Editor’s Note: The relationship between retailers and product manufacturers is a critically important one. When they work well together, both enjoy greater success. With that in mind, Sleep Savvy has created Spotlight, an occasional feature. In each Spotlight, we’ll speak with a manufacturer about its latest products and, most importantly, the innovative ways it works with retailers to improve their business and boost sleep products sales. In this inaugural Spotlight, we focus on the Atlanta-based Simmons brand (part of Serta Simmons Bedding Co. LLC) and get tips for incorporating more technology into traditional retail models to compete with online players and meet the demands of tech-dependent millennial shoppers.
BY DOROTHY WHITCOMB
As a 146-year-old manufacturer of mattresses and related bedding products, the Atlanta-based Simmons brand (part of Serta Simmons Bedding Co. LLC), prides itself on a long history of innovation. It was at the forefront of innovations including the development of the first pocketed coil, the creation of queen and king sizes and the national introduction of the no-flip mattress.
That legacy of advancement and a commitment to anticipating consumer needs continues to flow through the entire company, say Michelle Montgomery and Brett Swygman. Montgomery is vice president of marketing communication for Simmons. Swygman serves as vice president of store success for Serta Simmons. Both focus on finding ways to help retailers and, more specifically, retail sales associates understand the products they sell and the consumers with whom they interact. Both also have been involved in developing a broad array of tools designed to help RSAs close more sales.
When Sleep Savvy asked them to pinpoint the biggest challenge facing retailers, the web-based, direct-to-consumer market rose to the top. It appears that companies like Casper, Saatva, Tuft & Needle and Yogabed are here to stay and their popularity with consumers will propel a continuous stream of other entries into the online mattress market, Montgomery and Swygman say. Look for the segment to grow even larger in the next five to 10 years, snagging more and more sales from brick-and-mortar stores.
Millennials loom large in this calculus. Born from 1980 to 2000, this generation is roughly 80 million strong in the United States. A larger demographic group than the baby boomers, millennials will account for more than a third of American adults in just five years. Members of this generation are the first digital natives and are used to instant access to product information, reviews and price comparisons. Millennials’ affinity for technology shapes the way they shop. They go online before ever taking a step out the door, Montgomery and Swygman say.
Millennials who do make their way to bedding stores are likely to be there to complete their research by trying out mattresses that have caught their eye before going back online to complete their purchase. This change to typical buying behavior, Montgomery and Swygman believe, will be another significant challenge for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers in the coming years.
But it also represents a significant opportunity. Montgomery and Swygman urge retailers to evolve by investing in training their RSAs and equipping their stores with multiplatform, internet-based sales tools. Keeping millennials engaged while they are in your store by providing more information than they can find online is the way to close sales, Montgomery and Swygman say.
Simmons itself has taken this message to heart. It is committed to expanding access to the digital tools it already has developed and to creating even more in the future. Simmons also is investing heavily in its own retail sales specialists. They, Montgomery and Swygman say, will continue to work with retailers’ own sales associates to ensure they have a complete understanding of Simmons’ entire Beautyrest line, while helping them find ways to improve the shopper experience in their stores and build credibility with consumers.
Tools help educate RSAs so they can better educate consumers
Information overload. In a world shaped by 24/7 connectivity, some days feel like a giant data dump. Gleaning useful information from the mounting pile—especially when your livelihood depends upon it—is a survival skill to be mastered.
Enter Simmons. The Atlanta-based brand of Serta Simmons Bedding Co. LLC has found a way to cut through the noise and harness technology in ways designed to give bedding retailers a competitive edge. Building on core values that include a commitment to partnering with retailers in collaborative ways, Simmons offers a collection of multiplatform tools that provide retail sales associates access to pertinent, useful information in easy-to-digest formats.
Michelle Montgomery, vice president of marketing communication for Simmons, explains the company’s push to empower RSAs this way: “We want to make sure that the RSAs know us and know that we support them, and we want to help make them the smartest people on the floor.”
Here’s a look at four Simmons sales tools that go well beyond coil samples, cutaway bed buns and foam displays.
A year in the making, Simmons launched this site in April 2015. It’s designed to be an easy-to-access hub for easy-to-apply information, not only about Simmons, but about mattress and retail sales in general. About 40% of SleepSells.com content focuses on Simmons’ Beautyrest product portfolio, but the remainder is “brand agnostic” Montgomery says.
SleepSells.com encourages interaction. RSAs can leave comments, request additional information or suggest postings they’d like to see. In fact, 25% of users engage with the site, she says. Simmons sees that engagement rate and the rapid growth in registration (more than 3,000 RSAs so far) as signals that RSAs find meaningful information when they log in.
As SleepSells.com enters its second year, Simmons is focusing on strengthening even further the engagement between RSAs and the site. “Now it’s about frequency,” Montgomery says. “We’re giving them more opportunities to weigh in on the content they want to see by including feedback prompts within articles and adding more
rich media and interactive content like quizzes and polls.”
Simple Facts videos
Embedded in the SleepSells.com website, each of these short, engaging, jargon-free videos focuses on one topic, breaking it down into easy-to-understand—and easy-to-share—nuggets of information.
