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Product Recommendation Websites And The Endless Search For The "Best"
“What’s the best mattress I can buy?” It’s a question Sleep Retailer editors hear from non-industry folks all the time. It’s a trick question, of course. When it comes to mattresses, the “best” is subjective. What works for one person may not work for the next; it all depends on body shape, aches and pains, sleep habits and personal preference. And yet the question comes up time and time again. But this quest for the “best” goes beyond the mattress industry. Across all product categories, today’s consumers are more preoccupied than ever about finding the best possible option. This phenomenon has been driven, in part, thanks to the growing influence of product review websites. We’ve explored the behind-the-scenes world of mattress-specific review sites before, but the prevalence of category-agnostic recommendations has flourished in recent years. How have these platforms affected the bedding industry—and what does their popularity reveal about consumer habits and needs?
In a recent article for Vox’s The Goods, Eliza Brooke took an in-depth look at the “rise of the recommendation website.” As she explained in the article, this concept is hardly new. Consumer Reports has been publishing its product testing and tips since 1936. But today, consumers are referring to a number of different product review websites like the New York Times’ Wirecutter, New York Magazine’s the Strategist, Buzzfeed Reviews, to name a few. That doesn’t include the multitude of “gift guides” that pop up every year around the holidays.
And according to Brooke, these websites pose an interesting conundrum: “As ever more authorities enter the fray, the question is this: When everyone claims to have identified the “best” product in a category, who do you trust?”
First, it’s important to understand that, despite what the headlines state, these sites are rarely claiming to know what the “best” is. In fact, each platform has its own particular way of avoiding making truly objective or omniscient claims.
“We’re not God, and we’re not trying to be,” Jason Chen, deputy editor at the Strategist, explained in the article. “We’re trying to be your cool friend who has a certain view of the world.” As such, The Strategist regularly compiles “best of” lists based on Amazon customer reviews or spotlights the picks of notable tastemakers.
The Wirecutter takes a different approach. It invests much more time and effort in comprehensive testing, much like Consumer Reports. But it also “considers its product guides living documents, to be updated if customer reviews suddenly start to drop or if, in continuing to use a product, the writer discovers that it doesn’t hold up over a long period of time.”
So why label these lists as “the best of” if they’re not trying to make such claims? Like most things online, it all comes down to SEO. These websites need visitor traffic to survive—and people include “best” in Google searches at a staggering rate. Putting that word into the headline of an article will help direct more consumers to view it.
But what’s driving this obsession with buying only the best of the best? Economic uncertainty definitely plays a role. If you are hard-strapped for cash, you want to make sure you’re really getting your money’s worth. But purchasing anxiety can also be the unintended result of simply having too many options to pick from.
Studies have shown that “an overload of options may actually paralyze people or push them into decisions that are against their own best interest.” You can point to similar psychological reasoning for why so many online brands have limited their product offerings to one or two choices.
There’s no question that there’s too much choice in the bedding category. Consumers have a seemingly infinite number of mattresses, pillows, sheet sets, etc, to choose from. Product review sites can help them whittle down that number to a much more manageable selection—much like merchandizers and RSAs have always done.
When you look at it that way, has the growth of recommendation websites really done much to change the bedding industry at all? It has when you think about which platforms, products and retailers are getting all the attention.
Because mattress and bedding products are purchased infrequently, it’s more difficult for category specific review sites to build a level of familiarity and trust with consumers.
These more general websites are able to engage consumers on a more regular basis, slowly creating a rapport—and that means, when they do dip their toe into the bedding sphere, consumers feel more confident that they won’t lead them astray.
But just like the mattress specific websites, general recommendation websites also make money from embedding affiliate links into their guides. According to Brooke’s article, most of these sites claim that these partnerships do not influence their decision on which products to highlight. Though Chen did admit that affiliate revenue “can guide which retailer the [Strategist] links to, depending on which one offers the highest commission.”
Of course, a placement on one of these lists can offer valuable brand visibility, which can in turn drive in-store sales down the line. But since these sites focus almost exclusively on products sold on major online retailers, they are likely ignoring products that are not featured on these platforms. And, for a consumer who is already prioritizing convenience, why spend the time to go find the product at a local retailer if they can easily purchase the product right then and there with just one click?
As we get ready to head into the new year, it’s important for sleep retailers to have a full understanding of how consumers are shopping. While these product recommendation websites may only affect the purchasing decisions of certain consumer demographics (people who are already primed to buy online), their growing popularity reveals a more universal truth: consumers are really searching for guidance. They want someone to help them navigate the endless number of product options—and reassure them that they’re going to get their money’s worth.
