Are you looking for ways to increase your conversation rate? Up your focus on pillows before customers rest-test a single mattress.
By Gordon Hecht
People in the mattress industry, whether in a full-line furniture store or a bedding specialist, have a unique view of their incoming shopping traffic. Full-line stores often are satisfied with converting 25% of their shoppers into buyers. Specialty stores have a greater expectation—about a 50% close. In either case, at least half of the people who took time out of their day and drove through traffic to buy your products leave empty-handed.
It’s hard to think about any other retail business that could stand such a fall-off rate. Forget Wal-Mart and McDonald’s—they probably would shutter 95% of their stores. How about Payless ShoeSource, Jared’s Jewelry and the AT&T store? They are geared to know that shoppers are on a mission to buy and that meshes well with their mission to sell. One store that targets the same demographic as you—Victoria’s Secret—has very few people leave without something.
Higher closing rates, which lead to higher sales, start with changing your paradigm. Make your store mantra: “Every time the door swings, the register rings.” For those born after disco—aka the golden age of music—there was a time when stores had cash registers that chimed with a bell each time the cash drawer opened. Originally designed to prevent theft, store owners and managers would smile each time they heard that bell because they knew another shopper had become a buyer. So your goal should be to sell something to every customer who enters your store.
The second change in paradigm comes in believing that accessories, such as pillows, are not add-ons—they are necessities. Each accessory your shopper purchases increases her enjoyment of the main product. When you concentrate on providing the accessories first, the main item becomes a given.
For mattress stores, it’s easy. You already know that the right pillow provides 20% to 30% of a sleeper’s comfort and support. But you may not know that having shoppers rest-test beds with the right—or wrong—pillow will affect how they enjoy their purchase. A change and upgrade in pillows can provide customers with 10 to 15 more great minutes of sleep a night. (By the way, ask your next shopper if she woke up and thought, “I wish I had 15 more minutes to sleep” and see how she answers.)
A strategy to follow
Here’s your plan for success: Ask your typical qualifying questions about your shopper’s sleep needs. One of those questions should be, “Do you sleep on your side, back or front?” Before you take her to the first bed for a rest-test, select three pillows to accompany her. Demonstrate those pillows like your eye doctor assesses your vision. Instead of changing lens settings, change pillows, each time asking “Is this pillow better or worse than the last one?” After she has found the right one, add in, “Congratulations! You have found your pillow.”
Follow your normal selling process, always asking for the sale. You may find, however, that some customers are reluctant to make a purchase on their first visit, especially if they are shopping without their bed partner.
Here’s the cool thing: It’s true that many shoppers are uncomfortable purchasing a mattress without their bed partner trying it. But most people are confident making the pillow-buying decision on their own. And knowing that their mate needs a new pillow, they normally will buy two.
Benefits of a pillow-first focus
Most furniture and mattress stores have a selection of pillows for sale priced from $30 to $150 each. So the $60 to $300 sale for two pillows will be far below your store’s average sale. The important thing to keep in mind is that each pillow sale brings you six benefits:
- You have converted a shopper into a buyer and created a store customer.
- You get paid—even a $5 commission beats a goose egg. Think of the days you blanked. You would have traded your Candy Crush app for a $60 sale.
- You have collected a phone number or email address—a new contact.
- You have sent out a minimattress sample. Think about selling a memory foam, latex or gel pillow. If your shopper likes the pillow, the natural follow-up is a mattress made of the same material.
- After buying pillows at your store, your shoppers all head in the same direction—home. That means they are not going to Ginormous Mart, Mattress Milky Way or the Frugal Hoosier to shop for mattresses. You have taken them out of the market.
- When you provide the right pillow to give the right amount of comfort and support, you reduce the number of comfort returns. Often these returns are a result of having the right bed but the wrong or an old pillow.
Sales per guest
I’ll probably get some love emails from the average sale mavens who love to brag about their sky-high tickets. I’m all for big average tickets and high closing rates. If I had to choose, I would pick the side of selling more people compared with selling more to each shopper. I never met a salesperson who sold to a lot of people and didn’t make a lot of money.
But the more accurate measure of retail productivity is sales per guest. That is total sales dollars divided by total traffic count. Furniture stores should look for a $300 SPG and mattress retailers need a $600 SPG to stay in the game. And that requires counting all ups.
Almost all the retailers and retail sales associates I know agree that their main focus is to help shoppers achieve their goals. If your shopper’s goal is better sleep and you can’t close the mattress sale, help them out with a couple of new pillows and all of the information they need to make a wise mattress investment. You’ll change those zeros on your sales traffic logs to real numbers, build business and earn more.
Gordon Hecht is a growth and development manager for National Bedding Co.’s America’s Mattress, nearly 400 mostly locally owned and operated bedding stores across the country that sell Serta-branded and America’s Mattress-branded mattresses. He started his 30-plus years of experience in the home furnishings industry in Las Vegas as a delivery helper and driver. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.