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NEW PODCAST SERIES: Motivating During The Pandemic
In such unprecedented times, what can company leaders do to keep their teams safe and motivated? That is the question we're exploring in a brand new series of podcast episodes. Over the past weeks, we've been speaking to leaders from all across the bedding industry, to get a clearer picture of how different companies are reacting and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. These conversations go beyond just the financial side of things to really focus on leadership and community. What are bedding manufacturers doing to keep their employees safe and sane? How are they keeping themselves energized? What changes have they had to make and what sort of response are they getting from retailers?
The first three episodes are available now! Check out our conversations with:
- Stan Steinreich, President & CEO of Steinreich Communications (Apple / Spotify)
- Dani Serven, President & CEO of South Bay International (Apple / Spotify)
- Rion Morgenstern, President & CEO of Pleasant Mattress (Apple / Spotify)
And stay tuned! We'll be releasing new episodes with more exclusive interviews in the coming days.
Business Not Quite As Usual—But Business All The Same
Adjusting to the new normal both in-person and online.
Across the country and the globe, businesses of all types are trying to figure out how to keep their lights on during this unprecedented moment—and ultimately getting very creative in the process. We’ve seen independent and corporate retailers across categories utilize ecommerce platforms and social media channels as well as massive sales to continue supporting their employees, engaging consumers and delivering goods and services to their customers. Unsurprisingly, the bedding and mattress industry has similarly pivoted in innovative ways. And, with many states developing and even starting to implement reopening plans and relaxing COVID-19 precautions, there is some hope that the economy may be back up and running soon.
We’ve rounded up a combination of examples of how some companies have shaken things up to continue to sell—in ways that are safe for both RSAs and consumers. And for those companies looking to resume business in-person, we’re also providing an overview of the many resources available now.
Helping Consumers Shop At A Safe Distance
Distanced shopping has already been a big trend in retail. It’s the 21st century after all—we as a society pride ourselves on having the ability to do almost anything, anywhere and anytime through all our technological tools. Purchasing goods is no different. And right now, most people couldn’t be more grateful to have the ability to stay plugged in; it’s what has kept the economy hanging on, even if only by a thread. Quite a few companies are using every last tool they have at their disposal to stay connected with their customers.
Interestingly, the very nature of some of these techniques are bringing about a rise in what is called “clienteling.” In this PYMNTS article, the author talks about how virtual one-on-one appointments offer a window to assign retail sales associates to high-value customers—albeit online.
“Clienteling has been around for several years as a way to empower sales associates with customer data and mobile customer engagement technology. For example, by having a customer profile a store associate can engage with customers based on past purchases, preferences and interests. All the data locked in a CRM/POS system is made available to the store associate so that recommendations and interactions are informed by data.” Clienteling apps help support this technique.
Beyond this more nuanced approach, many companies are simply offering online consultations and working hard to promote the availability of this option. The existing prevalence of virtual chat features and the consumer comfort with Facetiming and other forms of video chatting makes this a simple transition for most.
Jerome’s recently shared an example of how the company’s RSA’s are working with customers to hold personalized consultations over FaceTime. And quite honestly, it looks really fun. Of course, Jerome’s isn't alone either. Many stores are also doing this in different forms and using different tools. PERQ marketing rolled out a virtual consultation scheduler very early on to support retailers looking to offer virtual tours. Sweet Dreams also offers virtual tours—but instead of having a FaceTime host, the brand worked with Nationwide Marketing Group to launch interactive 3-D models of its showrooms with carefully labeled products on its website. While many companies are employing high-tech apps and other digital tools to optimize their sites for ecommerce and facilitate meetings, some are also going the old fashion route with phone-based options. It likely pays to have a blend of both enabling your company to access a variety of age demographics with varying levels of comfort—you have to meet your customers where they are!
Each of these avenues to safe consultations and clear communication offer a vital opportunity to stay afloat—and, in some cases, create an even larger opportunity to gain loyal customers. Being there for customers and providing a memorable experience during a tough time is a chance to not only cheer someone up, but to make a long lasting positive impression. Additionally, many consumers are likely to put trust in companies that navigate this crisis in a balanced way—maintaining caution, delivering convenience and treating employees fairly despite the circumstances. For many businesses, the pandemic has shed light on the brand’s true colors, for better or for worse. Those that stick to their guns and honor their employees, customers and values as best they can should reap some rewards.
Resources To Help Safely Serve Customers In Person
The NRF generally offers a wealth of useful knowledge for retailers. And, during a crisis, the Foundation is no different. Presently, the NRF website hosts a variety of guidelines and a resource round-up for stores looking to reopen. One of the most helpful offerings among these tools is the Operation Open Doors Checklist.
