The $600 Million Elephant in the Bedroom

In a past blog post, I talked about consumers using their mobile devices to shop for mattresses on the internet while looking at the actual product in the store – or “show-rooming,” as many call it. I want to shift gears today and talk about the mattresses beingshutterstock_162871385 bought online instead of in your store.

When I worked for Serta, I actually had a very close look at some large companies that sold online and know what they did in volume. Companies like Sam’s Club, Target, Amazon, US Mattress, Shop NBC and HSN, just to name a few. I would never give up those numbers, of course, but I can tell you they were substantial. And that was seven years ago. I realize I am going way out on a limb here, but I don’t think I would be crazy to suggest that the amount of mattresses being sold digitally (either online or by television) is something over $600 million. If you consider we are close to $13 billion at retail and then figure that e-commerce accounts for about 10% of all retail, and then back it down because a mattress is a big ticket item that is hard to ship, do you think I am far off?

Would you have ever imagined that people would buy a mattress without testing it out first? It happens every day, all day long, and we as an industry rarely ever talk about this channel of distribution. Why? For one, it is incredibly hard to measure, given all the players and the fact that nobody breaks out the category when reporting. Is another reason because it is this great little secret that we want to keep hidden and out of sight, hoping that nobody discovers how great this piece of the pie is? Is it just an afterthought to our primary business so we just do what we need to do to have a presence?

I don’t know what it is, but shouldn’t we be talking more about this as an industry? It is a $600 million business after all!  Is our share of online business healthy, given the type of product we sell – or should it be better? Are people shopping online to avoid the bad experience they might face at a retail store? When a consumer starts the shopping process for a bed, does the mattress industry look good in the “discovery phase” prior to getting in their car? Is that sooooo good that we alleviate the need for them to visit a store?

So let’s debate, shall we? What company does e-commerce the best when it comes to buying a mattress? How can we as an industry get better at it? What are the roadblocks to driving business online? Should we drive business online? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

8 thoughts on “The $600 Million Elephant in the Bedroom

  1. Great post Mark. I agree that it’s very difficult to put a number on this. Muddying the waters even further is the question of whether to include sales that are consummated online but were initiated with a test rest in one of that retailer’s brick & mortar stores, or vice versa.

    Whether the transaction ultimately happens online or not, the one thing that is very clear is that the internet plays a massive part in almost every mattress purchase. People do research on the internet before they go to the store, while they’re in the store, after they go to the store, and in many cases even after they make the purchase!

    On, only about 40% of mattress shoppers have been to a store yet. And of these, nearly 65% of them also did research on the web before they went to the store.

    When a consumer leaves a brick & mortar store and says they’ll “be back,” they’re not just going off to “think about it” anymore. They may not even be going to a competitor. They’re going to the web. And what they find on the web will probably determine whether that original store ever sees them again.

    1. Thanks Mike, there is no doubt that the consumer shopping phase is heavily influenced by what they find on line. Very difficult to really understand the total impact of purchases.

  2. If the sales person in the store does a good job of building value in themselves, their company & their product the customer will purchase from that store in most cases.
    The internet consumer will not always share with store personnel the fact that they have done research online, so store personnel have to use this process for everyone. The “Value Triangle” should be nothing new to anyone in this business anyway.

  3. The online scene for mattresses has been around for a while. I doubt there is an RSA out there who isn’t aware of US-Mattress.

    Having different names for each mattress held off online competition for a long time. There is a wide range of reasons why people will buy from us with out trying a bed in a store first. They may have a 10 y/o bed and want the same thing. With our level of expertise, we can ask the right questions and ship the right kind of mattress. They also may be moving and too busy to shop. It really comes down to the type of personality and the needs of each customer.

    One thing I hear occasionally from some indecisive shoppers is “I can’t believe some people make decisions like this in 2 minutes.” Some can and do!

    Building on what Mike mentioned as well. If a customer goes to a store with a poorly trained sales associate or somebody who doesn’t strike them as trustworthy, they may look to the internet to find a more credible retailer in their area, or buy from a website they trust. It really gives the consumer more power to get the best bang for their buck online or at a brick and mortar store.

  4. Mark, I think you are spot on describing this category as “The elephant in the bedroom”. Online mattress sales are big and getting bigger all the time. I spend a lot of time working in this category as a vendor and consultant and believe me it is significant. Many in our industry either are in denial or are panicking about missing out. I don’t know exactly where it is headed, but my gut feeling is much higher.

    1. I think your right Steve. I know that the word “panic” is probably a fair way to explain some of the reaction out there. People don’t understand much about e-commerce and it can be paralyzing.

  5. Online stores or sales are here for those who are buying a name, if the RSA can communicate that he or she has the answers as to what the bedding has inside and why it has this product, both pros and cons ( must have full knowledge of all beds in the store) The online buyer can not get this from internet sites. Buyers enjoy the fact that someone really knows what they are selling and will use that in determining who gets the sale

    1. I agree Joe, the consumer likes to ask those types of questions to a living person so there is a distinct advantage there for the brick and mortar stores. Thanks for reading.

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