Sleep is personal, and today’s mattress startups are reaching out into the bedrooms of consumers.
In its youth, the online mattress revolution changed the way consumers bought mattresses. Now, they’re altering the rules for returns, showrooms, and universal comfort mattress options.
How mattress startups changed mattress shopping
Buying a mattress has traditionally meant finding a local showroom and spending some time awkwardly entertaining a salesperson while lying down on several different mattresses to guess which one might offer the best night’s sleep. Mattress showrooms aren’t a great environment for making important decisions like which bed you’ll be sleeping on for the next six to eight years.
Most online mattress startups eliminated the showroom. Instead, they sell mattresses sight unseen online and deliver them compressed in a box to the doorsteps of customers via UPS or FedEx. Buying a bed online requires consumers to take a leap of faith. However, many online mattress companies provide extensive information on their websites to help customers make an informed decision. Additionally, online mattress companies typically offer a 100 night or more sleep trial that guarantees a full refund if buyers have second thoughts about the comfort of their new mattress.
Some online mattress retailers are offering a hybrid sales model that blends the online marketplace with physical showrooms. Tuft & Needle partnered with Amazon to develop a new showroom in Seattle, but salespeople are less prominent than technology in the showroom. Shoppers can use tablets to access mattress reviews on Amazon, ask Alexa questions about the mattresses on Echo devices, and purchase their mattress using the Amazon app.
The evolution of mattress returns
For many online mattress companies, the cornerstone of eliminating the showroom has been their sleep trial. Consumers can rest easy with their purchase, knowing that if they decide the mattress isn’t a good fit, the company will pick it up and cheerfully refund their money. It sounds like a simple and effective idea, but that’s not always the case.
Returning a bed is almost never simple due to the sheer size of the product, and the fact that used mattresses aren’t always a welcome product at thrift stores, charities, or even landfills. It costs money to get rid of a bed properly, and online mattress companies are eating this cost when customers decide they’re not in love with their new mattress.
Some companies require customers to keep their mattress for at least 30 nights, so they can spend ample time deciding whether the mattress is the right choice. However, some customers know right away a bed isn’t comfortable, such as if they are waking up with back pain — and then they end up stuck with a mattress they can’t swap out for a month.
Although companies generally don’t charge return or restocking fees, they typically only refund the cost of the mattress, not any delivery fees. Some encourage consumers to find a charity partner, friend, family member, or even a Craigslist stranger to accept their unwanted mattress before sending a junk truck to collect, which puts the responsibility of disposal primarily on the customer.
Many online mattress companies primarily sell universal comfort mattresses. These mattresses are generally medium firm and designed to be comfortable for all but the most extreme consumers who need an exceptionally soft or firm mattress. But consumers don’t always benefit from a one size fits all solution.
Some companies offer levels of customisation. For example, Luxi gives consumers the option to customise their firmness and comfort layers with an adjustable mattress. Each adjustable Luxi mattress comes with layers that can change the softness or firmness, and each side of the mattress can be adjusted independently. Luxi designed this approach to reduce return rates and keep mattresses out of landfills while increasing their ability to meet comfort preferences.
Bottom line: the competition for customer value
The developments we have outlined have a great benefit for customers – more flexibility, more choice and a greater likelihood of a product that will suit their individual needs. These new startups contribute great customer value because they have identified their customers’ desired outcomes (a good night’s sleep) and hone their operating models and leverage innovations in product and delivery technology to achieve this.
Continued success in future will require them to maintain this level of innovation, whilst traditional retailers play catch-up – if they can.
About the author:
Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.