The videos take only about a minute or less to watch. Unlock the mysteries of Micro Diamond memory foam with a video that helps you explain to your customer why diamonds also can be a girl’s best friend when it comes to sleep. Or devote 30 seconds to the CertiPUR-US clip and you’ll learn that your customers don’t need to have concerns about chemical exposure from the polyurethane foam used in Beautyrest mattresses.
This app puts information right where today’s tech-savvy consumers want it—at their fingertips. Simulator uses 3-D models to break down mattresses layer by layer so that customers can see inside mattresses they are considering. RSAs can use it “to bring the product to life by showing the consumer the different layers that make up the bed,” says Brett Swygman, vice president of store success for Serta Simmons.
Simulator also can work as a comprehensive but compact cheat sheet. RSAs can toggle down for facts about mattress models that can jog their memory and prompt additional conversation with their customers.
This app, developed by Thomasville, North Carolina-based Wright Global Graphics, uses software to launch product-related videos on consumers’ smartphones and tablets that are triggered by images in point-of-purchase displays. It gives RSAs another opportunity to provide complete and accurate information about specific mattress models, while keeping customers engaged and interested.
RetaiLive soon will “be folded into Simulator,” Montgomery says, so that sales presentations are even more seamless and effective.
More tips for growing your sales
Michelle Montgomery and Brett Swygman are accomplished sales and marketing professionals who focus on finding ways to help mattress retailers amp up sleep products sales. In a recent conversation with Sleep Savvy, Montgomery, vice president of marketing communication for Atlanta-based Simmons, and Swygman, vice president of store success for Serta Simmons Bedding Co. LLC (also based in Atlanta), shared some of their best tips for maximizing bedding sales:
- Keep the focus on sleep. Advertising low prices can draw people into your store, but keeping them there—and closing the sale—is about much more than price. A knowledgeable, professional sales staff that puts a “better sleep” message front and center helps shoppers concentrate on why they walked into your store in the first place.
- Invest in an informative, easy-to-navigate website. Information is power, and consumers research their options before ever heading out to shop. Create an engaging website that tells your story and gives consumers a reason to buy from you rather than someone else.
- Get more social. Put recommendations and ratings on your website and add link to websites where consumers post information about product satisfaction and their experience with your store.
- Upgrade your merchandising. Banish that endless sea of white rectangles from your showroom forever. Create an attractive, warm shopping environment that includes point-of-purchase displays that truly add value to the customer experience.
- Create a great first impression. Keep your showroom spotless.
- Turn to technology. Incorporating technology-driven tools into your showroom can enhance your customers’ shopping experience.
- Invest in your retail sales associates. Providing your team with training tools (both online and offline) creates confident, motivated RSAs who use their comprehensive knowledge to sell more and better mattresses.
The Simmons field and its standouts
- Simmons BeautySleep
- Best-seller: BeautySleep Caitlyn Plush ET
- Full lineup: Seven innerspring models (with multiple feel options)
- Notable components: GelTouch foam and AirCool memory foam for comfort and freedom of movement
- Price: $399-$699
- Beautyrest Recharge and Recharge Ultra
- Best-seller: Beautyrest Recharge Audrina Luxury Firm
- Full lineup: 13 innerspring models (with multiple feel options)
- Notable components: 800-850 density Beautyrest Pocketed Coil technology helps provide conforming back support; GelTouch and AirCool foams for freedom of movement and pressure relief; AirCool memory foam layer in Recharge Ultra for comfort, pressure relief and temperature management
- Price: $699-$1,299
- Beautyrest Recharge Hybrid
- Best-seller: Beautyrest Hybrid Marlee Plush
- Full lineup: Six hybrid models
- Notable components: AirCool MAX memory foam for temperature management; 1,000 density Beautyrest Pocketed Coil technology helps provide conforming back support;
- AirCool gel memory foam delivers higher airflow for cool, comfortable sleep
- Price: $1,399-$2,499
- Beautyrest Platinum
- Full lineup: Eight innerspring models (with multiple feel options)
- Notable components: 1,000 density Beautyrest Pocketed Coil technology helps provide conforming back support and motion separation; layers of AirCool gel memory foam for freedom of movement and pressure relief
- Price: $1,299-$1,799
- Beautyrest Platinum Hybrid
- Full lineup: Four hybrid models
- Notable components: Platinum Ice memory foam for temperature management; 1,000 density Beautyrest Pocketed Coil technology helps provide conforming back support and motion separation; layers of dense memory foam and latex for pressure-relieving comfort
- Price: $2,299-$2,999
- Beautyrest Black
- Best-seller: Beautyrest Black Katarina Luxury Firm
- Full lineup: 12 innerspring models (with multiple feel choices)
- Notable components: Black Ice memory foam for temperature management; Micro Diamond memory foam works with Advanced Beautyrest Pocketed Coil technology to create Simmons’ best-conforming back support
- Price: $1,999-$4,999
- Best-seller: Beautyrest Black Katarina Luxury Firm