The right mattress can help ensure a good night’s sleep and that the sleeper wakes feeling rested and refreshed. We understand that the type of mattress people choose is largely a matter of personal preference. And, just as there is not a “best” single sleep position for everyone, no single mattress suits everyone’s needs or preferences, either. This issue’s Q&A examines how a number of major mattress manufacturers use these facts and available research to create a mattress collection that addresses the variables, to provide a mattress for every customer.
HOW DOES YOUR COMPANY TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE GROWING AMOUNT OF SLEEP RESEARCH AND ITS IMPACT ON THE CONSUMER?
I find it incumbent, as well as fascinating, to read as much research as possible, especially the scientific articles and literature regarding back and neck pain. With this growing base of knowledge and the neurophysiological impact that sleep can have on the human body, I take the data and transpose it into design.” —Dr Raymond Hall, CEO and Inventor, PILLO1
Today, there is great research available to us and we try to incorporate as much as possible into our product design. When we can, we will balance the research against market realities, such as what our retailers and their RSAs are telling us about their customers. When we are able to marry the research with the “boots on the ground” experience of our retailers, it is the ideal outcome.” —Earl Kluft, President, E.S. Kluft & Co.
Consumer insights play a critical role in the development of R & D and marketing strategies. In preparation of our most recent Beautyrest launch, we spent most of 2011 fielding an in-depth research study to determine what an optimal product offering would be in the context of health and wellness. The Beautyrest TruEnergy line, which we brought to Market in July, was based on the insight that consumers preferred a Hybrid mattress that would include memory foam and pocketed coils to provide three key advantages: conformability with freedom of movement, independent support, and temperature management. Consumers perceived that proper spinal alignment and pressure point relief would be direct health and wellness benefits from such an offering. —Mark Owen, SVP of Brand Management, Simmons
We are thrilled that consumers have greater access to sleep research, as it helps them understand the importance of a good night’s sleep. This, in turn, allows us to help educate them on the role a mattress plays in improving the quality of sleep. —Courtney Anthony, Marketing Assistant, Serta International
HOW DO YOU EDUCATE RETAILERS ON THE BENEFITS OF YOUR MATTRESS?
We have not entered into mattress creation yet. However once we begin, which would be the natural growth of your company, I would educate the retailer through my writing of science based articles in trade magazines, create video and disseminate through the internet and the retail stores, and use QR codes on brochures and other media material to develop ideas and create impact for the retailer.—HALL
We have a fairly extensive training program for all our products. For E.S. Kluft and Aireloom, we use so many unique components and follow so many proprietary processes, that when we can fully explain this to an RSA directly, they really understand the product and how to sell it. We also try to send our top executives out into the field to do the training, myself included, whenever I can.—KLUFT
There are many ways that we share knowledge with our retailers. Obviously, the four furniture markets give us the opportunity to showcase products and discuss new features in the context of consumer insights and our retailers’ unique businesses.
This year, we also opened a phenomenal, state-of-the art R & D facility and showroom called Simmons STAR Center (STAR stands for Sleep Technology and Advanced Research) just outside of Atlanta, where many retailers will come to see our full lines.
Day-to-day in the field, our sales team is in constant dialog with our retailers. As part of a recent re-organization, we actually grew our sales force by 30 percent, which included the addition of an entirely new strategic function. These folks are tasked with intimately understanding their customers and actively looking for ways that Simmons can help them each their merchandising, sales and marketing goals in a consultative way.
Finally, we are committed to trade communications through industry advertising and public relations and making all marketing materials easily accessible and available to our retailers through a dealer portal, SimmonsDealers.com.” —OWEN
We educate RSAs based on extensive research conducted both inside and outside our products. For example, before introducing our asthma & allergy friendly Breathe™ line, we tested Breathe components and finished products at third-party accredited labs. We also researched the latest findings by a number of respected sources including the Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (AAAAI), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institutes of Health, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The extent to which we researched our environmentally-friendly BioMax™ line was very similar. Our objective with that product was to build a better bed based on a superior understanding of how raw materials used in a mattress can impact the indoor environment, the sleeping environment and the sleeper.
The education of retail salespeople then becomes a function of translating that learning and converting it into sales language that both the RSA and the consumer can understand and relate to.” —Rick Robinson, President, Spring Air International
Serta’s feature/benefit communications are presented through the lens of helping solve common sleep problems relating to the mattress. We use videos, handouts, point of purchase displays, demonstration tools and immersive training sessions with retails sales professionals to help them communicate these benefits to consumers. —ANTHONY
IS YOUR RESEARCH IN THE HEALTH AND WELLNESS CATEGORY IN RESPONSE TO CONSUMER RAISED ISSUES?
