Sleep Retailer eNews | May 24, 2018

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How To Create A Positive In-Store Shopping Experience

couple mattress shopping

While there has been a lot of focus on the e-commerce market as of late, retailers can’t forget about the customers that continue to shop in-store. In fact, brick-and-mortar retail still makes up the majority of all sales in the US and physical store retail sales actually grew 3.4% in 2017, according to CBRE. But just because plenty of consumers are still shopping in store doesn’t mean retailers should take that fact for granted. With more and more online options at their fingertips, consumers’ expectations of brick-and-mortar stores has shifted—and it’s more important than ever that retailers are able to provide shoppers with a positive, memorable shopping experience.

Understand Your Customer’s Experience

Are you aware of how shoppers really feel about their experience in your store?
Salesforce recently conducted a study on the current state of the retail experience and found that 53% of shoppers simply do not have faith in most brick-and-mortar retailers to deliver great customer experiences. On top of that, the study found that more than 60% of shoppers feel that retailers just don’t understand their needs. And, according to the InMoment CX 2018 Trends Report, those concerns may be valid. The report revealed that many retailers have a skewed perception of what kind of experience they’re delivering to their customers. While 68% of consumers surveyed said they had a “positive, memorable experience with a business within the last year,” the businesses surveyed over-estimated the number of their customers who felt that way, predicting 84%.

This discrepancy is significant, because it means that many retailers are not accurately evaluating or even monitoring their customers’ experiences. Retailers need to know what kind of shopping experience their customers want and how that compares to the experience they receive.

Enhance Staff Interaction, Offer Access To Experts And Value Loyal Customers

According to the InMoment CX 2018 Trends Report, the three most important aspects that contribute to a positive, memorable shopping experience for consumers are: staff interaction, access to experts and educators, and better treatment for loyalty members. “Across age and gender, human beings leave the most significant and longest lasting impression on your customers,” the report stated. In fact, 65% of consumers said that their purchasing decisions have been highly influenced by their interactions with staff.

Some of these same ideas were also cited in another study conducted by professional real estate services firm JLL and brand experience company Big Red Rooster. The Beyond Buying report examined 100 stores and 2,000 shoppers across 10 retail sectors to offer a better idea of what keeps consumers coming back to brick-and-mortar stores. According to their findings, today’s consumers expect helpful, knowledgeable staff to be on hand to help them find what they’re looking for. At the same time, though, consumers also want an intuitive store layout. The retail space should be easy to navigate for the shopper - and offer a healthy selection of products and product options from which to choose.

Moral of the story: consumers shouldn’t have to ask for help finding the product they’re looking for - but staff should still be on hand to help walk them through the decision-making process should they need it.

Understand And Apply Valued Attributes To Your Consumer Experience

Accessible, Immersive, Meaningful & Personalized

The Beyond Buying report also cited a number of different attributes that make for a positive consumer shopping experience: accessible, immersive, meaningful, personalized. These are more than just buzzwords; they’re valuable consumer expectations.

Accessibility pertains to your technological prowess. In the age of ecommerce, consumers are increasingly expecting all the perks of online shopping to be available in-store as well. Your brick-and-mortar experience should be seamlessly integrated with your online and mobile strategy.

While the word “immersive” can feel daunting, it doesn’t have to mean transforming your store into a high-tech playground. It simply means the showroom space should be pleasant and inviting to the consumer. Evaluate your store from a variety of senses.

When it comes to searching for “meaningful” retail experiences, consumers just want to associate with brands that share their values - whether they be social, political, environmental or cultural.

Personalization is a major differentiator for retail stores. According to Salesforce, 58% of shoppers place a high value on personalized in-store experiences. While online stores can offer algorithm-based product recommendations, brick-and-mortar stores can deliver a different kind of personalization. Whether you stock customizable products or simply have a knowledgeable sales staff that can provide real-time guidance, customers should walk away from your store confident that they have found the right product for them. Robust loyalty programs can make customers feel even more special - and bring them back in the door on a more regular basis.

According to the InMoment CX 2018 Trends Report, the top three factors that consumers say contribute to a “lackluster brand experience” are: lack of understanding of their needs (46%), lack of available staff to help when needed (41%) and an impersonal and generic shopping experience (22%).

Where Do You Begin When You Want To Improve?

So how do you know if your store is meeting consumers’ expectations? First, you have to ask them. Before you can improve your customer experience, you have to have a realistic understanding of what’s working and what’s not. While revenue and customer retention stats can be helpful, they lack the nuance of information provided by direct customer feedback.

Once you’ve implemented a system for requesting and collecting feedback, make sure that information is reaching the right people. Whose job is it to collate and synthesize the information into actionable insights? Who is making sure this information is delivered to the right department and team members?

