Walmart will start putting Allswell, its online mattress and bedding brand, in mini stores.
The "Allswell Tiny Home" is a rolling showroom that will start a cross-country tour on Wednesday. Beginning in New York, Allswell will head to major cities to introduce the brand to new customers and gain their feedback.
It signals that a physical presence remains a key retail component for online brands.
"What our customers or potential customers have been asking us consistently is 'Where can we try the mattress?'" Arlyn Davich, president of the brand, told CNN Business.
Other online mattress brands are also opening brick-and-mortar stores. Tuft & Needle, Leesa, and Purple have recently expanded distribution at retailers like Target, West Elm, and Mattress Firm.
Stores and pop ups help retailers acquire customers, raise brand awareness, and encourage impulse spending, according to Barbara Kahn, marketing professor at Wharton.
Casper, which cracked open the market by shipping mattresses in a box to customers' homes, announced plans last year to open up to 200 stores of its own. "It will give us a footprint to help educate consumers," Casper CEO Philip Krim told CNN Business in an August interview.
A year ago, Walmart introduced Allswell, the retailer's first homegrown digital brand. Until now, Allswell, has only sold through its own website, Walmart's main site, and on Jet and Hayneedle.
"Digital has been working very well for us, but we're looking to grow the brand in all ways," said Davich.
She said the multi-city tour would allow the company to test out different markets and showcase Allswell's lineup of mattresses and home and bedding sets. Shoppers can buy Allswell's products on site at the tiny home for delivery, and they are encouraged to take photos to post on social media.
"It's a novel concept," said Wharton's Kahn. "Anything to get attention and break through the clutter."
The tiny home will be a four-room, 238-square-foot showroom. It has a living room, bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen area that customers can explore and shop.
Asked whether the new concept meant Walmart could one day open Allswell stores, Davich would not rule it out.
"We could open a fleet of tiny homes that travel across the country. We could open stores as an expansion of our digital presence."
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