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The Selling Power Of Free Returns
How do we fight back against the online mattress market? It’s a question that’s been at the forefront of every traditional mattress retailer’s mind in recent years. For good reasons, too. According to Furniture Today's newest bedding retail distribution report, the direct-to-consumer channel has, in fact, been siphoning market share from bedding specialist and furniture stores. In the past two years, the direct-to-consumer mattress market has gained nearly $1 billion in retail sales—roughly the same amount traditional mattress retailers have lost. Many industry veterans have attempted to stave off their new competition by adopting their own versions of the bed-in-a-box model, but there may actually be another key factor at play. While the convenience of buying a boxed bed online is clear, these direct-to-consumer players have also upped the ante by offering free returns. As this market has grown over the years, consumer expectations have shifted in that direction. Research has shown that return policies can be a deciding factor for online shoppers—with a recent consumer survey revealing that more than 70% of consumers said they would be more likely to shop at a retailer if they offered a “no questions asked” return policy. Ultimately, the benefits of offering free and easy returns may be the key to recapturing lost retail sales.
When direct-to-consumer mattress brands first burst onto the scene, many doubted their viability. Who would be willing to buy such a big-ticket item sight-unseen? To alleviate that potential anxiety, these companies promised extended trial periods and no-questions-asked returns. More than just offering added assurance, this approach exposed a major blind-spot in the traditional mattress retail market. In the past, the process of returning a mattress had been both expensive and cumbersome—for both consumers and retailers. When a customer returns their mattress purchase, retailers have to deal with much more than just a loss of one sale. In addition to figuring out the logistics of picking up the bed, stores are then faced with what to do with it once it’s been returned (since mattresses require extensive cleaning and refurbishing in order to be resold, if they are able to at all). As such, many retailers have gone to great lengths to avoid returns all together. In 2004, the Wall Street Journal reported that most local and regional retailers didn’t even offer returns at all—while national chains often offered a long drawn-out process that came with steep fees.
So how do the online mattress sellers do it? Casper works with third-party charities, like a church or the Salvation Army, for all of their returns. Rather than relying on a wide-network of delivery and customer service representatives, these local charities come into the customer’s home and pick up the mattress for donation instead. Even though the company ultimately loses the sale, donating the mattress is actually more cost-effective than shipping the product to a facility and attempting to refurbish and resell it. On top of that, the company also gets a tax write-off for the donation.
But mostly, many of these companies are just hoping their customers will still find returning the mattress to be too much of a hassle. Even the easiest, most lax return policy doesn’t erase the fact that returning a mattress requires quite a bit of maneuvering—plus it means the consumer has to go out and start the mattress buying process all over again.
For traditional retailers, the trend towards no-fee returns may actually open up more opportunities—if they’re willing to risk the potential fulfillment expenses. Offering a good return policy is a way to create more consumer confidence in their purchase. If that encourages more people to buy, then the added sales may be enough to offset the small number of people who actually want to return their mattress. More importantly, it provides retailers with the opportunity to communicate the true value of in-store shopping. While some brands are just hoping their customers will put up with their one-size-fits-all mattress, smaller specialty stores has the staff and the knowledge base to help consumers find the right sleep system for their specific needs—so they won’t even want to return it. By backing up this claim with the promise of a full refund, retailers can deliver an unparalleled level of confidence and customer support.
Analytics Made Easy
There’s no doubt that “analytics” has become the business buzzword du jour. While many big corporations may have the bandwidth to track their customers' each and every move, developing a comprehensive analytics strategy can seem like a daunting endeavor for smaller retailers. But it doesn’t have to be. For retailers looking to dip a toe into this new data-driven world, your website is a great place to start. That's because most consumers begin their shopping journey online these days - even those that ultimately make the final purchase in store. With a simple analytics strategy, retailers can gain key insights on how their customers are getting to their website, what they were looking for and which pieces of information they focused on when visiting. By tracking and analyzing how consumers are finding and engaging with you online, you are gaining key information about your strengths—and where there are opportunities to improve. In addition to rolling out new analytics tools designed specifically for the retail market, Adobe recently published a helpful analytics report that provides valuable insights you can use to start building a strategy of your own.
In this new report, Adobe outlines analysis based on consumer data from over 50 billion visits to over 250 retail websites over the course of two and a half years—revealing key details about how consumers engage with these sites. First, it highlights the ever-growing importance of social media. While the report found that only a small percentage of retail website visitors are coming directly from social media sites, it also discovered that the amount of traffic driven from these platforms has doubled since the beginning of 2015. This means that more and more people are relying on things like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram when it comes to deciding where to shop. The report also looked at the different devices consumers were using when visiting these retailer websites. While most ecommerce revenue is still primarily generated on desktop computers, Adobe’s data suggested that mobile will be the biggest driver of web traffic by the end of the year. This means that a growing number of consumers are doing the “research and comparison” part of shopping on their phones.
So what does this mean for your store? It means now’s the time to start investing in your social media and mobile strategies. If these are two avenues that consumers are using to find retailers, opting out of them puts you at risk of losing sales to your competitors. With greater analytics capabilities, you can gain access to a bevy of valuable information about how your customers shop and what they’re looking for. By collecting and analyzing this data, you will start to see trends that can help you make smarter decisions about where and when to invest your marketing dollars.
Why Sleeping In Could Be Bad For Your Health
If you’ve ever traveled between time zones, you’re familiar with the groggy, thickheaded feeling of jet lag. What you might not realize, however, is that you’re likely putting your body through jet lag on a far more regular basis – without even leaving your house. Social jet lag is a term scientists use to describe the conflict between your body’s specific circadian rhythm and your actual sleeping schedule. For example, say you typically go to bed around 11PM and get up at 7AM during the week, but when the weekend comes, you opt to binge that extra episode of Orange is the New Black, going to bed at midnight and sleeping in until 8AM. That change equals one hour of social jet lag. A team of researchers out of the University of Arizona decided to take a look at what this type of sleeping pattern does to the body. It turns out that that consistently deviating from your body’s preferred sleep schedule has some rather negative effects, including a higher risk of heart disease, as well worsened mood and increased fatigue.
Lead author Sierra Forbush, a research assistant at the Sleep and Health Research Program at the U of A, and her colleagues analyzed the data from nearly 1,000 adults in Pennsylvania, comparing midpoints between when the subjects went to bed and woke up, both during the week and on the weekends. What they found is that for every hour of social jet lag recorded, participants had an 11 percent increase in the potential for cardiovascular disease. People were also 28 percent more likely to rate their overall health as poor or fair as opposed to excellent.
Forbush’s study isn’t the first research exploring the link between social jet lag and poor health. Professor Tami Martino from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada posits that lack of consistent sleeping times can throw off the body’s circadian rhythm, putting you more at risk for heart attacks and increasing the possibility of worsening underlying cardiovascular disease. And a 2012 study from Till Roenneberg, a professor at the University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Psychology, showed the link between social jet lag and increased risk for obesity.
Forbush concludes that her findings further stress the far-reaching effects sleep has on our health. “Physicians often tell people to think about their diet and exercise, but I think this offers an additional preventative strategy,” she told Newsweek. “It’s not just about getting enough sleep, but getting regular sleep. Ideally, you want to be going to bed and waking up at the same time every day of the week.”
So, in the end, next time you’re tempted to watch “just” one more episode, you’re better off packing it in and calling it a night, hitting the hay at your usual bedtime. Your heart – and the rest of your body – will thank you for it.
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