Why Now Is The Time To Change The Way We Introduce Bedding Products
While the pandemic has had a clear impact on many different facets of the bedding industry, one perhaps unexpected outcome has been a shift in not just how products are being brought to market—but when. In recent years, companies have stuck to a pretty steady schedule: major roll-outs debuted in January at the Las Vegas Market, with smaller intros and minor tweaks coming out later in the year. With the Winter Las Vegas Market rescheduled for April, that timeline has already been disrupted and a number of companies are simply leaning into it, choosing to do away with their standard practices. With these changes underfoot, that got us thinking about product introductions and promotion cycles more generally—not just from the manufacturer side, but at the retail level as well. With the normal ways of doing things out the window, is this an opportunity to shake free of outdated traditions?
Retailers in the sleep and bedding space are in an interesting position right now. On the one hand, the ongoing pandemic continues to pose significant challenges to normal in-store shopping. But at the same time, many consumers are still focused on nesting at home—and looking to spend on things like upgrading their mattresses and bedding. And now with the vaccine distribution underway, businesses also need to start making a real plan for life post-pandemic as well. What happens when consumers can start spending their money on things like vacations and concerts and movie tickets again? Will the recent boom in mattress sales mean a subsequent fallow period, where retailers must wait years for their customers to come back and replace their now-new mattress?
With all of these factors in mind, it’s clear we are at a really important cross-roads in the industry right now. Are we preparing to go back to business as usual? Or can we plan for something even better? Of course, there are many different aspects of the industry that we could apply that sentiment to, but today we’re just going to focus on one more generally: product introductions.
The mattress industry has always introduced products on a pretty regular schedule, debuting new collections, accessories and technologies each year. But that cycle can often seem disconnected from the consumer experience. In fact, most average shoppers are not only in the dark about when new models are introduced—but unaware of all the innovation that occurs behind the scenes entirely. Truthfully, consumers are much more likely to be familiar with the holiday sales schedule than anything else.
“The industry as a whole has gotten stuck in the cycle of introducing new products every six months as part of the need to feed an unrealistic and unnecessary trade show calendar,” Nick Bates, president of Spring Air International, said recently. “The truth is that retail – even in the best of economic times – can’t flow that amount of new product through the system successfully and select the new styles that will resonate with consumers before another market date comes along.” The company has made the decision to do away with its six month product launch cycle and will instead tailor its schedule to each retailer’s specific needs.
With all the normal routines out of whack, retailers have a unique opportunity to mix up their own roll-out strategies as well. Is there a way to create a new kind of retail promotion cycle? One that is more customized to your customers? One that actually generates some excitement? While it isn’t likely that the bedding industry can recreate the kind of new product hype seen in the fashion or tech world—incorporating certain aspects of that strategy could be an opportunity to stand out and capture some attention. Because if we’ve learned anything from the boom of ecommerce over the past year, it’s that consumers are much more capable of adjusting than many had previously given them credit for. A shift in approach may not be the risk it once seemed.
What To Consider When Introducing New Products
Understand Your Audience
The first step to any new strategy is to really pin down your target audience. Who are they? What are they looking for? Where do they get their information and inspiration? And whose opinion do they value the most? Creating clear buyer personas can help steer every aspect of your release — from marketing to sales and order fulfillments.
Shake Up Your Marketing Avenues
Today, consumers are more likely start their search for a new mattress online—and you want to make sure your name is easy to find when they do. Digital and social media advertising is an excellent way to direct potential customers to your website and product reviews. But, if you’ve been investing in digital advertising for a while now, it may be time to mix it up with some TV or print ads as well. While some marketing avenues may appear more en vogue than others right now, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of added visibility. The more familiar consumers are with your brand, the more likely they are to remember you when they are in the market for your products.
Recognize The Real Value You’re Selling
Unlike many other types of furniture, mattresses do more than just offer comfort and aesthetic. Mattresses are supposed to perform; they facilitate (or hinder…) a vitally important part of our health and wellness. And many of the upgrades and introductions are designed specifically to help consumers achieve better quality sleep. But with so many bedding options on the market, it’s important for brands and retailers to clearly explain why a product is new or different or worth a higher price point.
Create A More Meaningful Opportunity To Reach Out
The introduction of a new product or line-up into your showroom mix is an excellent excuse to reach out to your customers. If you have an email list of previous buyers, why not target them with a message about new sheets or pillows that are arriving in store? While most people are not looking to update their mattress every year, there are plenty of accessories items to try—new fabric options, foam formulations, adjustable base technologies.
Above all else, this kind of marketing reinforces a sense of helpfulness about your brand. You are not just here to take their money—you are here to guide them to the products that will help them sleep better.
This approach may also help start to shift people’s perception of the bedding category as a whole. For a long time, buying a mattress has been seen as a stressful necessity—something you put off as long as you can. But what if people thought about their sleep system as something they can continually update and improve, rather than something that simply sits there and eventually wears out? By taking the time to communicate with them about new materials and technologies, you are giving consumers more reasons to try things out. And in doing so, they may just find something they didn’t even realize they needed or wanted.
Make Sure Your Prepared To Support New Customers
If you’re investing a lot into promoting a new introduction, be prepared for all outcomes—and that includes a big rush. What is your inventory like? Delivery capabilities? Customer service staff? Website capacity? If your ultimate goal is to drive more traffic and sales, then you need to be ready to service them if it happens.
While the difficulties of this past year cannot be overstated, we remain excited about the new possibilities that lay on the horizon. With many changes and shake-ups already underway, this is a moment for the industry to reevaluate how things have always been done. Taking the time to reimagine your strategies now could lead to even bigger gains down the line.