In the world of interiors there are many trends, seasons, fads, and cycles. In terms of home furnishings retail we have regular calendar events such as spring cleans/refurbs, summer/winter/Christmas staging. As purchasing consumers we have life events such as moving house, combining households, babies, and empty nests. All of these result in fairly predictable product launches, colour-schemes, and ‘the-next’big-thing(s)’. It’s an inbox of press releases that are hard to get enthusiastic about, I promise you.
But occasionally, just occasionally, we get to witness a change in retailing, and that’s exactly what’s happened in the mattress world over the last 12 months.
If you’ve ever bought a mattress, you’ve probably had a similar experience – you trawl around the various bed showrooms, sit on a few, lay down (carefully placing your feet on the plastic strip). You start by knowing that ‘this one is too hard’, and the next one is ‘too soft’ (but it is lovely). Before you know it, you’ve lost two hours of your life, you can’t tell the difference between one brand from another, you’re paralysed by the vast amount of choice, you’ve learnt a whole new vocabulary about springs, boxes, materials, and density, and you really, really want the salesperson to leave you alone.
But there is another way. I have a relatively lengthy commute, during which I listen to a number of podcasts – one of which regularly advertises mattresses which can be bought online (Casper, via the excellent 99% Invisible podcast). This immediately struck me as a shift in retail strategy; an innovation centred around a 100 day home trial, and lessening the product range. Stress-free, was the promise. My interest was piqued.
Casper was up and running in the USA, and it was only a matter of time before the strategy was picked up in the UK. During the second half of last year, we started to see a few adverts for a new online mattress retailer, Eve. With their striking yellow colour-scheme, and their seemingly no-nonsense sales-patter, the revolution had begun.
As it happens, here at Home and Decorating Magazine towers, we were looking to the bedroom for inspiration on a series of new features – specifically around platform beds, and we knew that we needed to find the perfect mattress to top things off (sorry).
So we scoured the internet, looking at as many mattress retailers as we could, we reviewed the on and off-line mattress offerings, and we specifically enquired into this new breed of online-only mattress retailers.
What we found was a a brand new business model whereby mattresses are bought rather than sold. Where the salesman is replaced by the online-marketer, and where the lengthy home trial is central to the consumer buy-in. The power is back with the buyer. You can actually sleep on the damn thing rather than try and project your comfort levels from a 5 minute, fully-clothed, plastic-sheet-accompanied, showroom shuffle.
The gist of it is this: there is no hard, soft, medium choice. The new mattress makers make one type of mattress; a memory foam hybrid, whereby layers of different foams combine to offer the ‘perfect balance’ of malleability, temperature control, and comfort.
It’s like the perfect storm – consumers can no longer be paralysed by choice. There is one type of mattress – just order the size you want. No, you can’t see what it feels like first, but better than that – you can try it out at home for 3 whole months, and then… if you don’t like it – it will be picked up and disposed of, and you get your money back. It is the ultimate in money back guarantees; it gets delivered to your house, it gets picked up if you don’t want it, and you can take your time in making up your mind.
Home and Decorating Magazine approve; we’re not saying that there isn’t a space for bricks-and-mortar mattress retailers, we’re just in favour of more competition and new business-models. Anything that puts customer satisfaction front and centre is a winner for us.
So which mattress did we choose when the choice of range is diminished and even the main online retailers (Eve and Leesa) sound the same but with different brand colour palettes? Well, based purely on the customer service (which we did prod a bit first), we went with Leesa. You can read our interview with the Leesa MD in the coming month, and our product review of the Leesa Mattress is here.