Exclusive Better Sleep Council research: Sleep-mattress link clear
In the final installment about the Better Sleep Council’s 2016 study, Sleep Savvy examines consumers’ attitudes toward sleep, accessory shopping habits and demographic profiles. Download a PDF of the entire three-part series here.
BY JULIE A. PALM
Everyone wants to be healthy, and the majority of consumers recognize that one of the best ways to improve their well-being is to get a good night’s sleep, according to new research from the Better Sleep Council, the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association.
Sleep, respondents to the 2016 survey said, is more vital to their overall wellness than other key components of a healthy lifestyle, including a nutritious diet, exercise or regular medical checkups.
And, even more importantly for mattress retailers, consumers see a direct connection between the quality of sleep they get each night and the quality of their mattress. In fact, 85% agree with the statement, “A good mattress is key for getting a good night’s sleep.”
The findings come from BSC research conducted by New York-based Fluent Research, which we’ve been reporting on in Sleep Savvy beginning with an article in the January/February 2017 issue. In this final installment, we’ll look more at consumers’ attitudes about sleep, as well as their thoughts on bedding accessories. We’ll also identify five prototypical consumers to help you hone your merchandising, selling and marketing strategies.
The mattress-sleep-wellness connection
Consumers generally realize that when it comes to good health, there is no magic pill: It requires a series of good habits to stay feeling your best. But sleep is foundational, and 85% of BSC survey respondents rate it as very important to their health and well-being. After sleep, they say, comes a healthy diet (76%), stress management (75%), regular medical checkups (71%), physical exercise (70%) and maintaining work-life balance (60%).
A survey respondent identified as Erin explained the wide-ranging effects a single night of poor quality sleep has on her own life. “Sleep is very important to me. If I don’t get a quality night’s sleep, it affects everything else I do,” she said. “After a bad night’s sleep, I have less energy to exercise, I am more likely to have just whatever is around for breakfast and tend to be less effective at work.”
Erin is not alone. In a report accompanying the results, Fluent Research explains that when respondents discussed having a bad day, it “invariably featured a restless night or insufficient sleep.”
And a bad day traced back to a bad night’s sleep often can be traced further back to a worn-out or poor quality mattress. Nearly eight in 10 consumers agree that “sleeping on a poor quality mattress is bad for your health” (78% agree; 41% strongly agree) and three-quarters agree that “sleep problems are often caused by a poor mattress” (75% agree; 33% strongly agree).
But what a difference a new comfortable, supportive mattress can make. A respondent identified as Gordon explained it this way: “We have recently purchased a new mattress and it’s totally helped. I used to fall asleep on the couch with the TV on. With the nice new mattress, I now shut off the TV and go to bed.” (The retailer who sold Gordon that bed should really track him down for a testimonial.)
It’s a simple equation: Good mattress = good night’s sleep = good health and well-being. And consumers understand it, especially older consumers. Fifty-six percent of respondents 56 and older strongly agree that a good mattress is key for getting a good night’s sleep, compared with only 41% of those ages 18 to 35. This is not entirely surprising. When we’re young we tend to be able to fall asleep anywhere, on virtually any surface, but as we age our bodies change and we encounter health problems that disrupt a full night’s rest. Given that, older consumers may better appreciate products that help them sleep and feel better.
It also won’t be surprising to mattress retailers—but it’s nice to have it validated—that consumers’ satisfaction with their sleep correlates with the age of their mattress. People sleeping on newer mattresses sleep better. Specifically, nearly a quarter (24%) of people sleeping on a mattress they bought within the past four years are very satisfied with the quality of their sleep, but only 15% of those sleeping on a mattress 11 years old or older are equally satisfied.
Unfortunately, although they know how important sleep is to their health, for many people it remains elusive and increasingly so. According to the BSC research, 42% of people report they aren’t getting enough shut-eye. In fact, 66% say they require eight or more hours of sleep to feel “well-rested and energized in the morning,” but only 27% actually manage to sleep that much. It’s not just a matter of quantity: 30% of people say they are dissatisfied with the quality of their sleep—up significantly from 22% in 2007, the last time the BSC study was conducted.