Most importantly, customers need to see that you’re actually taking their feedback into account. This means more than just replying to negative Yelp reviews. Make an effort to address the most common concerns in whatever ways you can - and make sure you’re communicating these updates and improvements to your customers.

As the research has shown, the human element of your store is of utmost importance to customers. That means staff training is crucial to your success. Today’s consumers have been conditioned by the online shopping experience, where all product and pricing details are available at the click of a button. RSAs need to be adequately equipped with the necessary resources so they can easily share key information with shoppers, including product features and benefits, pricing and promotions, customizable options, in-store availability and delivery services.

Of course, information isn’t the only thing customers are looking for from the sales staff. RSAs are also there to make the shopping experience comfortable and welcoming. This is especially important for mattress retailers, who have often been pegged as pushy salespeople (a pervasive stereotype that has no doubt helped drive consumers to online retail spaces). In addition to training, it’s important to evaluate your employee incentive and rewards strategy. Commission-based pay in common in the mattress industry - but you have to be careful about making your showroom floors too competitive. Are you unintentionally rewarding pushy behavior by focusing solely on sales quotas? Are there other ways to reward employees that help foster a positive customer experience instead?

Whether you are suffering from decreased sales or simply focused on boosting your ecommerce strategy, it can be difficult to rationalize sinking more money in your brick-and-mortar stores. But the proof is in the numbers. According to Forrester Research, retailers that invest in customer experience see a 4% year-over-year revenue bump above their competitors. By taking the time to understand consumers’ needs and expectations, retailers can curate a shopping experience that will keep their customers coming back to buy for years to come.

Read more here, here and here.

The Truth About Mattress Retail Markup - And Why We Should Be Talking About It

mattress store close-up

“Did you know that a $3,000 mattress probably only took $300 to make?” It’s a factoid that’s been floating around the Internet for some time now - but one that we at Sleep Retailer hadn't thought too much about until recently when we were reminded of it on Twitter. So we decided it was time to dig a little deeper into where these numbers come from and what they might say about the mattress retail industry's reputation.

The figure itself comes from Tuft & Needle, an online mattress brand that devotes an entire page of its website to revealing the “truth” about the mattress industry. And while we were still left scratching our heads at the company’s explanation of the industry’s “typical” pricing structure, many people outside of the industry have actually accepted it as fact: the page itself has been cited numerous times throughout the web (see here and here). Fighting back against this claim directly may be a fruitless endeavor for retailers - but the fact that it has been accepted as truth reveals certain vulnerabilities that the mattress industry has turned a blind eye to over the years. Namely, that the average consumer knows very little about what goes into making and selling a mattress. And that has left the door open for online brands to present themselves as a more honest and valuable alternative.

“Mattress stores are greedy,” exclaims Tuft & Needle on its website. “Say goodnight to over-priced, over-complicated mattresses and discover the truth in pricing.” It then offers an itemized list of the ‘average material cost’ for each component of a queen mattress - plus any additional markup, marketing and commission costs. Ultimately, this graph comes to the conclusion that a mattress that costs approximately $300 to make has a “typical retail price” of $3,000.

While it’s entirely possible that there are retail stores out there that have adopted such an extreme pricing structure - it’s hardly the industry standard. But the point of this graph is less about comparison shopping and more about positioning Tuft & Needle as a more honest option for consumers. The cost breakdown is presented as further proof of just how broken and unfair the traditional mattress industry is. This type of rhetoric is pulled directly from the standard playbook of most new direct-to-consumer online brands.

According to Jesse Derris, founder of the public relations agency Derris, who has helped companies like Warby Parker establish their brand identities, most direct to consumer (DTC) brands offer a relatable “core narrative” to explain how each business came to be. Derris explained to Inc. that DTC founder stories go something like this, “I believe I’m getting ripped off by X, so I launched a brand to solve the pain point.”

For Tuft & Needle, the mattress industry isn’t simply broken because it costs a lot to run a brick-and-mortar store - the industry is broken because “mattress stores are greedy.” By backing up this campaign with the inflammatory pricing breakdown, the company is implying that standard product mark-up is simply a way for retail stores to rip-off their customers and further pad their profits.

But this type of cost breakdown isn’t always used by online brands to attack their competitors. In fact, many DTC companies utilize this tactic as a way to help sell their own more expensive products. Known as “price transparency,” this strategy has become popular among the online apparel market, spearheaded by brands like Honest By, Oliver Cabell and Everlane. More than just offering an itemized list of each material cost, these companies will even go as far as to outline all of the other expenses that contribute to the higher price tag: from staffing, to research and design, utility costs, intellectual property rights, etc.

“Among the goals of transparent pricing is education,” Bryan Pearson explained in an article for Forbes. “If shoppers understand the reasons for a product markup they will be willing to cover it.”

