Sleep Retailer eNews | June 13, 2019

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How Customer Data Is Impacting Retailers Today

Businessman presenting new project to partners in the office

And what tools should you be using?

With the proliferation of digital-first, direct-to-consumer brands, we are also seeing a wider range of more creative and high-tech marketing approaches—and as a result, a greater increase in marketing spends. While digital-first, DTC marketing, data collection and product development are sometimes considered to be in a totally different category from that of more traditional forms of retail, retailers across the board in the sleep sector may have more shared commonalities and challenges than they realize, especially when it comes to customer data collection and organization.

This recent Retail Dive Brief explores a report put out by Commerce Next and Oracle that sheds light on the future of marketing for DTC brands. According to the brief, “78% of DTC companies increased their marketing budgets from 2018 to 2019, a rate ‘dramatically’ higher than traditional retail peers, of whom about 60% reported increasing their marketing spend.”

Even more interestingly, the report goes on to highlight a shared pain point for both DTC brands and traditional retailers: “The Commerce Next and Oracle report also identifies some shared pain points impacting retail marketers across the board. Retail marketers both young and old are struggling with silos and delivering a unified customer experience. The research suggests that 65% of marketers will increase their spend on CDPs [customer data platforms] this year, and 52% will spend more on personalization technology to account for those gaps.”

This data point is telling because it shows that while digitally native brands might have the upper hand on online data collection or a deeper understanding of digital marketing, they are having challenges when it comes to scaling their businesses to more platforms. On the other side of the coin, traditional retailers might have data collection and experience delivery down in-stores, but are still figuring out how to offer a consistent experience online.

So what is a CDP and why is relevant?

A CDP or customer data platform collects, connects and stores customer data across a retailers platforms. This includes in-store, on the website, on an app, via email, engagement on social, you name it.  According to this article from Evergage,“The CDP Institute defines a CDP as ‘packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.’ There’s a need for a unified customer database that can act as an easily accessible single source of truth and allow marketers to truly understand each individual customer — especially as marketers have been struggling to connect customer data across their organizations for a long time.”

Perhaps the rise of digital DTC brands like Casper and Warby Parker as well as their subsequent transition into hybrid digital and brick-and-mortar businesses have spurred the hype for CDPs. Or maybe it’s a product of customer demand. As consumers, we are wanting brands to be nearly omniscient in understanding and anticipating our wants and needs—and a CDP can help retailers deliver the unified customer experience the consumer of today dreams about.

What are the applications of a CDP?

According to this story from The Relevancy Group, 62% of companies that leverage a CDP use it to enable individualized personalization in email, 55% for advertising and 53% for real-time targeting. But the uses are limitless.

The expansion of products from mattresses to sheets, glow lights or other more holistically sleep-related products is a smart marketing move for both DTC and more traditional brands. And these new product line-ups can be customized using data from the CDP.

Traditionally, retailers might need to take a new product from a manufacturer, have it on the floor for a few months and then review return data or even request customer feedback to help the manufacturer and the retailer gauge its viability as a product. But with digital-first and more traditional retailers developing a multi-platform presence and using data collection tools, updates to inventory can happen much more rapidly and be primarily based on customer feedback. Essentially, it’s supply and demand at its nimblest.

Additionally, even more traditional manufacturers are starting to reverse their process. Rather than throwing an initial product out there and seeing how it goes, then pivoting based on feedback, Corsicana Mattress, for example, built its recent line-up to target data-based consumer profiles. The brand’s website says it well: “We listened to what people like you want in a mattress company and reworked our entire process - from concept to design - to create the perfect mattress for you, whether you want a performance mattress that uses state of the art technology or you prefer the durability of traditional craftsmanship.”

The key here is ‘listening.’ It may take time to implement a CDP, it might not be in your budget right now, but what’s most important and why this tool is receiving a lot of buzz right now is that customers want to feel heard and want to have retail experiences and access to products that are tailored to their wants and needs. And, regardless of the technology you possess now, this is the goal retailers need to set out to achieve in order to stay competitive in today’s crowded market.

Learn more here, here, here, here, here and here

How To Help Your Customers Protect Their Homes From Bed Bugs

Woman is putting the bedding cover or mattress pad on the bed or putting off for cleaning process.