A host of things keep people awake. Stress is tops on the list, with 37% of respondents pointing to that as a main disruptor. That’s up, too—from 27% in 2007. Other common sleep interrupters include wrong bedroom temperature (27%), noise (19%), bad mattress (16%), wrong pillows (14%), light (13%), pets (13%), a snoring partner (11%) and children (9%). (Respondents could choose more than one answer.)
Retailers may not be able to do much to reduce people’s stress, but you can help them eliminate some disruptions. For instance, make sure your selection of mattresses, bases and pillows include technologies that improve the sleeping microclimate and reduce snoring. And train your retail sales associates to explain those benefits clearly to shoppers—because tired, sleepless consumers are actively seeking ways to get more rest.
We’re happy to report that many of consumers’ approaches to getting more sleep are strategies also endorsed and promoted by the BSC. For instance, 41% of research respondents try to go to bed at the same time each night and 30% get up at the same time, even on weekends; 39% use room fans, which provide white noise and cool the room; 34% “use comfortable bedding”; 30% avoid caffeine late in the day; 30% avoid eating late in the evening; 23% read before bedtime; 19% turn off electronics well before it’s time to sleep; 18% invest in a quality mattress (or sleep set); 16% create a calming environment in their bedroom; 16% open windows to let in fresh air; and 12% listen to soothing music or white noise as they fall asleep.
All these, according to the BSC, are effective and easy-to-implement methods to improve sleep. Most have the added benefit of being low cost or even no cost. But the survey shows people also rely on strategies that the BSC says can actually impair sleep, including watching TV before bed (30%) or falling asleep with the TV on (19%), and checking emails or social media before bedtime (10%). (Respondents could choose more than one answer.)
More than a mattress
In the sleep products industry, we sometimes shorthand “mattress” to stand for the entire bed set of mattress and foundation or even the full sleep ensemble that includes protectors, pillows and linens. And if you’ve read even one other issue of Sleep Savvy, you know we’re evangelists for selling complete sleep ensembles so that you can provide your customers with the products they need to create an inviting sanctuary-style bedroom that beckons them each evening to get their best night’s sleep.
Selling a full array of sleep accessories also boosts your average ticket, increases overall sales and brings people into your store more often because these other items have much shorter replacement cycles than mattresses. In fact, consumers replace their sheets and their pillows rather frequently, every 2.8 years, according to the BSC research. Other accessory replacement cycles aren’t much longer—just over three years for mattress toppers (3.1 years), mattress protectors and bed covers/decorative pillows (all 3.2 years), and mattress pads and comforters/duvets (all 3.4 years).
Still, as the research shows, too many people go to bed each night without the accessories that retailers know provide real value to consumers—from protectors that help keep a mattress set clean and sanitary (and help maintain the warranty) to linens that can regulate temperatures and make a sleep environment more comfortable.
Virtually all consumers regularly use pillows and sheets and more than half use a mattress pad (52%) but only 25% of BSC survey respondents report using a mattress protector. Or, to look at it another way, many consumers never use mattress toppers (38%), mattress protectors (30%), mattress pads (26%), bed covers/decorative pillows (16%) and comforters/duvets (11%).
These survey results indicate that retailers could do a much more effective job explaining to consumers the value of purchasing a complete sleep ensemble at the same time they buy a new mattress or mattress set. Selecting appropriate accessories—from pillows to protectors to sheets to comforters/duvets—in conjunction maximizes the benefits of all pieces to provide the most comfortable night’s sleep possible.
The purchase of a new mattress does prompt some consumers to buy new sleep accessories, too, but the numbers show how much room for growth exists for retailers. Of survey respondents who had purchased a mattress in the past five years, 32% also bought pillows, 27% purchased mattress protectors, 24% sheets, 24% mattress pads, 17% bed covers/decorative pillows, 17% comforters/duvets and 15% mattress toppers. That means the bulk of mattress buyers are dressing their fresh, clean new beds in old, potentially worn-out pillows, linens, etc. Ick! Worse, some of the old accessories they are putting on their beds actually could interfere with the benefits of their new mattress. Think of a lumpy mattress pad that ruins the feel of a smooth-top foam construction or a too lofty pillow that throws off body alignment.