The Health And Wellness Trends To Keep An Eye On In 2019
Sleep was a major wellness trend in 2018 and it looks as though it will remain a popular topic through 2019. We scoured the web’s many predictions to determine which sleep supportive wellness habits and research areas would be top-of-mind for consumers and health professionals in the year to come.
With studies showing that people are not getting enough sleep, and more sleep focused research being conducted in general, people around the world and especially in the U.S. are much more interested in understanding sleep. From learning how much they need, to understanding sleep disorders to purchasing tools to help them get more of it, the general public is really starting to pay attention to their sleep health. And, there are no signs of this trend slowing down any time soon. Not only is the bedding and mattress industry on board and developing more and more technologies to support consumers in their quests to get better rest, but many newcomers to the sleep business are taking advantage of the growing prestige and popularity of quality slumber.
As part of the growing interest in understanding sleep, tracking has become a huge area of sleep technology. Consumers want to know their own individual sleep patterns and are eager to improve them. With support from programs like Reverie’s Sleep Coach, sleep tracking devices from a whole swath of companies, including Eight Sleep and even Apple, people are getting a chance to diagnose some of their own minor sleep inhibitors and potentially change habits that are keeping them from a restorative night’s rest. And, for those consumers who already understand their sleep needs thoroughly, through a tracker or the support of diagnostic systems like Kingsdown’s BedMATCH or even a sleep study, there are smart beds and sleeker than ever adjustable bases on the market that provide incredibly customizable support. The hyper-customizable bed (via mattress or powerbase or both) is an area of sleep technology that continues to thrive and will continue to expand into 2019.
Not Simply Prioritizing Fitness, Prioritizing Recovery
According to this story from Greatist, “Training and recovering like a pro athlete will become a lot easier in 2019 as gyms and health centers continue adding features like cryotherapy, float tanks and infrared saunas.” Additionally, this story noted that recovery studios—establishments solely dedicated to helping fitness junkies recover—are opening around the country. And this trend is not limited to the gym circuit. In the sleep industry, we’ve seen manufacturers like BEDGEAR, REM-Fit, ReST and many others seek to create products specifically designed to deliver recovery and performance benefits to end users.
Sleep Supportive Trends
It’s no surprise that with the widespread legalization of cannabis across the country and the FDA’s approval of the first drug with origins in marijuana, a purified form of CBD, its usage is also on the rise. Although the breadth of benefits proclaimed to be delivered by the myriad CBD products on the market—everything from food items to creams to reduce chronic pain and serums to limit inflammation—are still being explored, we expect consumers will continue to see an influx of CBD-infused products entering the marketplace in 2019. We covered the uncertain value of cannabis for improving sleep earlier in 2018 here.
Ayurveda & Other Holistic Self Care Practices
Self-care in the form of yoga, meditation practices, crafting, baths, facials and more are all part of a growing interest in improved mental wellbeing, which also aids in relaxation and ultimately, sleep. Self-care is defined by PsychCentral as, “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” A classic approach to holistic wellness and self-care from the East, called Ayurveda, has been popularized this year by celebrities like Oprah and Gwyneth Paltrow. In Vogue’s wellness trends list, it describes Ayurveda as, “a sister science to yoga created to heal and balance the body with the belief that every human has a different balance of three biological energies known as Doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.” These energies dictate your prescription for better living, with advice addressing all areas of overall health including diet, best self care practices, herbal treatments and more to balance your specific energy from season to season. While we are not sure whether or not Ayurveda will truly take off, we are certain that self care is sure to evolve as new approaches emerge in 2019.
Gut health was apparently top of mind in 2018 and is predicted to stick around in the consumer consciousness come 2019. Interestingly, a study recently confirmed links between gut bacteria and skin allergies. Plus with the rise of numerous types of food sensitivities, it’s no wonder more people are seeking to gain control of their digestive health. Ensuring that gut bacteria is balanced properly is one viable solution. To address the growing desire to improve tummy troubles and possibly skin allergies with probiotics, opportunistic food manufacturers now inject probiotics into snack categories ranging from chips to granola bars. We remain a little wary of this trend for now, but at the same time, a settled, well balanced stomach does make it easier to fall asleep.
Clean (And Sober) Living
While natural or ‘clean’ beauty supplies and foods have been topics of conversation for a while now, this conscientiousness is also trickling into alcoholic beverage consumption. Although drinking less is not exactly a new trend, it’s been steadily increasing since 2016, it’s a highly positive one. Not only does drinking less alcohol save money while preventing disease and weight gain, it also promotes better sleep.