Bed bugs are, for lack of a better word, the worst. Take it from someone who is currently in the midst of trying to rid their apartment of the tiny pests. In addition to the inherent ick-factor, bed bugs pose a uniquely frustrating problem because the process of exterminating them is both time-consuming and disruptive. And unfortunately, over the course of the past decade, bed bugs have become more common than ever before. Once thought of as only an issue for urban spaces, they have more recently been spotted in less crowded areas as well. Thankfully there are things you can do and products you can buy to prevent or minimize the impact of an infestation. And while some people would prefer not to even mention the tiny parasites— it’s important to broach the subject from time to time so that consumers can protect themselves from a major headache down the line.

For bedding retailers, it’s important to figure out how to talk to consumers about this potential issue. For some people, protecting their bedrooms from any types of bugs will seem like common sense—for others, they may simply not want to bring it up. The first piece of advice is to make sure to remove any stigma or judgement; this is a problem that can affect anyone, no matter where they live, and therefore everyone should do what they can to be prepared. It may also be helpful to talk more generally about creating and maintaining a clean sleep environment. Above all else, it’s important to prioritize prevention. Even if it may seem like it in the moment, spending a little bit more money up front is worth it if you can avoid having to clean up a problem down the line.

What Is It Like To Have Bed Bugs?

While they are most definitely something to avoid at all costs - there are some “glass half full” ways of looking at a bed bug problem. Namely, you don’t have to worry about them carrying diseases or eating away at your clothes like other vermin. Beyond the psychological impact, the biggest concern is that bed bugs do bite. Since this usually happens while you are sleeping, it’s hard to catch them in the act—the best way to identify them is by the bites they leave on your skin and the little black marks they may leave behind on your bedding.

If you think you may have bed bugs, here is a good guide for identifying the problem.

Determining that you do indeed have bed bugs is just the beginning. While it can be tempting to try at-home remedies - these are rarely effective. Your best bet is to call a pest control service. When you make your appointment, they will likely provide you with a step-by-step guide of what you need to do to prepare. 

The main concern is your bedding, clothing and any fabric-based items you have around your house. These are all common hiding spots for the tiny bugs—and you need to prevent them from simply relocating to these places when the exterminators make their other homes inhospitable. While pesticide can be used to eliminate the bugs en masse, you can also use heat to kill them. So all of your fabric based foods should be washed and dried on the highest heat setting, and then placed directly into tightly sealed trash bags. Many exterminators will also ask you to remove the plastic cover plates from all outlets and lights switches and move all furniture away from the walls, so that they can have more thorough access to all the nooks and crannies of your home.

Now here’s the really annoying part: all of your soft good items must be kept sealed for at least two weeks as the extermination process unfolds. Pest control will likely have to come spray your home at least two times—more if the problem persists. Once they have come to do the treatment at least two times, and only after you have found no signs of any lingering bugs, then you can unpack your stuff and go about your life. 

So, as you can see, the best way to avoid such a headache is to simply not get bed bugs in the first place. Easier said than done, of course. Because they’re very thin in size and mostly nocturnal, it can be difficult to spot a potential invader before they’ve fully set up shop in your stuff. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself anyway.

How To Prevent Bed Bugs — Or At Least Limit Their Impact:

  • Invest in a full encasement protector—for your mattress and pillows.
    Your mattress is a prime location for bed bugs; seams, tape edges, tufting buttons are all perfect places to hide—and they get easy access to you while you sleep. Unfortunately, the mattress is also one of the most difficult to clean. The best solution for this is actually preventative: buy a total encasement protector. These five-sided covers have a zippered enclosure to keep any bugs from ever getting near the mattress itself. If you’re someone who has invested in quality pillows, then it may be worth it to also invest in pillow protectors as well.
  • Wash your sheets regularly.
    There’s nothing better than slipping into a clean set of sheets at night. Beyond the self-care benefits, washing your sheets on a regular basis can also nip any potential bug problem in the bud before they have a chance to spread. While the presence of bed bugs does not actually have anything to do with how clean your home is, regular washing and drying will help eliminate any bugs you may not have even known where there. Having a few sets of quality sheets on hand can make it easier for you to get in the habit of changing them regularly.
  • Rethink your under-bed storage.
    It’s almost ironic: bed bugs tend to be a problem is large urban areas—which are unfortunately the very same places that are known for tiny apartments that require more creative storage solutions. A platform bed with lots of clearance can seem like your best bet for maximizing your space—just be careful about what and how you’re storing under there. Instead of piling your sweaters or extra bedsheets in open baskets or fabric bags, opt for storage containers that you can seal. If you’re using this space to put away off-season clothes, try space bags—which will fully protect against any potential bugs.
  • Limit the clutter in your bedroom.
    Again, bed bugs are not in any way a sign that your bedroom is unclean. But an excess of clutter does give the bugs more places to hide—which, in turn, makes it more annoying for you to clean. As an added bonus: limiting the knick-knacks and clothing piles around your room can also help you create a more relaxed environment and may help you sleep better! 