And this finding should be particularly distressing to retailers who specialize in mattresses but offer a full array of sleep products: When consumers do purchase new accessories, they often do so from a retailer other than the one that sold them the mattress. As one respondent said, “I don’t typically buy items for my bed at the same time as my mattress purchase. I like to shop for bed accessories at T.J. Maxx, Ross or Macy’s.” Another explained, “We would usually buy the mattress protector at the store but look for bedding and pillows elsewhere. We would probably buy the accessories online or at a local shop like Target, Bed Bath & Beyond or Kohl’s.”
Specifically, 40% of consumers say they “typically” go to a department store for sleep accessories. Other favorite outlets: discount stores (39%), specialty bedding stores (29%), online retailers (24%), local retailers (19%), mattress specialty stores (12%), and furniture stores and warehouse clubs (both 11%). (Respondents could choose more than one response. Sleep Savvy typically refers to retailer type in slightly different ways than the survey does.)
That said, half of consumers are open to the idea of buying their accessories from the same retailer that sells them a mattress (23% very interested; 27% somewhat interested). Looking to boost your sales and better serve your customers? We’ll say it again: Here’s your opportunity.
There is no one ‘consumer’
Of course, “consumers” is not a monolithic group. To help the mattress industry better understand today’s consumers, Fluent Research identified from the research sample five key consumer segments, specifically linked to their mattress purchasing attitudes and behaviors.
1. Wellness Seekers (22%)
If you specialize in high-end bedding or are a traditional retailer, this group is a prime target for you. Described by Fluent also as “Tennis Moms,” these consumers have good incomes (most earning more than $50,000 a year), are older and are focused on health. They understand the importance of eating well, exercising regularly and getting a good night’s sleep. Importantly for retailers, these consumers are most likely to value a mattress for its comfort, support and sleep/health benefits—and are willing to pay for those benefits. Of all consumers, those in this group pegged the price of a mattress set highest, at $1,100. When Wellness Seekers go to shop for a new bed, they are most likely to visit traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
2. Quality Seekers (7%)
This millennial group is the smallest cohort identified among survey respondents but it can be an appealing one for certain retailers because of their penchant for higher end bedding products and interest in e-commerce. Quality Seekers, Fluent says, “appreciate quality and expect to pay for it.” Like the Wellness Seekers, they have good incomes, as well as high education levels. Among all the groups, Quality Seekers are least concerned about price, sales and free delivery. They estimate the price of a quality mattress set at $1,080. Quality Seekers are looking for a mattress that provides comfort and support, and expect good customer service. Quality Seekers are more likely than other groups to shop online and “like the idea of a mattress in a box,” Fluent writes in a report accompanying the research results.
3. The New Generation (51%)
This largest consumer group is, in many ways, also the most intriguing. Fluent describes the New Generation as “millennials who are too young and busy to have solidified their attitudes toward mattresses,” giving mattress retailers an opportunity to shape their beliefs and habits. New Generation consumers spend more time on social media and, not surprisingly, “are pushing the online front,” valuing attractive, user-friendly websites and online chat support, Fluent says. In an interesting contradiction, these consumers are more interested in shopping online than members of other groups but also want to support local retailers. When they shop in-store, they want “nonpushy” RSAs. Regardless of where they shop, they like free delivery, are interested in boxed mattresses and support mattress recycling. These consumers estimate the price of a mattress set at $940 and the majority think mattresses are fairly priced in terms of value.
4. Wal-Mart Shoppers (10%)
Wal-Mart Shoppers and a similar group that Fluent calls Savvy Bargain Shoppers (which together represent one in five consumers) present opportunities for retailers who offer a good selection of promotionally priced and midpriced products. Wal-Mart Shoppers, it’s no surprise, are “no-frills” consumers. When they are in the market for a mattress, they focus primarily on price and are most likely to see their bedrooms as simply a place to sleep. Wal-Mart Shoppers estimate the price of a new mattress at $900 (the lowest of any group) and expect to keep a mattress 11.2 years (longer than any other group). This group is least interested in the health benefits that mattresses provide. Wal-Mart Shoppers tend to be middle-age, live primarily in suburban and rural areas, and have lower incomes.
