Part 2: Customers need more than just a mattress. They are really looking for a good night’s sleep!
Sleep Physiology & Technology by Guy Eckert
Editor’s Note: This article is the second in a two-part series exploring the physiology of sleep, the evolution of bedding products, value promises and how to accurately convey these messages to consumers at the point of sale.
Today’s consumers are more product savvy than ever. They conduct desktop research, read reviews, and seek the opinion of friends and family in order to make informed purchase decisions. Sleep experts have been effective at disseminating information to the public regarding the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep, sleep physiology - what it takes to fall asleep, get in a comfort zone, and stay there for the entire night. A review of this information was covered in the May/June 2008 issue of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine. If you’ve misplaced your copy, the article can be found in the sales education article archives on www.furninfo.com.
Retailers are now in an enviable position to leverage this information in order to help customers make intelligent choices when purchasing a bed or top of bed products. Those of you who read industry news on the furninfo.com website or subscribe to the furninfo.com weekly newsmagazine will see that a few retailers already use this information in their publicized promotions, but many more have not capitalized on this opportunity. If the bedding industry is going to grow, we must become teachers first and the sales will follow.
Consumers are looking for much more than initial comfort in their bedding, and we have an opportunity and a responsibility to be their resource for information on sleep physiology, the benefits associated with healthy sleep, and the harmful side-effects associated with running a “sleep debt”. Applying that knowledge to the sales floor when called for, will be invaluable to both retailers and consumers.
The process of educating the consumer doesn’t stop at sleep physiology. Retailers must think beyond the mattress purchase and consider taking a system approach to better sleep. A well thought out plan or selling strategy that includes collecting customer information, will go a long way toward creating a sustainable competitive advantage for both retailers and the manufacturers they represent.
Data mining is essential for retailers who want to meet the needs of their customers and provide them with a good experience. Tips for gathering appropriate information can be found in the sidebars accompanying this article. It can be beneficial, for example to find out:
•Are customers side sleepers, back sleepers, or belly sleepers?
• Are they thermally compatible with their partner? Menopausal?
• Do they prefer a firm mattress or a soft mattress?
• Are there any allergy issues to be concerned with?
Two hours spent on the sales floor selling a mattress can be neutralized, for example, by the purchase of the wrong pillow or the wrong mattress pad or the wrong mattress protector. It’s the equivalent of trying on five pairs of shoes, picking one and on the way home stopping off at the local drug store for a pair of arch supports. When you get the supports in the shoes, they feel completely different than they did when you tried them on in the store…the fit is compromised. You may think you’re doing the customer a service by selling them your top-end mattress, but if they stop at the nearest department store, purchase two new pillows and after their first night they wake up with stiff necks, that pain will overshadow any potential comfort or benefits that are inherent in the mattress.
Your sales team and your product assortment must support an ability to supply customers with the necessary information and products to maximize their experience. Only then will you enhance your revenue stream and attract repeat business.
Zia Sleep Sanctuary in Eden Prairie, Minnesota has taken the sleep approach to a new level. They go beyond the standard offering of mattresses, toppers and pillows to even include herbal teas, aromatherapy candles and earplugs. On their sales floor, are fitness, holistic and chiropractic experts all engaged in the job of helping consumers to make the best purchasing decisions.
PranaSleep®, engineered and marketed by City Mattress is another brand bridging the gap between sleep, health and general well-being. Their mission statement is “Restoring Life’s Energy” through sleep. The designers of the Prana mattress are so passionate about the merits of yoga, that they offer a free yoga class with the purchase of a Prana mattress. The PranaSleep® message has been carried through to their advertising and point-of-sale materials in order to convey the all-encompassing health and wellness story through imagery as well as the in-store experience. City Mattress has rounded out their Prana mattress line with complimentary accessories to amplify the Prana experience.
Select Comfort takes yet another approach, emphasizing individualized comfort through their adjustable air chamber mattresses. They round out the offering with a complete line of solution-driven, high value-in-use accessories uniquely engineered for Select Comfort mattresses. Their unique ability to focus the sales staff on the brand and control the design and engineering of their mattresses and accessories (which include form fit, temperature regulation and more) places them near the head of the class in terms of system-oriented, solution-driven sales and marketing.
In today’s sluggish economy, price is bound to take center stage in many consumers’ minds. However, educating the consumer on the importance of a better night’s sleep, the impact on overall health, selling the complete system and selling “life cycle cost” versus “sticker price” will go a long way toward positioning you for future growth and prosperity.
How do you start the data mining process with the consumer without getting too personal? There are many ways to do this and some are outlined in the side bars. You may also want to reference the many FURNITURE WORLD articles posted to the furninfo.com website that address issues surrounding the use of open and closed probes, asking permission, questionnaires and establishing rapport.
I can’t tell you what the impact will be as you dive into the personalized needs of the consumer, but I can tell you what the impact will be if you don’t!
When done correctly, marketing and communication materials with a clear explanation of technologies and health benefits of each mattress will attract the right people. Mattresses and accessories that offer temperature regulation, for instance, appeal to women going through the “change of life” as well as thermally incompatible couples (i.e. one partner sleeps warm, the other cold). By 2015, half of the women in the US will be going through menopause so the discussion of temperature regulation will become even more prevalent in our society. Our experience has shown that although bedding salespeople may be uncomfortable or inept when discussing “change of life issues”, women are not at all embarrassed by this discussion.
In fact, many will go well beyond what may be considered “usual and customary” in discussing their battles with hot flashes and other change-of-life related side effects. Most importantly, they’re looking for solutions, not stories.
Good POS collateral is an area in which many retailers are missing the mark. That said, some manufacturers/retailers like Kingsdown® have made the point of sale process more experiential. Kingsdown® effectively uses their Dormo Diagnostics® pressure mapping system to personalize the mattress selection process through color imagery. Select Comfort also offers an interactive experience via individualized controls that allow the consumer to tailor the support features of the bed to their own individual preference or Sleep Number®. They also use interactive point of sale materials for their Outlast® temperature regulation offerings.
The bottom line for retailers is that it is important to develop an effective customer engagement strategy supported by a product selection that meets the skillfully discovered needs of customers.
Money’s tight. If retailers want their share of the “economic stimulus” checks, they need to refine the way they take products to market and the way they promote them at retail. Leverage the manufacturers, don’t be afraid to use point of sale materials, sell benefits not features, and sell the system.
Education and the ability to provide a complete, high value-in-use solution for the consumer is not a futuristic idea. It’s being done today by some of the top retailers and manufacturers in the industry. If your goal is a sustainable competitive advantage, new and repeat customers, long-term revenue growth and sustainability, then you need to start now. You’ll be glad you did!
Guy Eckert has been with Outlast Technologies since 1999. He is responsible for product development, supply chain management, sales, marketing and the overall performance of the business unit. He is an expert in specialized bedding, top of bed products, mattresses and more. He possesses a unique point of view on how new technologies are advancing the future of the bedding industry and permanently raising the bar for comfort standards. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. For information on this or related topics, contact him care of email@example.com or call him direct at 303-581-0801.
Outlast Technologies, Inc. a pioneer in developing phase-change materials and applications. As an innovative technology company, Outlast has launched temperature-regulating technology in apparel, footwear, bedding and accessories. Originally developed for NASA, Outlast® fibers, fabrics and coatings contain patented microencapsulated phase-change materials called Thermocules™, which absorb, store, and release heat, providing increased comfort for consumers.