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Striking The Right Sentiment With Consumers
While in-person mattress shopping is mostly at a stand still right now, you might be wondering how all those ecommerce mattress brands are faring during this moment in time. On the surface, it stands to reason that with all the brick-and-mortar stores closing, all ecommerce could be thriving, catering to those stuck at home with reliable sources of income. While certain categories are seeing an uptick, many are struggling along with brick-and-mortar. Much of the success of any brand today comes down to strategy and messaging, an increasingly delicate aspect of selling during what is shaping up to be an unprecedented universal hardship. So what messages are being sent? Which are succeeding? How are brands, essential and non-essential, positioning themselves right now? And if you are trying to pivot and serve customers digitally, what should you be saying?
Some brands are looking for ways to help. Others are finding ways to stay top of mind with consumers. And some are struggling with finding the right tone and are striking the wrong one in the process. Developing the right message and deploying it effectively in this crisis comes down to what all strong marketing does: really understanding the consumer audience you want to reach.
How Do Consumers Feel?
This crisis is impacting everyone in some way, no matter what kind of job you do and what your socio-economic situation is. But that impact looks strikingly different across the board. While some consumers with job security and remaining confidence in the economy may be taking this time to re-do their homes, especially since they have nowhere to go and nothing but time, others are worried about where they will land financially when all this is over.
In this article from VOX, a variety of consumers were interviewed about their own feelings towards shopping right now—showcasing a range of perspectives and approaches that white-collar workers at home are taking when it comes to shopping.
Some are choosing to hunker down and save for “the next Great Depression we will be having.” Others are caving to emotional impulse buys, like purchasing the loungewear they’ve never really needed before—only to experience buyer’s remorse later. Many expressed concern for the health and workloads of those packaging and delivering products: “I don’t want to stress out the package delivery system even more with unnecessary purchases. If I order something dumb, that’s just added work for them.” While others are focusing on supporting favorite local businesses, realizing that their cash will keep someone employed and a favorite haunt intact.
And according to this article from the New York Times, “In just three weeks, more than 16 million U.S. workers have lost their jobs — more losses than the most recent recession produced over two years.” These individuals are likely focused on necessities and nothing more. And those with essential jobs likely do not have the time or energy to do all that much shopping, apart from immediate needs.
With all these varying consumer experiences, what can you say that will resonate? How can you be genuine about peddling anything when people are losing their livelihood, losing family members and scared about staying healthy? Some brands are getting very creative and smart in response to changing consumer views, others are coming off as disingenuous.
What Messages Resonate? Which Ones Fall Flat?
From smaller start-up brands to larger corporate brands, we are seeing varying approaches to communications. From carefully crafted marketing messages in e-blasts to social channel usage to the inherent message that emerges from how companies are treating their employees right now, there’s so much chatter. Consumers are paying close attention—and they have opinions.
According to this article from Marketing Week, “A survey of more than 35,000 consumers globally by Kantar found that just 8% thought brands should stop advertising. However, there is a clear expectation that companies should play their part, with 78% of consumers believing brands should help them in their daily lives, 75% saying brands should inform people of what they’re doing and 74% thinking companies should not exploit the situation.”
Generally, consumers want to hear from brands, with only 8% of them believing that companies should just stop advertising altogether. But the stakes are high and the “right way” to approach saying something is complicated. According to VOX, “The line between checking in on and trying to be of service to consumers versus profiteering during a moment of panic can be a fine one, and today’s empowered consumers are savvy enough to tell the difference.”
Your inbox is probably flooded with advertisement emails about discounts, sales, deals and other language meant to sweet talk you into pulling the trigger on a purchase. These emails feel a little trite these days. But if you can find a reason to get in touch, remind consumers that you are there for them and also gently remind them that you’re struggling, you probably should. Consumers do understand that companies are trying to hang on, but more than likely they are trying to do the same. That’s why if you do get in touch, it needs to be helpful and it needs to be to the point.
