BSC Research: Consumer Mattress Buying Behavior, Part 3, All About the Bed

Consumers are almost evenly split on firmness, but softer mattresses have gained ground, according to research conducted by the Better Sleep Council

Consumers are divided in their preferences for firm and soft mattresses, but the Covid-19 pandemic is sparking growing interest in softer mattresses, which are preferred by many younger consumers. (Scroll to view two slideshows of study results.)

A major consumer study by the Better Sleep Council, the consumer education arm of the International Sleep Products Association, found that consumers are split almost evenly these days in their preferences for very firm, firm, soft and very soft mattresses.

The nationally projectible study of more than 1,000 consumers who participated in mattress purchasing decisions revealed consumers fall into four similar-size groups when it comes to mattress firmness:

• 25% prefer very firm mattresses

• 26% prefer firm mattresses

• 26% prefer soft mattresses

• 23% prefer very soft mattresses.

The consumers used a slider in the online survey to position their mattress preferences on a continuum from very firm to very soft.

The study, conducted last year, provided an update to a similar consumer study conducted four years earlier as part of a regular BSC initiative to track consumer perceptions of a variety of key topics related to mattresses and sleep accessories.

The latest round of research found that consumers are more likely now than they were in 2016 to prefer softer mattresses (49% vs. 42%).

The Covid-19 pandemic is boosting interest in softer mattresses, the new study found. Consumers under stay-at-home orders are more than twice as likely to prefer a very soft mattress (45% vs. 19%).

The study also found that younger consumers are more likely to prefer softer mattresses than other consumers. Almost half (46%) of consumers 18 to 35 said they prefer a soft mattress, compared with 22% of consumers ages 36 to 55, and just 7% of consumers 56 and older.

Types, features, benefits

The study yielded insights into the types of mattresses that consumers prefer and the features and benefits they are looking for in those mattresses.

Among the key findings:

Comfort and support are the most important featureswhen consumers are purchasing a new mattress, cited by 83% of consumers. Size/thickness is next, cited by 57% of consumers, followed by construction/materials (56%), reputation (40%), warranty (31%), customization (29%) and technology/innovation (16%).

When it comes to mattress types, 34% of consumers said they believe pillow-top mattresses are best, while 22% said hybrid mattresses made with both springs and foam are best, and another 22% said foam mattresses made without springs or coils are best. Spring mattresses were said to be best by 21% of consumers.

Asked about the best type of foam, 66% said memory foam (viscoelastic foam), while 31% said gel foam and 20% said latex foam.

“Comfort is in the eye of the beholder, and it’s important for the mattress industry to know how consumers are defining comfort in their bedrooms,” said Mary Helen Rogers, ISPA’s vice president of communications and marketing. “This broad consumer study reveals that consumer interest in softer mattresses is rising, particularly among younger consumers, but confirms once again that there is no one firmness level that is right for everyone.”

Interest in adjustable beds is on the upswing. Nearly two in 10 consumers now own an adjustable foundation, an increase from 2016 (17% vs. 9%). Seven in 10 consumers are familiar with adjustable foundations, a level of interest comparable to that found in 2016.

Taking a closer look at key mattress features, the survey found that back support is the top feature that consumers are looking for to meet their comfort/support needs, cited by 43% of consumers. Firm is next (33%), followed by pillow-top (26%), soft (20%), contours to your body (20%), motion isolation (14%), firm edges (14%) and adjustable firmness/support (11%).

Overall, size is the most important feature when consumers are considering a mattress, cited by 49% of consumers.

When it comes to mattress construction and materials, 22% of consumers like mattresses that do not need to be flipped, while 17% said that hypoallergenic or allergen-control materials are important, and 16% said that it is important that the mattress contains foam. Thirteen percent said cover fabric quality is important to them, while the fact that the mattress is made with coils or springs is important to 11% of consumers.