According to Pearson, price transparency is an “astute effort in a time when nearly year-round retail market downs have shoppers questioning the real price of any products on the shelf.” This is especially true for the mattress retail market, which has long relied on big blow-out sale weekends and regular price flexibility. Shoppers know that the price tag on that mattress will inevitably go down at some point, which essentially destabilizes their perception of the products’ value. Who knows how much a mattress is actually worth if the price is constantly changing?

And that is how Tuft & Needle can get away with claiming that a $300 mattress sells for $3,000 in a retail store - because consumers were already kind of suspicious of the market to begin with thanks to its lack of clear, easy-to-understand product information and a general sense of price instability. By keeping consumers in the dark, the mattress industry allowed itself to be vulnerable to these types of claims.

So what can we do about it? In order to combat the “mattress stores are greedy” reputation, retailers need to adopt a more open and honest dialogue with their consumers about pricing, costs and value.

When it comes to higher-end mattress collections, price transparency could be a valuable selling strategy - details about ethically-sourced materials and artisan craftsmanship can help paint a clearer picture for the consumer as to why this mattress is worth a bigger investment. Of course, full price transparency is not going to be a viable option for every product nor is it a meaningful selling point for every customer.

But simply reframing the sales conversation to focus on true value can be a meaningful way to start regaining consumers’ trust. Whether you are selling an entry-level innerspring mattress or an ultra-luxury memory foam bed, it’s important for retailers to help their customers understand why a product is priced the way it is. Why is this one more expensive than the one sitting next to it on the showroom floor? Or the one that can be delivered in a box on their doorstep?

We know most mattress stores aren’t actually greedy. But do your customers know that?

Read more here, here, here and here.

A Case For Naps: How Creative Problem-Solving Might Occur During Sleep

abstract art creativity

It’s long been understood that sleep helps us reflect on our days, solidify memory and sometimes problem-solve. While research shows that this occurs, we don’t exactly know why or how. What exactly causes epiphanies post-sleep? How does it happen? And, most importantly, how long do we need to sleep in order to wake up with a solution to a problem?

Penelope Lewis, a neuroscientist from Cardiff University who has been studying the way people process information during sleep for years and even pioneered the idea of “sleep engineering” in a TEDx Talk, has come out with a new hypothesis. Though some of her conclusions are ultimately conjectures at this point, she did unveil some interesting insights into why and how “sleeping on it” is crucial to mulling over important decisions and parsing problems that need to be solved.

Her theory breaks down sleep processes to understand each stage’s role in comprehending and consolidating the various bits of information and memories we experience during the day. In the article, her overarching question is: “How can sleep both promote the construction of general knowledge frameworks and facilitate the creative leaps, which such knowledge actively suppresses?” The preceding question was formed from the idea that non-REM sleep is the stage in which we extract concepts to find patterns and rules within our experiences (creating generalities or gathering the gist of an experience), while REM sleep is the stage in which we are able to see beyond such rules and form more creative conclusions. Lewis is less interested in the debate over which stage is more important to meaning-making and more interested in how the two might work together.

According to Lewis, the key to how we solve problems after a restful night is the way in which these two stages work in concert to help us unpack difficult problems. She claims that, “the answer lies in the heterogeneity of sleep stages, as REM and non-REM are iteratively interleaved throughout the night in cycles of about 90 min.” So, the process of moving in and out of the two stages allows us to see things we may have missed in our waking lives because during sleep our brains to meditate on the same memory from two vastly different angles. She and her team elaborate later in the article, “We posit that the iterative alternation between generating cortically represented schemas in non-REM, and forming links between these and other cortically represented information in REM, is critical to the formation of the rich, highly interconnected representations that characterise human thought.”

Following this thread of thought, we looked at another, older study comparing napping with caffeine and a placebo to measure the benefits of each as they pertain to verbal, motor and perceptual memory. In this study, participants engaged in verbal, motor and perceptual memory tasks that were punctuated with a 60 to 90 minute napping session or drug intervention. The study found that those who napped did better on verbal and motor tasks and much better on perceptual tasks than those who used a placebo but about the same as participants who used caffeine.

What’s interesting here is the amount of time the nappers napped. If Lewis’ theory is indeed true, it also supports and explains the idea that a 60-90 minute nap is valuable to working through a problem. A 90 minute snooze would theoretically be enough time for our brains to do what Lewis claims is the crucial step: pop in and out of the two stages (non-REM and REM) which together promote the type of reflection that often yields a solution.

While much of this is still theoretical, it seems Lewis is onto something. Anecdotally, we’ve all likely woken up only to find that a previously challenging problem now seemed ridiculously clear in those moments. It would be amazing to more deeply understand this phenomena that often feels like magic and learn how to strategically harness it to untangle our daily dilemmas. Thanks to this new research, we could be almost there.

Read more here, here and here.

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