The message is clear: A good mattress is key for getting a good night’s sleep
BY JULIE A. PALM
The Better Sleep Council’s latest consumer research reveals good news for the sleep products industry about consumers’ understanding of the sleep-mattress connection. In the third and final installment about the BSC survey, BedTimes examines their attitudes toward sleep and sleep accessory shopping habits, and profiles five key consumer segments.
A good night’s sleep is the most important factor for good health and well-being—more vital to wellness than even a healthy diet, exercise or regular medical checkups, according to consumers surveyed on behalf of the Better Sleep Council, the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association.
And even better for the sleep products industry, consumers see a clear connection between the quality of the sleep they get each night and the quality of their mattress, with the vast majority (85%) agreeing with the statement, “A good mattress is key for getting a good night’s sleep.”
These are only some of the findings from BSC research conducted by New York-based Fluent Research in 2016 and released at the end of the year. Here, we’ll examine consumers’ attitudes and habits regarding sleep, as well as their thoughts about bedding accessories. We’ll also identify five prototypical consumers to help bedding manufacturers hone their product development and marketing efforts.
Sleep! Glorious sleep!
Consumers recognize, the research shows, that good health isn’t the result of only one action or habit, but they overwhelmingly agree that sleep is a foundation of wellness, with 85% of respondents rating it as very important to their own health and well-being. Falling in line behind sleep were a healthy diet (76%), stress management (75%), regular medical checkups (71%), physical exercise (70%) and maintaining work-life balance (60%).
A survey respondent identified as Erin explained the wide-ranging effects a single night of poor quality sleep has on her life. “Sleep is very important to me. If I don’t get a quality night’s sleep, it affects everything else I do,” she said. “After a bad night’s sleep, I have less energy to exercise, I am more likely to have just whatever is around for breakfast and tend to be less effective at work.”
In fact, says Fluent Research in a report accompanying the results, when respondents talked during the qualitative phase of the study about having a bad day, it “invariably featured a restless night or insufficient sleep.”
It’s heartening to see that consumers value sleep, but it’s even better to know they understand the role their mattress plays in either facilitating a good night’s sleep or, if it is worn out or uncomfortable, interfering with it. As we noted earlier, 85% of survey respondents agree that a good mattress is key to getting a good night’s sleep and a majority (51%) strongly agree with that statement. Conversely, consumers recognize that “sleeping on a poor quality mattress is bad for your health” (78% agree; 41% strongly agree) and that “sleep problems are often caused by a poor mattress” (75% agree; 33% strongly agree).
A respondent identified as Gordon explained the difference a new comfortable, supportive mattress made to the quality of his sleep. “We have recently purchased a new mattress and it’s totally helped,” he said. “I used to fall asleep on the couch with the TV on. With the nice new mattress, I now shut off the TV and go to bed.”
Interestingly, older consumers are more likely than their younger counterparts to value the contribution a mattress makes to sleep. Fifty-six percent of respondents 56 and older strongly agree that a good mattress is key for getting a good night’s sleep, compared with only 41% of those ages 18-35. It could be that older consumers, facing health problems—many of which interfere with sleep—better appreciate products that help them sleep and feel better.
Here’s another positive nugget from the research: Consumers’ satisfaction with their sleep quality correlates with the age of their mattress—those sleeping on newer mattresses sleep better than those going to bed every night on a mattress set they’ve had for more than a decade. Specifically, nearly a quarter (24%) of people sleeping on a mattress they bought within the past four years are very satisfied with the quality of their sleep, but only 15% of those sleeping on a mattress 11 years old or older are equally satisfied.
Although 85% of people say sleep is important to health, 42% of people report they aren’t getting enough shut-eye. In fact, 66% say they need eight or more hours of sleep to feel “well-rested and energized in the morning,” but only 27% actually manage that many. It’s not just a matter of quantity: 30% of people say they are dissatisfied with the quality of their sleep—up significantly from 22% in 2007, the last time the BSC consumer research was conducted.
A number of things keep people up at night—most disrupting to people is stress, with 37% of respondents pointing to that as a main factor disturbing their sleep. That’s up, too—from 27% in 2007. Other common sleep interrupters include wrong temperature (27%), noise (19%), bad mattress (16%), wrong pillows (14%), light (13%), pets (13%), a snoring partner (11%) and children (9%). (Respondents could choose more than one answer.)
Given all that people must combat to simply rest well, they report trying a number of approaches to sleep better—and many of their favorite strategies are the same ones endorsed and promoted by the Better Sleep Council. For instance, 41% of research respondents try to go to bed at the same time each night and 30% get up at the same time, even on weekends; 39% use room fans, which provide white noise and cool the room; 34% “use comfortable bedding”; 30% avoid caffeine late in the day; 30% avoid eating late in the evening; 23% read before bedtime; 19% turn off electronics well before it’s time to sleep; 18% invest in a quality mattress (or sleep set); 16% create a calming environment in their bedroom; 16% open windows to let in fresh air; and 12% listen to soothing music or white noise as they fall asleep. All these, according to the BSC, are effective and easy-to-implement methods to improve sleep. Most have the added benefit of being low-cost or even no-cost. But the survey shows people also rely on strategies that the BSC says can actually impair sleep, including watching TV before bed (30%) or falling asleep with the TV on (19%), and checking emails or social media before bedtime (10%). (Respondents could choose more than one answer.)
