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Predictions For 2018's Biggest Retail Trends
With 2017 soon coming to a close, the retail industry is at an interesting crossroads. While many retailers encountered challenges this past year, there were also a number of new and exciting innovations beginning to emerge. From cross-platform partnerships and creative merchandising strategies to data-driven technologies and meaningful shopping solutions, today’s retailers have a myriad of new tools at their disposal—if only they are willing to embrace the way the industry has evolved. As we head into the new year, we took a look outside of the mattress marketplace to gain a better understanding of where retail is headed.
Here are some of the biggest retail trends poised to make an impact in 2018.
Merging The Physical And Digital
One of the most surprising retail news of 2017 was Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods - but that wasn’t the only ‘digital meets brick-and-mortar’ merger of the year. Walmart continued its quest to expand its online presence by buying up more digital brands like Modcloth and Bonobos. The bedding industry has not been immune to this type of cross-platform collaboration either, more online-only mattress brands have moved into traditional distribution channels by teaming up with retailers like Target, Pottery Barn and West Elm. By bringing together the best of physical and digital retailing, these new partnerships deliver key benefits to both players. For a physical retail store, teaming up with a digital brand not only grants greater access to new categories of shoppers - it also helps bolster their ecommerce capabilities as well. For online companies, the addition of a trusted brick-and-mortar retail chain allows them to expand their brand awareness among older consumers in addition to enhancing their localized fulfillment capabilities. As we head into 2018, we can expect more of this collaboration between the physical and digital retail worlds.
Retailers Embrace The “Showroom Strategy”
As the challenge of getting customers in the door has grown more difficult in recent years, brick-and-mortar retailers have ventured into new, bolder merchandising measures. Taking a page out of Apple’s playbook, a number of stores have opted for a leaner, more specialized set-up. With smaller tech-enabled spaces that zero in on specific product segments or categories, retailers can provide their customers with a more efficient shopping experience. Other retailers, like Nordstrom’s, have chosen to do away with inventory entirely in certain stores - choosing instead to re-imagine the physical space as a service or experience. Instead of wandering around a huge department store, shoppers have the opportunity to work directly with a stylist to find the right fit, style and look for their specific needs. With added amenities that range from educational classes to spa treatments to coffee or cocktails, these new “showroom” spaces deliver a luxurious shopping environment. Of course, this strategy isn’t all that new to the mattress retail world. In fact, at its most elemental, the concept is exactly what sleep shops have always done: provide one-on-one interaction with a retail sales associate, the chance to try before buying and direct delivery to customer’s home. Curiously, this is also the exact selling strategy that online bed-in-a-box companies have been trying to vilify in recent years. While it is true that the onslaught of these brands revealed weakness in the traditional mattress retail model, their “opt-out” solution has left many consumers unsatisfied. As other retail segments look to adopt the “showroom” strategy in 2018, maybe it’s time for mattress sellers to rethink the simplified approach that these online brands have evangelized. Rather than jumping on the boxed bed bandwagon, mattress retailers can take a page from other retail segments instead by positioning their RSAs as experts and focusing their efforts on creating a more positive shopping experience.
The Power Of Personalized Recommendations
Product merchandising has long been designed around providing solutions to assumed consumer needs. Recently, that focus has shifted to delivering resolutions to previously overlooked annoyances in the shopping experience. Think of bed-in-a-box companies: while the products themselves may purport to be expertly developed, the real appeal is how easy the buying process is. Because purchasing a mattress has historically been confusing, the consumer is willing to sacrifice choice for simplification. While this may be appealing for some people, it’s not the only solution. Today’s shoppers are also more accustomed to getting personalized recommendations from brands they rely on. From Spotify’s suggested playlists to Amazon’s “related products,” consumers have grown to not only appreciate but expect these curated suggestions. And they are willing to offer up important data in order to receive them. If monitoring your customers’ every move feels like too big of an endeavor, there are easier ways to offer them data-driven recommendations. From Kingsdown’s bedMATCH mattress diagnostic system to Protect-A-Bed’s SleepTailor pillow selector, there are readily available tools that can be integrated into your existing business model. Powered by exclusive technology and backed by sleep science research, these systems make it easy to deliver accurate, personalized recommendations in real-time. Not only does this simplify the shopping process, it boosts sales, increases post-purchase satisfaction and minimizes the likelihood of comfort returns. As artificial intelligence technology becomes more popular in the year ahead, the ability to provide a higher level of personalized support will be imperative to mattress retail success.
Delivery Gets Faster, Cheaper & More Competitive
While Amazon is often maligned for its downward pressure on pricing, one of the biggest influences it has had on the retail industry is the way it has shifted delivery expectations. Today’s shoppers expect shipping to be both free and fast – and anything less can be a sale killer. In order to keep up with the demand, retailers spent much of 2017 focused on “last-mile efforts” - figuring out how they can get the product into consumers’ homes as fast as possible. Larger brands like Walmart and Target have begun experimenting with new delivery tactics and curbside pick-up. As we head into 2018, the delivery expectations will only continue to rise - and retailers will have to expand their focus to include the full supply chain in order to efficiently maximize delivery speeds while minimizing costs. The first step to achieving this level of agility is optimizing inventory management systems – especially for retailers who offer omnichannel strategies that combine in-store shopping with direct-to-consumer shipping. As the demand for seamless delivery continues to rise, we may see more and more retailers looking to outsource their own fulfillment networks in 2018. Suffice it to say, the delivery industry is going to be increasingly competitive in the new year.
