Colonial LLC Helps Retailers Combat Negative Online Messaging

An essential player in the mattress marketing category, Colonial LLC develops dynamic top-of-bed programs that assist in boosting retail sales. Using the principles laid out in its “Colonial Rules” series, the company is now helping its clients fight back against the growing threat of online-only mattress brands and their negative messaging.

“Traditional retail is under attack,” explained Mark Hobson, president of Colonial LLC. “For many mattress retailers, the online brands are ‘sharks in the water’. They are preying on the consumer’s fear of shopping for a product they know little about and anxiety over making a big, expensive mistake.”

It wasn’t long ago that the mattress industry was thought to be immune to the e-commerce effect. Traditional mattress stores gave consumers the chance to try out a variety of different options under the guidance of knowledgeable salespeople. The in-store buying process helped consumers feel more confident that they were making the right decision for their unique needs. “While those facts are mostly true,” Hobson continued, “the messages sent by some of the biggest online mattress brands, is that such reliable help is a myth”

More than simply offering a new alternative, many of the direct-to-consumer disrupters have opted for negative marketing tactics that contradict the conventional wisdom about mattress shopping. With extensive TV, digital and social media advertising, these online brands have been effective in pushing out this narrative. Shopping malls, department stores and independent shops are all battling with the online sellers for shopper share—and many traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores are reporting traffic declines and soft sales. Plus any opportunity for step-up sales and add-on sales are lost, putting still more pressure on revenues and margins.

“At Colonial, our mission is to help our clients sell more beds,” Hobson explained. “We have a set of guiding principles called The Colonial Rules, that help us think about ways to solve our clients’ problems and accomplish our mission.”

To help push back against online competition, the company turns to Colonial Rule #10: “If you want to get ahead, start by looking backwards.”

“It means taking a long hard look at your current merchandising, display, advertising and sales approach, from the perspective of a potential shopper,” Hobson said. “See if you can find areas that could confirm these negative claims . . . and if so, change them immediately!”

Colonial is helping its clients succeed in today’s competitive marketplace by working with them to develop more effective in-store display programs. More than just a way to catch a customer’s attention, a well thought-out display can actually help counteract the negative messaging that is pervading the airwaves.

Negative Claim #1: “There are too many options. The process is confusing and stressful.”

With a well-designed top-of-bed display, manufacturers and retailers have the chance to simplify the in-store shopping experience. By differentiating between brands, product categories, comfort choices or construction types, these displays can actively guide customers through their different options—helping them find the best solutions for their needs.

Negative Claim #2: “Our one bed is the ONLY bed you’ll need and the very best value!”

While “one-size-fits-all” claims may make a shopping experience seem easy, one sole bed cannot provide the very best in comfort and support—they do not take into account the fact that everyone’s size, shape and sleeping habits are different. Thoughtful and informative top-of-bed displays can add value to every bed on the retail floor by effectively communicating its unique features and benefits.

Negative Claim #3: “Retail salespeople cannot be trusted!”

Top-of-bed displays are not just beneficial for the consumer. These informational pieces can also reinforce the sales process and RSA credibility. In addition to communicating the mattresses’ most pertinent features and benefits, top-of-bed displays can also provide valuable customer service information. This helps build more trust, giving the customer the confidence needed to make a purchase in-store.

Rather than accepting negative online messaging as an irreconcilable threat, brick-and-mortar stores should see the attack as a valuable opportunity to become even better than they were. With Colonial’s help and Rule #10 as a guiding principle, a new top-of-bed marketing program can be employed to effectively fight back against the online competition.

“You may never prevent all the sharks from chasing,” Hobson concluded. “But with Colonial as a partner to help, at least you will stay way out in front of the bite!”