Three in 10 consumers said that mattress “Made in the USA” are important to them. That’s the same number who said that having a mattress warranty is important to them. But the survey also found that 42% of consumers don’t recall whether their current mattress had a warranty.

A brand name is important to 17% of consumers.

The ability to customize a mattress was cited by a number of consumers, with 17% saying that temperature control is important, 11% saying a mattress compatible with an adjustable foundation is important, and 10% saying it is important that each side has its own firmness and support.

The survey also asked consumers which factors are most important in making a comfortable bed. Not surprisingly, the mattress topped that list, with 39% of consumers giving that response. That was followed by 16% of consumers who said the mattress set (a mattress and a flat box spring/foundation) is most important, 10% of consumers who said pillows are most important and 7% who said sheets are most important.

“Without a comfortable mattress,” one consumer said, “a good night’s sleep would be impossible.”

“The mattress provides the support to allow you to relax,” another added. 


Mattress Replacement Cycle Shortening

Young consumers buy new mattresses more frequently, survey says

Consumers are replacing their mattresses at about the age they expect a quality mattress to last, a Better Sleep Council consumer study reveals.

The survey found that consumers expect a quality mattress to last for a mean of 9.5 years, and actually replaced their previous mattress after a mean of nine years.

It also found that the consumers’ age, gender and metro status, among other factors, affect their mattress replacement patterns.

For example: 

Younger consumers’ expected and actual replacement times are much shorter than for older consumers. Consumers between ages 18 and 35 expect a quality mattress to last for a mean of 7.1 years but replaced their previous mattress after a mean of 5.7 years.

Consumers ages 36 to 55 expect a quality mattress to last for a mean of 8.7 years, but said they replaced their previous mattress after a mean of 8 years.

Consumers 56 and older replaced their previous mattress after a mean of 12.3 years and said they expect a quality mattress to last for a mean of 12.1 years.

“Consumers in different demographic groups have very different expectations of mattress life,” said Mary Helen Rogers, vice president of communications and marketing for the International Sleep Products Association. (The BSC is ISPA’s consumer education arm.) “They also have different budgets and life experiences, and those factors and others, affect their home furnishings purchase decisions.”

Consumers with children at home expect a quality mattress to last for a mean of 7.2 years but replaced their previous mattress after a mean of 6.4 years. However, consumers without children have a significantly longer replacement cycle. They expect a quality mattress to last for a mean of 10.6 years and said they replaced their previous mattress after a mean of 10.3 years.

Where people live also matters. Urban consumers expect a quality mattress to last for a mean of 8.1 years and replaced their previous mattress after a mean of 7.8 years. Rural consumers, on the other hand, expect a quality mattress to last for a mean of 10.1 years and said they replaced their previous mattress after a mean of 9.5 years.

Men and women both said they expect a quality mattress to last for a mean of 9.5 years, but men said they replaced their previous mattress after a mean of 8.5 years, while women said they replaced their previous mattress after a mean of 9.4 years.

 The actual replacement times also remain in single digits. The 2020 actual mean was 9 years, about the same as the 2016 actual mean of 8.9 years. But the 2007 actual replacement mean was 10.3 years.

“It’s a positive that expected and actual mattress replacement cycles remain at lower levels than in the past,” Rogers said. “Too many consumers continue to hang onto old mattresses long after they have lost their comfort life. A quality mattress is the key to a good night’s sleep, and the Better Sleep Council encourages all consumers to invest in a quality mattress.”

The survey also examined sources of information that consumers rely on for guidance on how frequently they should replace a mattress. It found that consumers are most likely to rely on their own personal experiences with mattresses, with 39% of consumers expressing that view.

Next on the list, cited by 17% of consumers, are experts’ recommendations, followed by word-of-mouth comments, cited by 16% of consumers. That same percentage of consumers said they form their opinions based on what the mattress industry recommends. “What the warranty says” was cited by 15% of consumers, while 14% cited online reviews.

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