Making the bed
Consumers recognize the central importance of a mattress to a good night’s sleep: They also know a complete sleep ensemble includes more than just a mattress. But, as we’ll see, plenty of people are sleeping without the bedding accessories that many in the sleep products industry know provide real value to consumers—from protectors that help keep a mattress set clean and sanitary (and help maintain the warranty) to linens that can regulate temperatures and make a sleep environment more comfortable.
To wit: Virtually all consumers regularly use pillows and sheets and more than half use a mattress pad (52%) but only 25% of BSC survey respondents report using a mattress protector. Or, to look at it another way, many consumers never use mattress toppers (38%), mattress protectors (30%), mattress pads (26%), bed covers/decorative pillows (16%) and comforters/duvets (11%). This is a potential area of growth for the industry, which could better educate consumers about the value of some of these accessories.
Survey results also indicate that producers of sleep accessories could do a more effective job explaining to consumers the value of a complete sleep ensemble, encouraging them to, when buying a new mattress or mattress set, purchase appropriate accessories—from pillows to protectors to sheets to comforters/duvets—at the same time to maximize the benefits of all pieces and provide the most comfortable night’s sleep possible.
The purchase of a new mattress does appear to prompt some consumers to buy new sleep accessories, too, but the numbers are less than impressive. Of survey respondents who had purchased a mattress in the past five years, 32% also bought pillows, 27% purchased mattress protectors, 24% sheets, 24% mattress pads, 17% bed covers/decorative pillows, 17% comforters/duvets and 15% mattress toppers. That means the bulk of mattress buyers are dressing their brand-new beds in old, potentially worn-out pillows, linens, etc. Worse, some of the old accessories they are putting on their beds actually could interfere with the benefits of their new mattress (for example, a lumpy mattress pad that ruins the feel of a smooth-top foam construction or mitigates temperature-regulating features of the bed).
When consumers purchase new accessories, they often do so from a retailer other than the one that sold them the mattress or from one that doesn’t specialize in mattresses. As one respondent explained, “I don’t typically buy items for my bed at the same time as my mattress purchase. I like to shop for bed accessories at T.J. Maxx, Ross or Macy’s.” Another said, “We would usually buy the mattress protector at the store but look for bedding and pillows elsewhere. We would probably buy the accessories online or at a local shop like Target, Bed Bath & Beyond or Kohl’s.”
All that said, one in two consumers is open to the idea of buying their accessories from the same retailer who sells them a mattress (23% very interested; 27% somewhat interested).
Consumer segments offer opportunities
Of course, “consumers” is not a monolithic group and trying to take one approach in designing products for or marketing to all of them is ineffective, possibly fool-hardy.
To help the mattress industry better understand today’s consumers, Fluent Research identified from the research sample five key consumer segments, specifically linked to their mattress purchasing attitudes and behaviors.
Wellness Seekers (22%)
This is a group that may be especially attractive to makers of high-end mattresses and other sleep products. Described by Fluent also as “Tennis Moms,” consumers in this group have good incomes (most earning more than $50,000 a year), are older and are focused on health, understanding the importance of eating well, exercising regularly and getting a good night’s sleep. Importantly for bedding manufacturers, these consumers are most likely to value a mattress for its comfort, support and sleep/health benefits—and are willing to pay for those benefits. Of all consumers, those in this group pegged the price of a mattress set highest, at $1,100. When Wellness Seekers go to shop for a new bed, they are most likely to visit traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
Quality Seekers (7%)
Though far smaller than the Wellness Seekers, this millennial group also is an attractive consumer segment for makers of higher end bedding products. Quality Seekers, Fluent says, “appreciate quality and expect to pay for it.” Like the Wellness Seekers, they have good incomes, as well as high education levels. Among all the groups, Quality Seekers are least concerned about price, sales and free delivery. They estimate the price of a quality mattress set at $1,080. Quality Seekers are looking for a mattress that provides comfort and support, and expect good customer service from manufacturers and retailers. Quality Seekers are more likely than other groups to shop online and “like the idea of a mattress in a box,” Fluent writes in a report accompanying the research results.
The New Generation (51%)
This largest consumer group is, in many ways, also the most intriguing. Fluent describes the New Generation as “millennials who are too young and busy to have solidified their attitudes toward mattresses,” giving the mattress industry an opportunity to shape their beliefs and habits. New Generation consumers spend more time on social media and, not surprisingly, “are pushing the online front,” valuing attractive, user-friendly websites and online chat support, Fluent says. In an interesting contradiction, these consumers are more interested in shopping online than members of other groups but also want to support local retailers. When they shop in-store, they want “nonpushy” sales associates. Regardless of where they shop, they like free delivery, are interested in boxed mattresses and support mattress recycling. These consumers estimate the price of a mattress set at $940 and the majority think mattresses are fairly priced in terms of value.
