Sleep Retailer eNews | September 5, 2019

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Selling Cool Sleep - The Next Level of Customized Comfort

Top view of beautiful happy young couple lying on bed and hugging

New Podcast Episode!

In the latest episode of the Sleep Retailer Podcast, Todd Youngblood (CEO of Kryo Inc and maker of the chiliPAD and OOLER Sleep Systems) sits down with Chris and Elaina to chat about all things cool sleep. Listen as they discuss why temperature regulation continues to be so popular amongst consumers, the tangible benefits of active versus passive cooling technologies—and how sleep will play a role in the future of health.

Listen to the full episode now on Spotify and Apple Podcasts

Do Consumers Just Want More Of The Same?

Gray mattress on a double bed in store

Have you started mixing up all the different direct-to-consumer mattress brands on the market today? Are the colors and slogans starting to feel similar? Can you remember if it’s Purple or Nectar that asks consumers if they are sleeping on its bed or on a pile of garbage in the commercials? If you’re feeling seen amidst this confusion, you’re not alone. Even the level of quirkiness inherent in the TV commercials for these brands is starting to plateau. They are all creating weird, character-driven commercials that strive to be blunt or bizarre in similar ways—ways that are becoming indistinguishable. So what’s happening? Are these brands all the same? What makes them different (if they are at all)? And what is it that brick-and-mortar retailers can do to get past this crowded and confusing marketplace of online mattress brands that seems to be appealing to consumers?

A recent CNBC article really seeks to interrogate this conundrum. The story explains that the majority of online mattress brands—those that ran with the challenge of successfully marketing beds for people to buy sight-unseen—are all selling a variant of the exact same bed.

The CNBC story proves this with insights from the senior vice president of sales and marketing at one of the key manufacturers outsourced to produce the mattresses that are purchased online. “Most of the outsourcing is to just four major manufacturers, according to Dan Schecter, SVP of sales and marketing at Carpenter. He said his company makes mattresses for 40% of the mattress industry at 60 factories throughout the country. That includes including roughly 14 bed-in-a-box brands, along with all the traditional players like Tempur Sealy.”

But it gets bleaker. The article continues to dig into the fact that these companies are not only selling the same or near-same product, but that they are largely selling it in the same way—with similar marketing, logos, logo-colors, fonts, etc. As many of these players are new to the mattress marketplace entirely, they are, above all else, experts in marketing—picking up on what consumers feel inherently drawn to and capitalizing on that (like any good marketer does). But in this environment, it has become difficult to really distinguish the actual value of the product between brands. And for this reason, it seems more important than ever both within and beyond the ecommerce sphere to determine what it is that makes your brand and products unique and to stand out among the pack.

In that CNBC article, the author talks about how brands like Casper, Nectar, Leesa and more (the list goes on and on) all use similarly vague messaging to explain why its products are beneficial. On the packaging and promotional materials, the brands use similar color schemes and imagery to sell the mattresses. So is this successful? It seems to be, according, again, to the CNBC article: “A survey by the International Sleep Products Association reported that 45% of mattresses purchased in last year were online, up from 35% for purchases in 2017.” And online mattress sales account for 12% of the $16.5 billion mattress industry. 

So what can traditional retailers do? Is this recognition of sameness going to negatively impact sales for these ecommerce companies? It’s hard to say, but since many retailers are offering what initially drew customers to online brands—convenient delivery, clear and simple value propositions, creative marketing— in stores and on their own ecommerce sites, the tides could turn.

Here are a few things we think will help retailers capitalize on the growing confusion among ecommerce brands:

Educate Your Customers

Because online mattress shopping is all the rage and sleep is suddenly a booming business, consumers are being bombarded with information online about what products will help them sleep better. But most are completely unaware of how all these businesses work, or how mattress rating websites are profiting from the success of the brands they are “reviewing.” These outlets often do not know the first thing about how a mattress is made or what materials differentiate one from the next. Instead of worrying about making a quick buck, gaining the customer’s trust is paramount. Set yourself apart by offering consumers clear, specific and ideally science-backed information about how one product could suit them more than the other.