Read more here, here and here.

Sleep Trackers Are Actually Causing Insomnia 

Sleep tracking app

Why Sleep Tech Needs To Be Actionable

Sleep is important to your overall health; we all know it to be true. And, in turn, we also know how dangerous it is to not get enough of it. These days, the Internet is chock full of articles about these risks: how lack of sleep can cause both long-term physical effects and short-term mental and emotional stresses. While all this may be true, studies have also shown that a near constant focus on the dangers of sleep deprivation can actually be detrimental to people’s sleep—and the same goes for many of the health tracking technologies that are supposed to help people create better sleep habits. According to new research, sleep trackers can trigger greater feelings of stress and anxiety that can actually prevent them from getting the quality sleep they need. It begs the question: how do we keep consumers educated and informed, without unintentionally sabotaging their sleep?

When you’re struggling with insomnia, it can feel like a never-ending problem. You know you should be getting more sleep, but that often makes you worry about whether or not you can get more sleep—and then that, in turn, actually makes it harder to fall asleep. It’s a vicious cycle! This is especially true when you get caught in a loop of thinking about the many health risks associated with sleep deprivation—without receiving any tangible advice for how to resolve any of these issues.

When first introduced to the consumer market, sleep trackers were touted as one of those tangible solutions. The idea was that collecting and reviewing nightly sleep data would give you a better understanding of your unique sleep profile—how much sleep you’re actually getting, when are you waking up, etc—so that you could make more educated adjustments to your habits. At their core, these trackers were supposed to help empower consumers to take control of their sleep hygiene. In some ways, their introduction to the consumer market was beneficial in raising awareness about the importance of sleep. These devices illuminated previously unknown information—and for people who had grown accustomed to ignoring their own body’s cues, seeing their own personalized sleep data was the first step to really understanding the connection between poor sleep and all their various daytime feelings, aches, pains, habits and health issues.

But years later, new research has shown that these sleep trackers and sleep-tracking apps can actually both cause and further exacerbate insomnia by making people more anxious and obsessive. “We’ve seen a lot of people who have developed significant insomnia as a result of either sleep trackers or reading certain things about how devastating sleep deprivation is for you,” Dr Guy Leschziner, a sleep disorder specialist and consultant at Guy’s hospital in London, recently explained at the Cheltenham science festival.

This sentiment has been echoed by a number of other case studies and sleep experts. Last year, a research team in Chicago found that micromanaging sleep through tracking apps had actually caused some patients to develop a disorder they called “orthosomnia”—or, a “perfectionist quest to achieve perfect sleep,” according to Sabra Abbott, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University.  “We realized we had a number of patients coming in with a phenomenon that didn't necessarily meet the classical description of insomnia, but that was still keeping them up at night,” Abbott told Health last year. “They seemed to have symptoms related to concerns about what their sleep-tracker devices were telling them, and whether they were getting good quality sleep or not.”

In fact, all health tracking technology in general has been shown to have negative consequences for some people. Researchers refer to it as the “nocebo effect”—the idea that if you obsess over symptoms (both real and anticipated), they are actually more likely to happen. Think of it as a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you fully believe that you’re going to be stricken with insomnia tonight, then you up the chances of that being the case. “The body’s response can be triggered by negative expectations,” says Luana Colloca, a University of Maryland neuroscientist and physician who studies placebo and nocebo effects. “It’s a mechanism of self-defense. From an evolutionary point of view, we’ve developed mechanisms to prevent dangerous situations.”