Not only are individuals much more focused on health and wellness these days, but workplaces are too. There’s even a term for it: corporate wellness. Employers are starting to understand that if they can nurture the whole employee, they’ll ultimately get better output on the job. Beyond preventing illness, wellness of mind, body and spirit involves proper nutrition, appropriate amounts of rest (not too much or too little) and time to recover from both physical and mental labor through pleasurable and fitness oriented activities. This year saw numerous findings confirming the inefficiency of sleeplessness—and worker bees are starting to wake-up to the idea that the number of hours a person worked doesn’t always correlate with their level of productivity. Losing sleep to achieve more at work is ultimately counterproductive.
While things like “superfoods” and other of-the-moment perceived cure-alls will come and go, many of the more practical trends from 2018 that we predict will gain even more traction in 2019 reflect a deeper awareness of how interconnected all aspects of our lives are. To improve our sleep, nutrition, fitness and mental health, we can’t just focus on one category. All of these pieces fit together and to maintain optimal health and success in both our work and personal lives, we’ve got to remain consistently dedicated to these essential areas.
The Best Sleep Tips For Kids On Holiday Break
Brought To You By Reverie
The holidays are just around the corner, and with them is coming that brief reprieve much-anticipated by every young boy and girl: the holiday break from school. While you’re busy making fun-filled plans for your kids and preparing yourself for some noisier weekday mornings, this is also a good time to make sure your kids will still be getting healthy sleep, school night or not.
Check out our tips below for giving your kids the best sleep possible during the upcoming break.
Consistency, with a caveat
Even though the holiday break is a time for your kids to relax free from the rigmarole and restrictions of school, it’s a good idea to make sure they know it won’t be wild anarchy when it comes to their sleep schedule. You want to make sure that your kids’ bedtimes and wake-up times stay pretty close to what they are during the rest of the school year. If their sleep schedule varies too much during the two or three weeks of their vacation, it can make the transition back to the school schedule a nightmare for your kids (and, let’s be honest, you too).
There may be a caveat to this rule, however, which your kids will definitely appreciate: you should go ahead and let your kids sleep in for the first few days of their vacation. As you probably know, the current status quo of school start times is not very accommodating to the sleep schedule your kids really need, biologically speaking. This means that you can almost be certain your kids aren’t operating at full charge, due to a lack of restorative sleep.
Giving them some time to catch up during the first few days is great—and after that, make consistency your goal.
Keep nighttime sugar-free
As the song goes, “Although it’s been said many times, many ways…” sugar and sleep just don’t mix. You’ve probably heard this rule all of your life, but it really is based in fact: sugar before bed causes us to wake up throughout the night, and can even wake us from a deep sleep.
Since holiday feasts include more than the usual opportunities for eating sweets before bed, it’s important to be mindful of this tried but true rule. It’s the best way to guarantee there are no next-day cases of the grumpies.
Plan for your away game
A trip to grandma’s house is like a visit to a whole new world, full of treats, gifts, breakfast in bed, and just generally being treated like royalty. The only downside? When it comes to falling asleep easily, there’s no place like home.
If you’ve ever tried falling asleep in an unfamiliar environment, then you know that your kids might have some trouble adjusting to new sleeping situations during holiday travels. Sleep disruptions in a new environment can come from noises, lights, or other unfamiliar discomforts.
The best way to get ahead of these sleep-interrupters is by making sure your kids are packed with the right gear whenever they’re spending the night away from home. The two staples for a great night's sleep no matter the environment are an eye mask and foam ear plugs. With these two additions, your kids are protected from any sleep-stealing slivers of light, and any sudden noises that might disturb their slumber are blocked out.
Plan a pajama party
Looking for a fun family idea that will make bedtime a bit more exciting? Why not try starting a new tradition this year with a family pajama party? All it requires is a set of matching pajamas for the whole family—the cornier the better, of course.
You can save them as a Christmas Eve surprise for the kiddos, or use the pj’s as a fun way to kick off the break, or any other time you’re all together. Just remember to get pajamas that won’t lead to overheating during the night—look for light, breathable fabrics made from natural materials like cotton or linen.
The most important part? A cheesy family photo shoot once you’re all pajama-ed up.
Healthy home for the holidays
Helping your kids get the best sleep possible is the easiest way to guarantee a holly, jolly holiday break for them and for you! Cheers to a well-rested holiday, full of great memories.
Read more here.
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