Online brands have succeeded because they seek to accomplish this through clear-cut websites and curated product options that they ship direct to the customer’s door. If you can take that part of the online approach and add the human connection you should have a leg up. It’s important to realize that people like ordering mattresses online because going to the store has historically turned them off—but if the online version of mattress shopping is beginning to feel too confusing or overwhelming, it’s important that the in-store experience fully de-mystify the process.   

Create Clarity In Your Branding

Eliminate confusion as much as possible. Ensure that your brand as a retailer is distinct from the mattress brands you’re carrying. If you have a private label product, make that brand and its marketing approach clear and distinctive—don’t let it feel the same as the online offerings. Be able to explain exactly why it’s different or better. Tell the story, but don’t bullshit. Consumers are on to the fact that many online brands are just selling smoke and mirrors. Provide tangible value. It might feel like there’s nothing new to do, but at least choosing a different logo color is a great start.

Clear And Specific Value Propositions

The more obvious or simple the solution, the better. Consumers are sick of vagueness and overly complicated sleep products. Go back to basics. Think critically about the natural materials used in each mattress you carry: what is the value of each layer and each material? Can you explain it in a sentence or two? If not, you need to rethink your sales pitch. Clear and straightforward actually does cut through the noise. Every time you put a new product on your floor, you should be able to communicate why that product is unique in a sentence or less and understand what type of consumer it is most suited for.

Familiarity Without Complete Sameness

Part of the success of similar branding is that people really do like familiarity. According to this Atlantic article, “In the 1960s, the psychologist Robert Zajonc conducted a series of experiments where he showed subjects nonsense words, random shapes, and Chinese-like characters and asked them which they preferred. In study after study, people reliably gravitated toward the words and shapes they’d seen the most. Their preference was for familiarity.” While it is proven that people psychologically enjoy similarity, the comfort of familiarity doesn’t have to equal sameness. In some ways, the strategy of indistinguishable brands makes it easy for consumers to mistake one brand for another—but this isn’t really positive for the brand itself. If consumers are starting to view online mattress shopping as the same, it really just takes them back to square one: the proverbial room of white rectangles. You can offer the comfort of familiarity by referencing different time periods and other nostalgic details or you can work to simply make your brand familiar by building recognition. And, you can differentiate products by mixing up your store experience and creating a feeling of comfortable home space in your showroom.

While we can’t fully tell if consumers do or do not want more of the same, it does seem as though the ecommerce mattress bubble could soon burst as consumers wise up to the average product specs and general similarity among the swathes of bedding and mattress start-ups. But traditional retailers and manufacturers seeking to genuinely innovate can only succeed by studying the triumphs and missteps of the competition and responding accordingly. Nimble pivoting is the name of the game in nearly every industry today as trends seem to shift more swiftly than ever. No matter what it is that you do, it’s essential to always have a clear and specific answer to those ever-challenging questions: what makes you different? And why should we care?

Read more here, here and here.

Why Poor Sleep Could Be Causing Your Digestive Issues—And Vice Versa

Shot of a young woman suffering from stomach cramps in her bedroom

It is widely known that sleep has a clear and direct impact on overall health. From decision-making skills to heart disease to skin elasticity, your sleep habits play a major role in all aspects of your health and wellness. Now, newer research is adding to that list by examining the link between sleep and digestion. Studies have shown this relationship to be both complex and circuitous: lack of sleep can exacerbate existing gastrointestinal issues—and gastrointestinal issues can make it more difficult to get the sleep you need. So what does this mean for people who suffer from GI problems? And what can they do about it?

According to a 2007 review published in the Sleep journal, surveyors with insomnia reported more gastrointestinal problems than those that did not have trouble sleeping. At the same time, respondents with gastrointestinal complaints also reported more chronic insomnia as well—pointing to a clear connection between the two problems. Sleep issues have been linked to a wide range of digestive issues like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). People suffering from these problems are more likely to experience significantly prolonged sleep latency, more frequent sleep fragmentation, higher rates of sleeping pill use, decreased day-time energy, increased tiredness and overall poor sleep quality.

