the time before incorporating Delighted. “We weren’t hearing from people who were happy. We weren’t making the good things better.”
Of course, many criticisms remained hidden too. Both the positive and negative feedback needed integration into Tuft & Needle’s mattresses. Eventually, Delighted distilled one of the most critical customer opinions: mattress firmness.
“We made it how we liked it. But that wasn’t the majority opinion,” Marino says.
Eventually, Delighted distilled one of the most critical customer opinions: mattress firmness.
As the mattresses got better, they started to examine the entire buying process. Delighted alerted them to customers who received a damaged box (not mattress). They then reached out to acknowledge the ding, even if it was the shipping company’s fault.
But then there were the peripherals of the product. They’d hear that the mattress setup was “good” – but why wasn’t it great? With Delighted the team was able to discover that customers were opening the boxes in their living room – where there’s space – and then moving the mattress to the bedroom. So Tuft & Needle added strong handles to the mattress sides.
And the scores improved again.
Now with over 250 Amazon reviews and counting, Tuft & Needle boasts a solid five-star rating and is the top-rated mattress on the site, complete with rave reviews about the company’s responsiveness and attention to detail.
As Marino notes: “Every time we open up Delighted we find a new way to improve, which at the end of the day is why we are doing this.”
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