Keys to building value: Sell better sleep, encourage in-store experience.
Here’s a big challenge for the mattress industry: How do we build more value in mattresses?
Research conducted for the Better Sleep Council shows a worrisome trend when it comes to the prices that consumers expect to pay, are willing to pay and actually pay for mattresses. All three of those categories are on the decline.
Back in 2016, consumers said they expected to pay $1,368 for a quality queen-size mattress or set. In 2020, that figure had dropped to $1,212. And in 2022, it declined again, to $1,163. That’s a six-year decline of $205.
Similarly, in 2016 consumers said they were willing to pay $1,177 for a new queen-size mattress or set. That figure dropped to $1,119 in 2020, and dropped again, to $961, in 2022. That’s a six-year decline of $216.
That same trend is evident in actual spending. In 2016, consumers spent $1,146 for their queen mattress. That figure dropped to $1,045 in 2020, and fell again, to $997, in 2022. That’s a six-year decline of $149. (Note: All of these dollar values are adjusted for inflation.)
Why all of those declines? Two thoughts come to mind. First is the influx of low-priced mattress imports we saw several years ago. Second is the rise of online mattress retailers, some of them featuring low-priced imports. Together, those factors have lowered consumers’ expectations about mattress values and spending.
In addition, according to BSC research, 47% of consumers say mattresses are too expensive for the value they provide. That’s an increase of six percentage points from 2020 — and that’s another unwelcome development.
What’s happening is that mattresses are being viewed as more of a commodity than a vital health product. When mattresses are just pictures on a website, and no more, the industry loses. The important health benefits of mattresses get swept away in a sea of images, leading consumers to make decisions based on price and not on features and benefits. Many mattresses look alike online and lower prices often win the day in that arena.
And make no mistake, there are some low prices online. I recently checked one major online retailer’s site and the first four queen mattresses I saw were priced at $259, $449, $279 and $74.99. Those prices are all far below $789, which is the mean price that BSC research says consumers are willing to pay.
The answer to commoditization is to build value in mattresses by presenting them as providing a valuable benefit to the consumer. There is no doubt about the health benefits that mattresses provide as part of the better sleep equation. That is a story best told in person, with a retail sales associate who can help consumers try a number of different mattresses on the sales floor, and who can explain key product differences to them. The feel, as the saying goes, is the deal.
Comfort, as we all know, is subjective. It is best determined by comparing mattresses in a store. No online comfort quiz can substitute for a consumer’s own comfort tests on the sales floor.
Thinking about an adjustable bed base? The best way to experience those products, of course, is in person. They can turn skeptics into believers in minutes. There is no gravity online, but real zero-gravity positions come alive on mattress sales floors.
Need new pillows? There have never been more options to try, and the cool-sleeping properties of some new pillows are pronounced. Yes, they must be experienced to be appreciated.
As these examples illustrate, it’s important to turn mattress shopping into an experience, one in which the various features and benefits of the mattress can be seen and felt — and are fully appreciated. That experience will encourage consumers to invest in their health with a better mattress. That’s a win for the industry — and for consumers, too.