Providing thought leadership from top analysts, consultants, influencers, retail executives and solution providers, Retail Reset, an online experience from Retail Touch Points, is available free of charge to all members of the retail community. Including a mix of webcasts, videos, podcasts and editorial content, the digital program seeks to empower visitors to consume content in formats that are most relevant to their needs as they seek guidance on how to safely reopen.
Not only does Nationwide Marketing Group typically offer its members numerous benefits, including access to a curated selection of vendor partners, but the organization has stepped up to offer free COVID-19 resources, including insights on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). And for members, NMG is offering exclusive access to the O’Rourke Retail PPE Program, a partnership that allows members to purchase PPE products through a single, easy, not-for-profit program—helping to protect their customers, store associates and delivery and install crews as stores begin to reopen.
More specific to the bedding and mattress industry is Precision Textiles, which is offering a highly practical solution that will facilitate comfortable and clean rest tests moving forward. Understanding that as stores reopen, bedding and mattress retailers will need to reimagine the consumer shopping experience with an awareness of COVID-19 fears and healthy precautions top of mind, Precision Textiles designed and developed individually packaged hygienic mattress testing kits for use in retail stores.
These are only a few of many companies and organizations working hard to provide retailers with support as they gear up to reopen or continue to find creative ways to support their customers from afar and maintain business operations at a safe distance.
Visit Sleepretailer.com for a variety of COVID-19 updates from across the industry.
Pinching Pennies Or Stay-At-Home Shopping Sprees?
A closer look at consumer shopping trends during the pandemic.
As many states’ stay-at-home orders continue to remain in effect, consumer behavior is growing more fascinating by the day. Researchers have been tracking the trends around online shopping, noting that there are quite a few factors—including philosophies around shopping during this global crisis, socioeconomic variances, uncertainties and job loss—that all come into play when it comes to the delicate nature of consumer spending during a pandemic. Across the board though, online sales are up—with variation between categories, as the views on what products are deemed essential purchases continue to evolve. Researchers and marketers alike are tuning into the fact that, right now, most consumers are spending with their hearts and not their heads.
In a recent article from Forbes, the author digs into a report from Neuro-Insight that has been tracking the evolution of consumer behavior week by week during stay-at-home orders. “According to Neuro-Insight, people purchase something if they view it as a need or get a strong gratification from it—a process driven by the subconscious rather than a conscious decision. As the length of isolation increases, things once seen as indulgent shifted to be perceived by consumers as essential.”
The story cites the very salient example of alcohol. Neuro-Insight claims that consumer drinking habits fluctuated quite a bit even within the first three weeks of isolation. In the first and third weeks, people viewed drinking as more of an essential than before isolation—but by the third week the novelty of COVID-19 stress and the hedonistic impulse had worn off a bit, with 73% drinking more in the first week compared with 64% in the third. And it seems that trends like this will continue to fluctuate as time goes on and consumers continue to parse not only the length of isolation and COVID-19 protective precautions, but the long-term impacts of the crisis as well.
“Our entire mind is a network of associations that is built over time through our experiences, culture and society,” said Neuro-Insight CEO Pranav Yadav. “As we go through this intense one- or two-month period, a lot of these associations (like how we react to an empty or full fridge) are going to change. And brands need to bring that understanding to the center of their decision making process.”
According to data from a company called Klaviyo, e-commerce sales in particular are on the up and up. Klaviyo breaks items into three main categories: essentials, new essentials and non-essentials. Essentials include food and beverages; new essentials involve electronics and housewares, items that have higher perceived value now that people are staying home all the time. The non-essential category applies to products and services that are much less necessary for consumers right now, like jewelry and consulting services. In the home sector, sales are spiking. And while this does make some common sense, it’s also surprising that, even as many people face financial uncertainty, outfitting their homes is still a high priority.
The reported increases in digital sales are significant, and that’s probably the most notable part of the research. According to data collected by Power Reviews, digital sales are up for their clients by 210 % between February and April. These spikes in consumer spending and demand have also posed challenges for a number of brands: for those that are operating with limited staff, timely fulfillment has become a hurtle. Many smaller ecommerce companies that should be reaping the benefits of increased online shopping now also have to content with the major players that historically sold in person. But for brands handling transactions well, this is an advantageous time from both a revenue and a customer review standpoint. In looking at its data, Power Reviews also found that more consumers are submitting reviews right now and that those review lengths have increased.
Zeroing in on the bedding, mattress and furniture retailing sector, TD Bank polled 102 furniture retail executives and decision makers to learn how the pandemic has affected their industry and their planned response to keep customers engaged. According to those survey results, retailers remain optimistic despite supply chain disruption and they are not so unreasonable in feeling that way. Most reported strategic adaptations to better serve customers, including rolling out enhanced ecommerce platforms, taking communications online, along with offering sales, discounted or free shipping, and increased financing opportunities. Most also reported experiencing brand loyalty from customers despite the crisis at hand.