Despite the clear linkage between sleep and digestion, scientists are still unsure about the nature of the connection in terms of cause and effect. Which one is the source of the issue and which one is the result? The answer is still murky.

What we do know for sure is how sleep can impact the neurological mechanisms around eating. Over the years, research has shown that lack of sleep can prompt a decrease of the leptin in the body (the hormone that signals that you feel full) and an increase in ghrelin (which dulls the feeling of satisfaction you experience after eating). At the same time, poor sleep also has a negative impact on our brain’s ability to maintain impulse control—making it more difficult to avoid overly indulgent foods.

Now, newer theories are suggesting that this can create a never-ending cycle for some people. Poor sleep begets poor diet, which prompts more serious digestive tract issues, which then turns around and exacerbates the existing sleep issues—and the cycle starts all over again.

“There is no question in my mind that gut health is linked to sleep health, although we do not have the studies to prove it yet,” Dr. Michael Breus, clinical psychologist and fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, told The Guardian. “Scientists investigating the relationship between sleep and the microbiome are finding that the microbial ecosystem may affect sleep and sleep-related physiological functions in a number of different ways: shifting circadian rhythms, altering the body’s sleep-wake cycle, affecting hormones that regulate sleep and wakefulness.”

Another key factor at play here is mental health. Studies have shown that mood disorders like depression and anxiety can be exacerbated by poor sleep, while at the same time being contributing factors to insomnia. This becomes even more interesting, as more research has come out linking these disorders to the same gut and gastrointestinal problems that may also be affecting your sleep. More and more, it appears that all three of these issues may have a layered and reciprocal relationship with one another.

While the connections between sleep, digestion and mental health may seem like one big, never-ending Catch-22 of a problem—it doesn’t have to be. Simply taking the time to understand this relationship more deeply doesn’t mean accepting it as a dead-end. Addressing these issues requires a delicate balance; it will likely take a little bit of trial and error and a whole lot of patience to really get it right.

So what can you do about it?

Eliminate Other Possibilities By Updating Your Bedroom Environment

It’s clear that there are a lot of different factors that can be affecting your ability to get quality sleep—some more complicated than others. The first step to improving your sleep should be eliminating the easiest-to-address possibilities. Does your mattress not provide the proper support? Do you get overheated during the night? Is your room too bright or too noisy? All of these potential issues can be solved by investing a little bit of time in money into upgrading your bedroom environment: a new mattress, base, pillows, sheets, curtains, etc etc. Refreshing your bedding equipment may not immediately fix your sleep problems, but it will provide you with a clean slate from which you can better tackle the other factors may be affecting your sleep. Once you rule out all the other possibilities, poor sleep may actually be an indication that there is larger medical problem at play.

Re-Evaluate Your Daytime Food Choices

We’ve talked in the past about what kinds of foods you should avoid right before bed, but some research suggests that truly revamping your sleep may require you to consider all of your food choices throughout the entire day. This is where the trial-and-error may really come into play. Start by introducing more anti-inflammatory foods like green leafy vegetables and fatty fish into your meals, and slowly start limiting things like fried foods, red meat and soda. Remember: overhauling your entire food habits can be really difficult and the process can at times be demoralizing. Start small and give yourself enough time to really track your progress. When you can actually see and feel the impact of these changes, it makes it easier to keep going.

Introduce More Probiotics & Prebiotics Into Your Diet

As part of switching up your diet, consider introducing both probiotics and prebiotics into your daily routine. A probiotic is a type of live bacteria (which exists in supplement form or in fermented foods like sauerkraut, Kefir and Kombucha) that has been shown to have a positive impact on gut health. Similarly, prebiotics (which mainly come in the form of non-digestible fiber carbohydrates like chicory root, garlic and asparagus) have also been shown to have a positive effect on the quality of non-REM and REM sleep. While they won’t be a cure-all or an excuse to keep eating poorly, they can play a big part of improving your overall sleep health.

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

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