Changing the Way Mattresses are Marketed

Introduction

Mattresses sold online and shipped by FedEx and UPS are popular. For young people now reaching adulthood, this is business as usual – the way things have been done. This is actually a new trend, ignited by new players in the bed & bedding market. The new bed-in-a-box mattress challenged business as usual, and with established mattress manufacturers coming in with their own boxable brands, bed-in-a-box has become business as usual.

From In-Store to Online

When your parents bought their mattresses they went to a store. It may have been a department store, a furniture store, or a mattress store, but it was in a store. Shopping has gone through changes of venue, from in-store, through mail and telephone ordering, to shopping online and having purchases delivered straight to your home. And e-commerce has grown from books to just about anything, including mattresses. As described in The Mattress Business – from Local to Global to Digital, that’s a long way to come from having to literally make your own bed.

In 2007, BedInABox began selling their mattresses only online. When Relief-Mart began selling the Tri-Pedic memory foam mattress designed by Dr. Swartzburg, a chiropractor, they were sold online. In 2012, a couple of software engineers designed the Tuft & Needle Mattress and sold it online. In 2014, online selling of mattresses mushroomed with the introduction of the Casper Mattress and Yogabed. Now there has been a proliferation of online mattress start-up companies, joined by the mattress-in-a-box offerings of established manufacturers.

Why In-Store?

Even with the expansion of Internet commerce, many mattress shoppers still prefer to go to a store. There are a few reasons:  Local Presence, Personal Service, Look-See-Try-Buy, and trusted traditional brands. .

Local Presence

Many people want to support businesses in their communities. Others don’t want to go far from home. Often, people remember places they frequently drive by.

Personal Service

This is a big factor for many consumers, especially if it is in a local business with people they know. On the other hand, poor service can turn a customer off.

Look, See, Try, Buy

“But how do I know how it feels?” ask many who are reluctant to buy a mattress online. In a store, you can see the mattress with your own eyes, press down on it with your hand, and lie down on it for 10 or 15 minutes – more in some stores. Some places you can lie down on a pressure-mapping bed, and the computer calculates the best mattress for you.

Trusted Traditional Brands

Let’s face it. We are creatures of habit. Many people stick to brands they grew up with, or those they’ve used for a long time. Reading mattress reviews, you’ll see comments like this: “Our ABC mattress served us well for x years, but it was time to get a new one, so we  looked for a new ABC model …” However, along the way are customers who’ve been dissatisfied with the traditional brands, and these are the shoppers the startup companies have been appealing to.

Why Online?

Online shopping, even for mattresses, has its own advantages. Among the reasons for customers changing their shopping venue from stores to the Internet are: Convenience, Cost, Dissatisfaction, and Less Confusion

Convenience

If you have the Internet at home or on your phone, online shopping is more convenient than even going down to the corner. If you want to check out the other brands, you don’t have to go across the street, down the road, or across town. If your hair’s not fixed or your good clothes are in the wash, no one will see you. The stores don’t even have to be open! If you feel like it, shop at 1 AM.

Cost

Lower cost is the economic advantage of $hopping online. Cut out the middleman, deal directly with the manufacturer: Less overhead; ship the mattress once instead of two or three times; fewer salaries and commissions. The price is closer to the cost of manufacturing than with distributor and retailer mark-ups.

Dissatisfaction

There is no “try before you buy” online, as in a store. Dissatisfaction with stores is one big motivating factor for shopping online. Online, you have memory foam mattress reviews from other customers. Surveys show similar levels of initial customer satisfaction between online and in-store shopping. However, online retailers generally have longer return periods and longer warranties than stores. And some, such as Snuggle-Pedic, customize mattresses for free after the purchase.

Less Confusion

Most online-only bed-in-the-box mattress companies have only one or two models. Some have three, and fewer have four. The descriptions are more thorough than those of most mainline brands, and almost all have annotated cutaway images.

The Online Marketplace

The explosion of mattress sales online can be credited to a couple of sales sites and a handful of manufacturers. These take advantage of the ease and convenience of shopping online

What Makes Shopping for Mattresses Online Possible?