5. Savvy Bargain Shoppers (10%)
“These are your aging Soccer Moms. Demographically, they are quite similar to the Wal-Mart Shoppers, but are more likely to be married and a little older,” Fluent writes. When shopping for a mattress, these consumers focus on price, sales and an easy return process. Unlike their Wal-Mart Shopper counterparts, Savvy Bargain Shoppers are more likely to comparison shop to make sure they are finding the best mattress at the lowest price and expect a new mattress to cost $960. Notably, more than other groups, this one believes mattresses, in general, are too expensive.
Use this information to target members of at least one of these groups, but don’t be limited by their preconceived ideas. For instance, some of these groups are going to be more intrigued by promotions or sales than others. Once you get members of even those groups into your
store or onto your e-commerce site, you can use the opportunity to also pitch the health and wellness benefits of the latest sleep products or to explain the concept of a sleep
ensemble. Your business will improve, and they’ll sleep better.
Industry efforts to shift consumer attitudes pay off
The latest consumer research from the Better Sleep Council is part of a long-term effort begun in 1996 to track and better understand consumers’ attitudes about sleep, their mattresses and mattress shopping. The idea was that, armed with information from periodic quantitative and qualitative studies, the mattress industry could more finely tune its strategies and messaging to better educate consumers about the vital role the mattress plays in health and wellness, the importance of a quality mattress to a good night’s sleep and the need to regularly replace a mattress.
So it is exciting that one of the key takeaways from the 2016 research is that the mattress industry has had real, measurable success in its consumer-education efforts over the past 20 years. (Pat yourself on the back!)
Perhaps most significantly, industry efforts led by the BSC, as well as individual campaigns by mattress makers, retailers and the health community to increase awareness among consumers about the sleep-health-mattress connection, have pushed the mattress replacement cycle below 10 years after being stuck stubbornly above that marker for decades.
According to the 2016 research, consumers now expect a mattress to last, on average, for 9.4 years. That’s down from the 10.9 years cited by consumers in 2007, the last time such research was conducted. The actual mattress replacement cycle also is compressing. In 2007, consumers reported holding onto their last mattress 10.3 years before replacing it with their current sleep set. Today, that time frame is down to a median of 8.9 years.
With each round of the qualitative and quantitative research, key questions are repeated to allow for comparisons over time and additional information is sought to account for new bedding products and technologies, shopping channels and product research options. For instance, the most recent study included many new questions about topics such as adjustable bases, accessories and social media. We hope you’ll use the latest results to fine-tune your own marketing messages and consumer-education efforts.
Julie A. Palm is chief wordsmith at Palm Ink LLC in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She has 25 years of experience as a writer and editor for newspapers and magazines and as a publications director. She is a past editor in chief of both Sleep Savvy and BedTimes magazines. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read more research findings
This is the third and final in a series of articles examining the results of the latest consumer research from the Better Sleep Council, the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association. In the January/February 2017 issue of Sleep Savvy, we shared the welcome news that consumers are replacing their mattresses more often than in the past and expect to pay more for them when they do. We also explored consumers’ preferences when it comes to product research and shopping channels. In the March 2017 issue, we reported that consumers generally are happy with their current mattress but many are now or soon will be in the market for a new bed and are intrigued by new bedding technologies available to them. In the March issue, we also looked at how consumers define a “quality” mattress and what they think about adjustable bases. You can read those articles, along with a multitude of informative charts, at SleepSavvyMagazine.com.
The 2016 consumer study from the Better Sleep Council, the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association, uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative methodologies. It was carried out by New York-based Fluent Research and included three phases:
- Phase 1: An online “bulletin board” conducted in December 2015 that included input from 35 consumers recruited from regions across the country. The bulletin board moderator was able to ask questions of the group, as well as of individuals, and the respondents in the group could reply to each other, in addition to the moderator. Respondents posted photos and videos of their bedrooms and sleep sets.
- Phase 2: Shopping ethnographies with 10 consumers who were in the market to purchase a new mattress. Each respondent visited three retailers and documented their experiences using photos and videos, answering survey questions and participating in an open-ended discussion. A few of these shoppers ended up purchasing a mattress as a result of the experience.
- Phase 3: The final phase was an online survey of 2,000 consumers nationwide. The sample was representative of the overall U.S. population of adults (ages 18+) but was screened to include consumers who participate in decision-making when it comes to mattress purchases.