How Mattress Retailers Can Compete in the Online Jungle


by Gordon Hecht, Growth and Development Manager, Serta Simmons Bedding

Note to brick and mortar mattress retailers: it’s a jungle out there and the jungle starts online. Give up the belief that you sell the one product that people have to try before they buy. It’s not true for apparel, and it’s no longer true for bedding. Shoppers of all ages and income range have decided to forego the mattress store experience and take a chance on their bed—sight unseen and back untested.


Mattress retailers will never survive the jungle armed with the tools they are using now. If they are carrying a toenail clipper, they’ll need to swap it for a machete. Survival is the ability to adapt, the need to outthink the environment. Low prices and 60-month financing won’t do it anymore.


Face it, brick and mortar retailers are losing foot traffic to online retailers simply because the online retail buying experience is better. Newer bed-in-the-box sites (such as Casper, Leesa, Yogabed, and Helix) win because the shopper doesn’t have to wade through 35 choices of fluffy white rectangles to find the right bed. They have three choices or less. Free doorstep delivery is the price of admission in the online game; whereas brick and mortar want to charge $50-100 for taking it down the block. And while online retailers are willing to forgive and forget retail buying mistakes, traditional retailers’ no-return policy (or punishing return policy) gives the buying public no way out.


Of course, brick and mortar love to tout their friendly and knowledgeable sales staff. The most successful brick and mortar retailers ensure that their Retail Sales Associates (RSA) looks like their customers, but most bedding RSAs generally look like worn out retreads. Next, compensation policies need to be reviewed. Are they consumer friendly or commission friendly?


Here’s another thing that online retailers win on—they always ask for the sale (e.g., “Place Item in Cart”) and always ask for another item (e.g., “Here’s some things to help you enjoy your purchase”). Over the last 18 months I have comp-shopped 43 mattress retailers and have not been shown a pillow, a protector, a power base, or asked to purchase.


Here’s how traditional mattress retailers can WIN:
  • Clean the store and polish the RSAs. Make sure everything from the sidewalk to the restrooms sparkle! If you want to sell new and clean you have to look that way to your shoppers.
  • Help shoppers narrow their choices. Sure, stores want to show 35 or more beds. But get real. Fewer choices make the buying decision easy. I work with stores that show 9 beds in queen and 5 in twin and sell dozens every weekend.
  • Review every sales, delivery, and advertising policy with this simple question: is it customer friendly? An operations team may want to deliver Monday-Friday, between 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, but that’s when shoppers are working to pay off their purchases. Instead, offer delivery Wednesday through Sunday, between 3:00 PM and 9:00 PM and you’ll match your shopper’s home availability. Bonus tip: offer a doorstep delivery as a free option and your delivery team will love you!
  • Invest in a service that can maximize your website and social media. Retailers who haven’t updated their online presence in the last 12 hours are behind the times.
  • Call your store to see if the greeting is friendly and prompt. Hire a secret shopper service for a one-time shop. Really understand where the failure in the sales process is.
  • No hard closing the customer! Understand that people don’t have time to browse for a bed. The only time consumers shop (or even call you on the phone, or check your website) is when they want to buy. Ask every shopper to make a purchase and include essential items for good sleep such as pillows, protectors, and power bases.


The rise in competition for mattress retailers is unprecedented—in the last five years many new online players have joined the game. Traditional retailers can retain market share if they learn from their new competition and make the necessary experiential service improvements.


Please note: This article contains the sole views and opinions of Gordon Hecht and does not reflect the views or opinions of Guidepoint Global, LLC (“Guidepoint”). Guidepoint is not a registered investment adviser and cannot transact business as an investment adviser or give investment advice. The information provided in this article is not intended to constitute investment advice, nor is it intended as an offer or solicitation of an offer or a recommendation to buy, hold or sell any security.


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