Here are a few strategies for how to reach out to consumers right now:
Offer A Free Tool Or Something Fun
Some examples of crafty ways to stay top of mind without being too aggressive with a sales message come from brands like West Elm, which offered unique backgrounds people could use on their Zoom calls. Similarly, clothing brand Lou & Grey curated a calming Spotify playlist to soothe the anxieties of its customers.
Launch A New Line That Gives Back
Boll & Branch recently launched a new organic bath line. The clincher on this collection is that 10% of a purchase from the company’s website (which is on a 10% off sale right now) will go to company’s efforts to make mattresses and pillows specifically for medical personnel fighting COVID-19. Not only is Boll & Branch putting out a new and interesting home line, but it’s easier for consumers to justify a purchase if they know that their dollars will help support the cause at hand.
Do Something Novel—Subscription Services OR New Collabs
Coffee shops that make their own blends have pivoted to offering subscriptions that help consumers keep caffeinated at home. Something similar could work with linens or bedroom refresh kits. Consider some of the accessories you offer that are low-cost but promote wellness at home. It might be a good time to repackage these product categories to develop care-kit style subscription services. Another way of launching a new and notable line came from Parachute and Madewell, which have drawn some press attention by teaming up for sleep collection. A clear reason to get in touch is to simply do something new and interesting if you have the means. A message that has nothing to do with COVID-19 could serve as a much-needed reprieve for shoppers.
Share Vital Information
Coca Cola donated its social media channel to organizations like the Red Cross to help spread useful information to its large following. Whether you are representing a large corporate brand or you have a local store, sharing vital information that your customers can use will leave a very positive impression.
If your store is closed, but taking online and phone orders—you could communicate this within an email that rounds up local resources or promotes a local charity. Think beyond your brand. Can you partner with a local shelter right now to at least utilize your email list for a meaningful cause? It doesn’t have to cost much or require a huge donation to help your neighborhood or broader community—and the side-benefit is that your business will gain some exposure.
Communicate Your Operations
It is ok to use this time to update your customers about your hours, new digital operations, etc. You don’t want people to come out only to find your doors are shuttered. Make sure your website, Google page and social media reflect your current mode of operation. When it comes to sending out your own updates, take some time to first study all the emails you’ve received from other businesses. People have stopped reading the million COVID-19 response emails from every company they’ve ever bought from. That’s why this information should be part of a message offering support, or talking about something your brand is doing to help.
Say Something With Your Actions
You might not need to send an email to get a message across. Companies that are laying off all their employees, not offering benefits (and are large enough to do so) and ones that are resisting the stay-at-home orders or putting their workers in danger are actively sending an unsavory message to all potential customers. By doing your best to care for your employees, taking the stance to encourage staying in despite the consequence to your business or spending time figuring out exactly what your brand can do to help, you can actually show (and not just tell) that you prize public health over profit. This, for most consumers, is an ideal sentiment.
In this article from the National Retail Federation, chief economist Jack Kleinhenz says the coronavirus pandemic “has triggered shocks” – but that the underlying economy is sound. However, the soundness of it is largely reliant on how well we stay home and flatten the curve. He goes on to explain, “how quickly the country gets a handle on containing the virus will determine the degree of the impact on the economy and how soon businesses can reopen...We expect a severe contraction, and if the nation doesn’t get the virus under control the fallout will be worse.”
It doesn’t look great right now, but it’s hard to say what the future holds. When it comes to marketing, the aim is not to be remembered as a brand that profiteered during the pandemic. Instead, it’s a good time to be a positive voice—offering solace, support and doing your part.
How Will The Coronavirus Pandemic Permanently Alter The Retail Industry?
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to destabilize everyday life, people are starting to come to terms with the reality that this disruption may not end anytime soon. The effects of both the virus and the shut-down can already be seen across the board, including the retail market. According to estimates from GlobalData Retail, more than 190,000 stores have already been closed—making up nearly 50% of all US retail square footage. And while many of these closures are temporary, the fall-out from this pandemic is expected to have a serious and lasting impact on the retail industry as a whole.