This is especially true when it comes to sleep. According to psychologist Annika Norell-Clarke at Örebro University in Sweden, worrying about sleep is not just a symptom of insomnia—it may actually be a contributing factor, one that can actually prolong the disorder.

While worrying about sleep is not necessarily a new phenomenon, the wide availability of sleep tracking apps and devices has brought that anxiety to a new level. This can even be true for people who don’t really have something to worry about. Many sleep tracking apps lack the necessary sensor technology to deliver an accurate reading—and instead rely solely on movement data, which can be misleading. But because the “data” is presented in a seemingly objective way, users place greater trust in that information—even going so far as prioritizing it over their own physical feelings. This can affect the people who wake up feeling groggy despite the app saying they got the correct amount of sleep; or someone waking up feeling refreshed, but questioning those feelings because the app indicated that they didn’t quite hit their target. 

Beyond the possibility of faulty data collection, this may occur simply because every body is different. While eight hours of sleep a night is the recommended amount for most adults, that number actually varies from person to person. By measuring every person’s sleep quality against the general guidelines, some trackers may be alerting you to a problem that is not actually there—and that, in turn, can trigger that “nocebo” effect and make you feel worse.

Even amidst these issues, it would be naive to say that we should simply banish all technology from the bedroom. Sleep data, in and of itself, is not the problem; we just have to rethink how it’s being collected and what it’s being used for. There’s no doubt that technology is going to continue to play a major role in daily life—but it’s our responsibility as members of the sleep industry to make sure we’re using it thoughtfully and meaningfully.

Enforce higher standards on accuracy and transparency

When it comes to picking a sleep tracking device, there is a wide spectrum of options that range from pricey stand-alone devices to free mobile apps. And not all trackers are equal: some of the more expensive ones will have the ability to measure more types of data points in order to ensure greater accuracy, while others are simply focusing on one or two factors. The lack of clinical standards means that some consumers are placing too much importance on incomplete data.

Of course, not everyone really needs to recreate a sleep study environment in their own bedrooms. The truth is, many simplified tracking devices can still collect enough physical data to be meaningful. But regardless of functionality, all of these products should be required to be transparent about what sort of limitations they have—so consumers can make more educated decisions about how much weight to place on the data.

Focus on larger patterns and context, not just raw data

One of the reasons sleep trackers can be so anxiety-producing is that they require you to check them every single day—and then provide you with granular level data points that are not always reflective of larger trends. Sleeping poorly one night does not mean that will be the case all week—unless, of course, that first night’s data causes you so much stress that you can’t fall asleep again the next night, and the next night.

The truth is that there will always be slight variations in any data set if you’re looking at each day separately—but that information is simply not as important as the larger patterns that data adds up to. Getting lost in the details can be harmful and dispiriting.

Thankfully, other health tracking categories have already begun to move away from this approach. For example: Shapa is a new kind of scale that, instead of simply telling you your weight when you step on it, aggregates three weeks worth of weigh-in data in a color-coded report that informs users whether they’re gaining, losing or maintaining their weight. According to Shapa co-founder Dan Ariely, the idea is to move away from the specifics incremental weight changes and instead prioritize the larger patterns. “Giving people information about things going up and down within that range is just confusing and demotivating, and it’s not helping [them] understand the relationship between cause and effect,” Ariely explained. “A lot of the ‘quantified self’ is basically designed for computer algorithms, not for people.”

Make the information actionable — as seamlessly and realistically as possible

The first step is to make sure all data is accompanied by real, actionable advice. Sure, you may have slept poorly the past week—but what should you be doing about it? It’s important to think realistically about what people are capability of in terms of changing their habits. Inundating people with a bevy of “sleep hacks” may be just as overwhelming as the raw data. Perhaps it can provide one tangible piece of advice that is based on real-life data, giving the user enough time to integrate it into their daily lifestyle. Or, better yet, maybe it’s time to simply take the thinking out of it—by using the data collected to power “smart” products that automatically adjust to each person’s unique needs.

When it comes to technological innovation, there’s no reason for the sleep industry to limit itself. Sleep data can be a hugely important piece of research and development—and there are still huge opportunities for bringing sensing technology to the consumer market. But if our ultimate goal is to help people sleep better, both manufacturers and retailers alike owe it to their customers to think critically about how technology is helping or hurting.

Read more here, here, here, here, here and here.

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