So what can we make of these trends? Candidly, many consumers are impulse buying right now and retailers are feeding the flames with deals, discounts and free shipping. Consumers that are missing out on social activities may be putting their budget towards home projects and other activities they can do while sheltering in place. The emotion-driven nature of current shopping trends also point to the fact that many consumers not only want novelty in their lives but they also want to connect with brands. As such, making a strong positive impression now could help foster brand loyalty for life.
With so many factors at play and so many unknowns for the future, it is unclear how the current success of online brands and direct-to-consumer shopping will continue to impact the brick-and-mortar retail sector down the line. However, it does seem as though this is a time when many consumers are buying items online they likely never considered before. For some, they may learn that it’s easier than they expected, while others may be reminded of what they miss about the in-person experience. Following this crisis, consumers could react a number of ways—some might flock the stores because they’ve been home and lonely, others may decide that they’d prefer to shop from home just to be safe; many will fall somewhere in the middle, while others still will tighten their belts to save for what feels like an insecure future. Only time will tell.
How Sleep Affects Our Communities
We all know that sleep is a crucial part of both mental and physical health. Proper sleep hygiene helps keep our immune systems in check and our minds working their best. But even as the cultural conversation around the importance of sleep has grown in recent years, it’s interesting to note how often the topic is framed from an individual point-of-view. There are plenty of articles that enumerate the many ways insomnia can negatively impact your health, and what a solid eight-hours a night could do to improve your personal well-being. While these facts are true, it’s important to take a step back every once in a while and look at the bigger picture too. Sleep deprivation doesn’t just affect individual people—it has an effect on society as a whole. And finding real solutions to this wide-spread problem requires us to recognize and explore all the external factors that may be contributing to it as well.
Most people are aware of how a poor night’s sleep can ruin your day. You get up feeling groggy and irritable; it’s difficult to pay attention and keep your focus. Many people are also aware of how sustained lack of sleep can create even more problems: it puts you at higher risk for a number of long-term health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Chronic poor sleep has also been shown to slow down your metabolism and increase your chances of catching a cold. All of these issues may feel like personal problems, things you and you alone have to deal with. But of course, none of us live in a vacuum—and the way you feel, both emotionally and physically, can have a ripple effect on everyone you interact with.
For example: lack of sleep affects your judgement and attention. When these are compromised, it increases the chances of workplace errors and traffic accidents—which, in turn, can put other people in harm’s way. In fact, according to estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were nearly 91,000 car crashes in 2017 that were the direct result of driver fatigue—leading to an estimated 50,000 injuries and nearly 800 deaths.
While the effects of sleep deprivation are not always immediately fatal, they are significant in many other ways as well. Lack of sleep has a direct effect on your mood and decision-making; it can make you more irritable and impatient. This doesn’t just sour your day, it colors the way you engage with others. You may be less likely to compromise with your colleagues on an idea, or quicker to snap at your local barista. The same goes for the physical effects too. Health problems that are linked to poor sleep don’t just affect how individual people feel, they can also contribute to family financial strain or put added strain on our already over-extended healthcare system.
This may seem like a lot of pressure. Insomnia can be hard enough to deal with, without having to think about how it’s impacting the community around you. And in some ways, that may be true. But, that same logic may give some people the permission they need to really focus on taking care of themselves. Doing what you need to do to get a good night’s sleep is not a selfish act; it’s actually an important way to contribute to the overall wellness of your community.
Because, of course, by thinking about the impact that widespread sleep deprivation has on society—we can also think about the inverse. What would the impact of widespread restfulness be? Can we imagine a world in which everyone was able to get good quality sleep? What would we, as a society, be able to achieve if everyone was healthier and more alert? How would we interact with each other?
And again, we can take that one step further. If we can recognize how sleep impacts society, we can also see how society impacts sleep. While there are plenty of tips and life hacks designed to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, it’s important to remember that many of the root causes of sleep deprivation come from external forces. Things like chronic stress, trauma, financial woes - they can all generate or exacerbate mental health issues that make it even more difficult to get the rest you need. And the same goes for physical health too; injury and illness may also impact the quality of your sleep, making it more difficult for your body to heal. Part of solving this sleep crisis will require addressing all these contributing factors as well as thinking critically about the types of internal and external pressures society perpetuates that can lead to stress and ultimately, lack of sleep. Focusing on your own sleep health contributes to the greater good, but it’s just as important to find ways to help others achieve better sleep as well.
Good quality sleep should not be a luxury, limited to a lucky few. It is essential to the overall health of not just individual people, but society as a whole. By recognizing how interconnected we all are—how our actions may affect others and vice versa—we can begin to help everyone get the rest we all need.