In fact, Fitch Ratings recently downgraded the credit ratings for a number of major retailers, including Kohl’s, Macy’s and Nordstrom. But even more interesting than the downgrade itself is the model the estimates are based on. It assumes that these retailers will remain closed until May, see their revenues fall by 90% (even with the shift from in-store to online sales), and continue a double-digit drop in sales all the way through 2021. Simply put, the financial market is not expecting every retailer to immediately bounce-back even after the most serious stay-at-home orders have been lifted.
Of course, many of these retailers were already poised for financial trouble even before the pandemic began to ramp up. Across the country, retailers have been struggling with too many brick-and-mortar locations and too much debt. Multi-store closures are often a sign that bankruptcy is on the horizon; and, in 2019, stores like JC Penney, Kmart, Macy’s and Sears all closed 25 or more stores.
At the same time, experts are expecting some retailers to emerge from this pandemic stronger. This primarily includes the “essential” retail stores like grocery and drug stores, mass merchandisers and e-commerce retailers. As more consumers are shifting to online purchasing out of necessity—and more companies are figuring out how to make that process even more efficient—most forecasts expect that e-commerce will continue to see a huge boon after this is all over. Retailers with well-oiled digital sales capabilities may be better equipped to weather this crisis, and those that do not will likely suffer the consequences.
“The big retailers are going to do really well and benefit from this, but there is going to be a lot of distress for marginal retailers with many that won’t make it,” explained David Berliner, partner at BDO Advisory, to Forbes. “We are going to see a heightened and accelerated retail transformation.”
Of course, there is another factor to consider as well: consumer behavior. Even before the virus hit, many consumers were already strapped for cash. Over the past five years, Americans have continually increased their borrowing—with household debt exceeding $14 trillion for the first time at the end of 2019. That coupled with a serious drop in consumer confidence in March and unprecedented unemployment, it’s hard to anticipate how consumer spending will change moving forward.
“Consumer behavior is going to be a real wildcard,” Berliner continued. “I don’t know if they will go back to the way they shopped before COVID-19 or even if they will be able to.”
While some home furnishings products are expected to see a sales spike post-coronavirus (as people have spent ample amount of time inside), larger ticket purchases may still be put on hold as people take a more risk-adverse approach to buying. Though some experts are also predicting that we may see a boom in so-called “comfort products” moving forward: the kinds of items that make homes feel comfier and cozier. For the bedding market, that may mean a shift towards extra-plush mattresses—or maybe an even bigger interest in calming wellness categories like CBD-infused products or weighted blankets.
No matter what, there is no question that this pandemic is going to permanently alter the retail industry in a number of ways, especially for the in-store shopping experience. Brick-and-mortar stores will eventually be allowed to re-open—but that does not necessarily mean people will immediately come flooding back even at the level they had prior to the pandemic.
Consumer habits will no doubt change for financial reasons, but also emotional ones. And retailers should be prepared for both. We shouldn’t expect that the fear and anxiety people are feeling right now will simply disappear overnight. And while the severity of social distancing safety measures will eventually be lifted, many consumers may nevertheless continue to adhere to them out of caution.
With all of this uncertainty surrounding the retail industry, we want to hear from you.
How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic will change in-store retail? Will it have lasting effects on the way people approach public spaces (like brick-and-mortar stores)? Will consumers simply skip the store and double-down on online ordering? Or will they invest more time in online research beforehand in order to limit their interaction with an RSA? Will people be willing to utilize in-store kiosks or iPads if they are not provided with necessary cleaning supplies or protective materials?
Join the conversation on the Sleep Retailer Facebook and Twitter channels now or simply tweet at or tag us!
Right now, there are a whole lot of questions and very few definitive answers. But in times like these, there’s real value in coming together to brainstorm all potential possibilities. By keeping the conversation going, we hope the industry can work towards finding new solutions that will support the many and not just the few.
