How consumer tech is changing the mattress industry

Michael Magnuson
Michael Magnuson

By Susan Andrews

At a pre-conference seminar and reception offered exclusively for international manufacturers attending ISPA EXPO 2014, Michael Magnuson, founder and CEO of Revv Media, which publishes the GoodBed website, spoke to the attendees on “How Consumer Technology is Changing the Business of Making Mattresses.”

Magnuson, who had his own less-than-optimal experience shopping for a mattress, wants to build GoodBed into the world’s largest and most-trusted mattress research destination.

About 700 mattress companies and 2 million mattress shoppers per year already use the site, said Magnuson. To that end, he has discovered a great deal about what drives mattress shoppers’ behavior.  Above all, mattress shoppers are driven by fear: fear of choosing the wrong bed, fear of overpaying, fear that they can’t trust the retailer and fear that the mattress won’t last.

Why is fear such a big factor in purchasing bedding? It’s a big purchase, an inherently difficult product and consumers lack knowledge of the product, said Magnuson. Consumers’ fear leads them to look for information and, in these days of social media, that means they go online.

Magnuson said a direct relationship with end consumers is becoming key to a mattress brand’s reputation, because consumers crave external validation.

Buying a bed was simpler before the age of consumer technology, said Magnuson. Then, shoppers recognized the need for a new bed, visited a store and bought a bed—all pretty straightforward.

Now, however, he said consumers recognize the need for a new bed, then go online to learn about the products and how to make a choice, and read reviews by other consumers. Then they visit the stores, but they don’t buy yet—first they go back to the Internet to evaluate what they’ve seen and make comparisons. Only then do they make a purchase. But after that, they go back to the Internet again (and this is the most important part, said Magnuson) to leave reviews about their experience and the product—reviews that the next customer will see and use.

The review is the key, he explained; the review is that external validation that mattress shoppers crave. According to Magnuson, consumers are more likely to buy a product from a company that has reviews, even if reviews are bad, than from a company that has no reviews—that’s how important it is for mattresses marketers to ensure that there’s a platform at every level for consumer feedback. That feedback is important because when consumers can see a range of opinions, it makes them feel more confident about buying, he explained.

Consumers also visit manufacturer sites, consumer magazine and newspaper sites, home design sites, retail store sites and social media sites. It’s important to realize, as well, that consumers visit manufacturer sites for technical information; they don’t have any expectation that the company’s site will be objective about the product.

Magnuson sees enormous untapped potential in “proving” (versus “improving”) a product. Ideally, he said, manufacturers should let models linger longer in the market instead of changing something every six months or so. Frequent changes make it impossible for consumers to feel confident about comparing potential purchases. If a mattress is popular and gets a lot of positive reviews, but six months later a consumer cannot find that model, it becomes a negative and creates frustration.

In the new world, Magnuson said, “the stakes are too high to leave consumer interactions entirely to your dealers. Bad customer experiences that involve your products will ultimately reflect badly on you in your online reputation.”

Magnuson said that is why mattress manufacturers must be careful to select dealers who will help people choose the right model and be willing to resolve any issues that might arise.

“You should also invest in your own consumer-facing service capabilities,” Magnuson said, “and you may even want to consider adding a direct sales channel so that you develop an even greater understanding of the experience your end-consumers are having with your products.”

Likewise, in supporting dealers from a marketing perspective, today’s technology allows mattress marketers to take even more control over building their brand than ever before. In addition to building the external validation that dealers can use to more effectively sell their products, now manufacturers have the ability to raise awareness and demand for their products by directing highly targeted advertising dollars toward people who are actively in the process of shopping for a mattress.

“Once you have developed these capabilities, you’ll be in a position to begin sending your dealers actual ‘leads,’ rather than simply giving them co-op dollars that require them to figure out how to generate demand for your products,” Magnuson said.

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