At first, mattresses were just too large to sell online. If they were, they were too expensive to ship unless delivered locally. Several factors made selling mattresses online feasible: Internet Expansion, Mobile Technology, Packaging, Automation, and Package Delivery Services.

Internet Expansion

Online shopping would not be possible in the first place, were it not for expansion of the Internet. First, the Internet had to be widely available; now Internet access is almost universal. Then customers need to be able to find products, including mattresses. Search engines, such as Google and Bing, and online marketplaces, such as Amazon, make this possible.

Mobile Technology

In the 1990s, manufacturers of cell phones were predicting that it would not be long until users could watch television and movies, play games, turn the lights at home on and off, and even shop on their cell phones. Now smart phones which can do all this and more are commonplace.

Packaging

The final tie to physical stores is delivery. Originally, ordering mattresses online was like ordering through the mail or by telephone The mattress had to be shipped from a warehouse or a local store in a truck big enough to carry a bed. It took at least two persons to pull it off the truck and carry it into the house. Since a mattress is so big, maneuvering it through hallways and up stairs could be a challenge.

Then came along a new technology: compressing, sealing, and rolling mattresses and stuffing them into a box small enough to fit on the back seat of a car.

Automation

As happens so many times in other industries, automation increased production and lowered costs at the same time in mattress production and delivery. A new mattress is fed into a machine line that automatically performs the entire process from compression to sealing the box. In many places, order fulfillment is an automated process. This is all add to aspects of manufacture which are automated.

Package Delivery Services

The two largest package delivery services are UPS and FedEx not only in North America, but around the world. These are not freight transporters, but specialize in packages one person can unload and take to or through a door.

Sellers and Manufacturers

When it comes to buying mattresses online, two firms first come to mind for most people: Amazon and eBay. As for mattresses online, the big three were Casper Sleep, Yogabed, and Tuft &Needle. Although there are many others now, these entities set the ball rolling.

Amazon and eBay

The two businesses most responsible for the popularity of online shopping are Amazon and eBay.

Seattle-based Amazon began selling books over the Internet in 1994, diversified to entertainment media, then expanded to other classes of merchandise, including mattresses. Now they host a marketplace where companies list their products. Orders may be fulfilled by the companies or by Amazon. Most of the online mattress brands – including Tuft & Needle, Casper, Yogabed, and Snuggle-Pedic – are listed on Amazon.

eBay, based in San Jose, the online auction site, was started in 1995. Sellers – companies and individuals – post items for sale and take bids. Many items have a “buy now” price. The owners of eBay started PayPal, a pay-through service which makes online purchasing easier and more secure. Some customers pay for their mattresses through PayPal.

The “Disrupters”

Although mattresses have been sold online and shipped by UPS and FedEx for about a dozen years, the surge of the current online boxed bed trend was triggered in 2014 by two startups, Casper Sleep and Yogabed (now part of Marpac).

Unlike BedInABox, these two upstarts had only one mattress model each, designed for the largest number of sleepers. It seemed like a “one size fits all” solution to the confusing number of options then in the mattress market, but the newcomers did acknowledge that one size does not fit all, and began offering firmness options, and now more than one model.

The attention garnered by Casper and Yogabed helped the slightly older Tuft & Needle and spurred a spate of other startups. It did not take long for established manufacturers to come up with their own mattress-in-a-box models sold online. Some of these are sold online only, and some are also available in stores as buy-and-carry beds (no waiting for the furniture truck).

Not all mattresses sold online are compressed and boxed. Some, such as Saatva, sell only online, but do not compress and roll their mattress. Although most list their mattresses on Amazon, some do not. Others have a mix, with only some of their lines listed on Amazon. For instance, all Selectabed mattresses (including the TempFlow brand) are sold directly from their websites and in their California showroom, but their Snuggle-Pedic mattress is the only one on Amazon.

A Matter of Choice

Even with the explosion of online mattress sales, mattresses will still be in stores for the foreseeable future. The online marketplace provides a platform for consumers to see what is out there and compare features. Then they can look at mattresses in store, try some out, and place their orders. They may even order their mattress through the store at no additional cost (depending on the brand and the store), have it delivered, or pick it up at the store (an option for those who do not want their new bed sitting on their front porch). What the online mattress marketplace has done is provide us the choice of how to buy that new bed.