Drive More Traffic In 2018: Tips For Hosting Successful Store Events
It’s that time of the year again! The time when our schedules begin to fill up with holiday parties and family gatherings. And that spirit of togetherness doesn’t have to end with New Year’s Day. For the bedding retail industry, special events are a valuable opportunity to increase store traffic and consumer engagement. As ecommerce brands continue to host buzz-worthy retail pop-ups, companies like Bedgear and Beautyrest have utilized special events and creative partnerships to build their brand awareness – and Restonic has plans to support its retailer partners in 2018 with event production support. While store events are not exactly revolutionary, there are ways to take a fresh approach to driving traffic via events and community involvement.
Here are a few tips for planning a sales-boosting event in the New Year.
Focus On Educating Consumers
While the ultimate goal of an event is to bring in revenue, positioning your RSA’s as the authorities on both the products you carry as well as trending topics in sleep health will help you develop a stronger rapport with potential customers. Educational events like seminars and health and wellness trainings with local health professionals provide potential customers with useful information while bringing them into your store.
Engagement is Essential
When considering an event theme or content, focus on engaging your audience. Interactive technologies are particularly exciting for consumers. Many manufacturers even provide their retail partners with new and exciting technologies around which storeowners could easily produce events. For example, Kingsdown’s BedMATCH technology would be an excellent piece of equipment through which to engage potential clients. Holding an event like “Find your Match” for Valentine’s Day could generate buzz around your store and provide consumers with a free diagnostic experience. Add some cupcakes and online promotion and you’re done!
Remember that some of the most effective advertising is free. Utilize social media like local Facebook groups to promote your event. Study and understand what resources community members pay attention to and use those channels to build excitement. Game-ify the experience if you can; drop clues on your social media, offer a reward for the first person to guess the event theme, be creative and make it fun!
If You Can, Include Food Or A Giveaway
Nothing gets people to pay attention quite like a freebie. If you have the resources, provide some sort of giveaway and bring it into your marketing. If you don’t have the resources to give a product or serve food, try to think critically about what sorts of educational resources consumers are most likely to need – if shoppers can’t find the information you offer elsewhere it could help bring customers to your store.
Sponsor Community Events
Don’t have the resources or energy to produce your own event? Get involved with a community event – sponsor a local play or donate time to a local charity. If you are representing your brand while giving back to your community, potential customers will notice! Not only does engaging in philanthropic work cast your brand in a positive light, it’s a great way to build work place morale for your employees and can help you more deeply understand the community your store serves.
COMPANY SPOTLIGHT: CABINETBED & KODIAK FURNITURE
Balancing The Food & Sleep Equation
We’ve all been there: a heavy dinner or impromptu decadent late night snack and the ensuing difficulty in getting to sleep. Or that rough night’s sleep followed by the insatiable craving for donuts. Or chips-pizza-and-burgers. But what we sometimes fail to understand is that sleep and food are two sides of the same equation: each variable affects the other.
Scientists have long known that there is a relationship between sleep and what and when we eat. The less sleep you have, the more (and more unhealthy) you are likely to eat. Conversely, eating the wrong combinations of food prior to bed greatly affects the quality of your sleep. A recent study reports that adults who only got four hours of sleep registered food smells differently and with more intensity than they did after getting a full eight of hours of sleep. It seems that exhaustion increases brain activity in two olfactory brain areas – the piriform cortex and the orbitofrontal cortex. But surprisingly the spike in scent-perception only applied to food smells; non-food odors (like fir trees) didn’t provoke a heightened response.
An earlier study looked at how sleep deprivation can affect the endocannabinoid (eCB) system – a key component of the brain’s appetite regulation center. When participants were restricted to only four-and-a-half hours of sleep, their eCB levels rose, resulting in enlarged appetites and increased snacking on less healthy foods. Lead researcher, Dr. Erin Hanlon explained: “if you're sleep deprived, your hedonic drive for certain foods gets stronger, and your ability to resist them may be impaired. So you are more likely to eat it. Do that again and again, and you pack on the pounds.”
While both studies were admittedly small, they definitely seem to indicate that the body reacts to food differently when it lacks the required sleep.
On the flip side, what you eat can certainly influence how you sleep. If you’re looking to set the stage for a pleasantly drowsy path to bedtime, you should choose your foods wisely, especially within the four hours prior to going to sleep. For optimal snoozing, the key is to pair that magical amino-acid tryptophan (of Thanksgiving turkey fame) with complex carbohydrates. The tryptophan is converted into two brain chemicals that assist sleep: melatonin (which regulates your natural circadian rhythm) and serotonin (which aids in relaxing). Carbohydrates stimulate the release of insulin, which enables the tryptophan to better cross the blood-brain barrier, giving it an edge over other amino acids in play.
So if you need to get your snack on later in the evening, opt for combinations like unsweetened cereal with milk, a banana with a dollop of nut butter, or low-fat cheese on a whole grain cracker. Things to avoid include anything spicy, sugary, fatty or caffeinated (including the hidden caffeine in chocolate). And while the common perception is that alcohol helps knock you out, it can actually interfere with your body’s ability to enter deep sleep.
Armed with this knowledge that sleep and food are two halves of the same whole, you can now go forth and make sleep-happy food decisions so that you can sleep well to eat right, a cycle that will benefit your health in the long term.
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