Wal-Mart Shoppers (10%)
Wal-Mart Shoppers and a similar group that Fluent calls Savvy Bargain Shoppers, which together represent one in five consumers, present opportunities for bedding manufacturers who specialize in promotionally priced and midpriced products. Wal-Mart Shoppers, it’s no surprise, are “no-frills” consumers. When they are in the market for a mattress, they focus primarily on price and are most likely to see their bedrooms as simply a place to sleep. Wal-Mart Shoppers estimate the price of a new mattress at $900 (the lowest of any group) and expect to keep a mattress 11.2 years (longer than any other group). This group is least interested in the health benefits that mattresses provide. Wal-Mart Shoppers tend to be middle-age, live primarily in suburban and rural areas, and have lower incomes.
Savvy Bargain Shoppers (10%)
“These are your aging Soccer Moms. Demographically, they are quite similar to the Wal-Mart Shoppers, but are more likely to be married and a little older,” Fluent writes. When shopping for a mattress, these consumers focus on price, sales and an easy return process. Unlike their Wal-Mart Shopper counterparts, Savvy Bargain Shoppers are more likely to comparison shop to make sure they are finding the best mattress at the lowest price and expect a new mattress to cost $960. Notably, more than other groups, this one believes mattresses, in general, are too expensive.
The differences between these five groups give mattress manufacturers plenty of opportunities to tailor products and marketing messages to meet the needs of each—and perhaps better inform some of these groups about the health and wellness benefits of their latest sleep products.
Industry efforts shift consumer attitudes
The latest round of consumer research from the Better Sleep Council contains a wealth of encouraging news for the mattress industry—and one of the overarching messages is that the industry has had measurable success in its consumer-education efforts over the past two decades.
Perhaps most significantly, concerted industry efforts led by the BSC, as well as individual efforts from mattress makers, retailers, the health community and media to increase awareness among consumers about the sleep-health connection, have pushed the mattress replacement cycle below 10 years after being stuck stubbornly above that marker for decades. According to research conducted in 2016 and released at the end of the year, consumers now expect a mattress to last, on average, for 9.4 years, that’s down from the 10.9 years cited by consumers the last time such research was done in 2007. The actual mattress replacement cycle is compressing, too. In 2007, consumers reported holding onto their last mattress 10.3 years before replacing it with their current sleep set. Today, that timeframe is down to a median of 8.9 years.
The BSC, the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association, conducted its first comprehensive consumer study in 1996 and has done so periodically since. The goal has been to help the sleep products industry better understand and track shifts in consumers’ attitudes and habits—and then use that information to more finely calibrate strategies to educate consumers about the key role that the mattress plays in health and wellness, the importance of a quality mattress to a good night’s sleep, and the need for regular mattress replacement. With each round of the qualitative and quantitative research, key questions are repeated to allow for comparisons over time and additional information is sought to account for new bedding products and technologies, shopping channels and product research options. For instance, the most recent round included many new questions about topics such as adjustable bases, accessories and social media.
The 2016 consumer study from the Better Sleep Council, the consumer-
education arm of the International Sleep Products Association, uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative methodologies. It was carried out by New York-based Fluent Research and included three phases:
- Phase 1: An online “bulletin board” conducted in December 2015 that included input from 35 consumers recruited from regions across the country. The bulletin board moderator was able to ask questions of the group, as well as of individuals, and the respondents in the group could reply to each other, in addition to the moderator. Respondents posted photos and videos of their bedrooms and sleep sets.
- Phase 2: Shopping ethnographies with 10 consumers who were in the market to purchase a new mattress. Each respondent visited three retailers and documented their experiences using photos and videos, answering survey questions and participating in an open-ended discussion. A few of these shoppers ended up purchasing a mattress as a result of the experience.
- Phase 3: The final phase was an online survey of 2,000 consumers nationwide. The sample was representative of the overall U.S. population of adults (ages 18+) but was screened to include consumers who participate in decision-making when it comes to mattress purchases.
All the findings
This is the third and final in a series of articles digging into the results of the latest consumer research from the Better Sleep Council. In the December 2016 issue of BedTimes, we shared the encouraging news that consumers are replacing their mattresses more often than in the past and expect to pay more for them when they do. We also examined consumers’ preferences when it comes to product research and shopping channels. In the January 2017 issue of the magazine, we showed you that consumers generally are happy with their current mattress. That said, a healthy percentage are in the market for a new bed set and many would consider replacing their current bed to enjoy new technologies. In the January issue, we also looked at how consumers define a “quality” mattress and gauged their interest in adjustable bases.