Absolutely. In 2000, I began a quest to find a solution for my patient’s neck pain. As a chiropractor I knew that I could help relieve the pain, improve their motion, and get them back on track but also knew it wasn’t the long-term solution unless I could change the way they sleep. After numerous patient consults, I began to realize that about 80 percent experienced the acute onset either during the night or upon awakening. I set out to design a head and neck pillow to reduce mechanical stress and improve sleep. PILLO1 succeeds in doing so.” —HALL
When it comes to health, consumers connect diet and exercise to general well-being, but the importance of ‘quality’ sleep is often overlooked. Our goal is to help them understand that sleep and more importantly Beautyrest recharge sleep allows the body to fully recharge so people can live life fully charged. In our research, consumers told us that they were feeling tired, foggy, lethargic, cranky and unmotivated. What they desired were the benefits of feeling refreshed and recharged in the morning.
We will always use customer feedback as a key factor into how we build our mattresses. For example, we learned through hearing from our retailers and their customers that preference in luxury bedding was shifting back to a firmer feel. As a result, we tightened the feel of our more expensive products to reflect this. Incorporated in that redesign, was a decision to offer a removable topper so that we could also satisfy the customer who still wanted a more plush experience.—KLUFT
The role of the mattress goes beyond just helping you fall asleep; a good mattress helps you to stay asleep, which is what ultimately recharges the body. We looked at the causes of disturbed sleep, and the biggest factor was whether a mattress retained heat; consequently, we designed the new Beautyrest line with improved airflow to keep the mattress at a more consistent temperature.” —OWEN
Serta’s internal research focuses on our products. We have worked with the National Sleep Foundation when it comes to health and wellness research. —ANTHONY
WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH DO YOU CONDUCT? IS IT DONE INTERNALLY OR BY A THIRD PARTY?
We have used third party. Internal research is cost effective and certainly a simple, great way to obtain information about design possibilities, but when it comes to retail and consumer based understanding, I believe a third party research system that can be held accountable to their methods and scientific protocol is by far the most efficacious. The average consumer is very smart and is becoming increasingly wise to marketing methods, and I think we owe it to the consumer of our products to create and present solid, scientifically sound data for them to discern when comparing and buying our products.—HALL
The vast majority of our research is qualitative and anecdotal. It is based on our talking to retailers and their customers.”—KLUFT
Our research efforts are managed in-house by Ken Morgan. Ken uses a variety of research partners depending upon the nature of the analysis that we need. For example, the in-depth research study we did prior to launching Beautyrest was done in conjunction with a high-profile research consultant. They used a sophisticated method which was a conjoint analysis that posed over 10,000 permutations of questions to 2,000 consumers. This ultimately informed our R & D function and design of the Beautyrest Recharge System. On the communications front, additional research proved that Recharging the Human Battery as a way of Living Life Fully Charged very much resonated with consumers, and retailers are backing that up by saying consumers are coming into their stores and asking for the product. Research plays a key role, but at the end of the day, the proof is in the performance of our products on retailers’ floors.” —OWEN
WHAT PART OF YOUR MATTRESSES’ BENEFITS DO YOU THINK RETAILERS OVERLOOK THE MOST? WHY?
We believe our retailers have a very good fundamental understanding of our products because usually everyone in the store is excited about our lineup because it is so unique. What we try to do in our training is really highlight where our products are different so that an RSA can explain to a customer how much more value they receive with an Aireloom or E.S. Kluft.” —KLUFT
We don’t believe this is an issue. Retailers are committed to being experts on each of the brands that they carry, and we spend a lot of time with RSA’s at the local level to ensure this.” —OWEN
Many retailers still look at a mattress only in the context of its external look, immediate feel or its price point, as opposed to also taking into account its impact on health, wellness or the environment.
Because we look at product development from ALL of those perspectives, we believe Spring Air offers a tremendous “value-add” that other producers do not. And that’s one of the critical differences between our company and our competitors.” —ROBINSON
Serta’s remarkably low return rate. Product quality at Serta is a HUGE focus for us. —ANTHONY
WHAT IS ONE HEALTH AILMENT RETAILERS DON’T TYPICALLY FOCUS ON, BUT SHOULD?
Retailers are generally doing a great job of focusing on support and comfort. I believe as inventors, designers, and manufacturers, it is our responsibility to create the bedding system, do the research to demonstrate better health, and then PRESENT this to the retailer so they can have better knowledge of the benefits of that particular product. We all need to take some responsibility toward supporting the sleep and healing connection.—HALL
In our industry everyone is talking about health, from the manufacturers to the RSA’s. However, we believe it’s most important for retailers to stay current because research is always revealing new ways in which sleep impacts our health. Just this month, a study revealed that the 30% of working adults who routinely sleep less than six hours a night are four times more likely to suffer a stroke. The findings were the first ever to link insufficient sleep to a stroke! This is more evidence that investing in a quality mattress isn’t simply about relieving discomfort, it’s about living a longer, healthier life.” —KLUFT
Today’s mattress technology is designed to address most consumer ailments. At Simmons, we aren’t talking about what ails people at night or gets in the way of their sleep. We’re focused on the Day and how we can help people live life fully charged after a great night’s sleep on a Beautyrest and the Recharge Sleep System.” —OWEN
Real-life mental and physical benefits of a good night’s sleep, especially for CHILDREN. Too many consumers short-change their children when they focus on the lowest priced mattresses. —ANTHONY