Dreaming During A Global Crisis
There was little question that the coronavirus pandemic was going to alter our daily life—what was less expected, though, is the way in which this experience is affecting our sleep. While some people may be experiencing more cases of insomnia during these trying times, others are finding themselves sleeping more than ever. In both cases, many people are also reporting having more frequent or more vivid dreams during this crisis. According to the experts, there are a few different explanations for why this may be happening, as both spikes of anxiety and stark changes in normal routines can cause changes in our usual dream-behavior. If you’re having crazier dreams than normal, know that you’re not the only one—and that these reveries may provide you with valuable insights you can use in your daily life.
Though many people are feeling like they’re having more dreams than ever, that may actually be because they’re simply remembering them more. The majority of dreaming occurs during the “rapid eye movement” (REM) stage of sleep, the lightest stage of the sleep cycle. If you happen to wake up in the midst of this stage, you are more likely to actually remember your dreams. This is why it often feels like your dreams only ever occur in the minutes just before your alarm goes off—you’re probably dreaming during each REM cycle, but you only remember the one right before you wake up.
This gives us one explanation why you may be noticing an uptick in your dreams right now. Due to increased stress and anxiety, many people are experiencing more sleep disturbances. In turn, that ups the likelihood that they’re waking up during REM sleep—hence why there are more people remembering their dreams right now and during generally stressful times.
People may also be experiencing more REM sleep than usual. For many non-essential workers, daily life has slowed down significantly due to self-isolation. Without late-night dinner plans or long early-morning commutes, you may just be getting more sleep than usual. And if you had previously been (perhaps unwittingly) sleep deprived, you may actually be experiencing something called a “REM rebound” or a surge in REM sleep as a result of catching up on your shut-eye.
But it’s not just the frequency of dreams (or your ability to remember them) that has changed in the time of coronavirus—for many, the content of said dreams have evolved too. Even in the most normal of times, your dreams are shaped by the context of your everyday life. Through a concept called “dream incorporation,” the experiences you have and the stimuli you encounter throughout the day all have a way of popping up in your mind while you snooze.
This is part of the reason why many people are noticing a shift in their dreams during the pandemic. Because your dream scenarios often include details from your daily life, they are inevitably going to evolve if your lifestyle has been shaken up. If you’re self-isolating, you may be finding your dreams to be much more mundane than usual, because you’re not taking in all the stimuli of being out in public. For essential workers, whose real-life workplaces have become even more hectic and increasingly stress-inducing, their dreams may be reflecting the heightened pressure of that environment.
Regardless of the specifics, many people are feeling the gravity of this moment through their dreams. Deirdre Barrett, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and the author of The Committee of Sleep, has been collecting dreams through an online survey—and has found that right now “the majority of dreams have anxiety as the main emotion.”
Thankfully, there may be a greater purpose to these anxiety dreams. More than just a passive retelling of your daily life, research has pointed to the idea that dreams play a much more active role in our well-being. According to the “threat simulation theory,” dreams are an evolutionary function that helps the brain prepare for potential real-life stresses; they provide a risk-free opportunity to work through our fears. More than just imagining how we would react to a scary or stressful experience, dreams give us a chance to actually play-act the scenario. In this way, dreams can serve as test-runs that will hopefully alleviate some of the pressure if you ever encounter the situation in real-life.
This phenomenon is not just for nightmarish experiences either. Studies have shown that dream retention may also spike when you’re in the process of learning a new skill. As the entire world is trying to figure out how to readjust to this new normal, it makes sense that our brains feel the need to run through all of these new “skills” like navigating the grocery store or working from home.
So if you’re worried about the nature of your dreams these days, you needn’t be. This is a normal and expected reaction to this strange moment. Simply acknowledging the relationship between our waking life and our dream-state may help you regain a feeling of control. Remind yourself that your dreams are just information; they can help you pinpoint which aspects of life are causing you the most worry right now—which can, in turn, help you figure out how to more effectively address them when you’re awake. Stress dreams may also serve as a signal that you need to focus a little more attention on your sleep hygiene and nighttime routine. In times like these, taking care of yourself is hugely important—and making sure you’re doing all that you can to get good quality sleep can be vital.
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