marketingmattress industryproduct development

Shorten the Cycle, Stop the Madness

I think most people in our industry accept that consumers shop for a new mattress roughly every 10 years. So much conversation surrounds that statistic and how we can drive consumers into the market more frequently. And where does that conversation almost always go? Warranties.

shutterstock_165270023Do you think the teams at LG or Callaway Golf sit in their boardrooms and talk about how the industry has to lower warranties on televisions or golf clubs so they can sell more products? I really doubt it. They are hard at work driving innovation into the pipeline to create compelling products people want to actually buy. (See Scott Smalling’s article on innovation featured on Sleep Geek today, it is a great read.) This is, in my opinion, the key to getting consumers in the market more frequently! Think about how much time we talk about this reality versus warranties. I know what some of you are thinking: Electronics and sports equipment are “want” items and much easier to innovate around and convince people to buy. I call bullshit! Our products can help people look better, feel better, lose weight, improve memory, and reduce illness. There is NO WAY that doesn’t inspire the consumer, so the question is what do we do with it?

To shorten the cycle, we need to stop all of this conversation around warranties. Here are a few things that can really drive consumers into the market and grow our top line and share of consumer dollars:

1. Innovate new products with REAL technology that actually improves people’s sleep.
2. Drive the biometric conversation around sleep and how we can learn about and improve sleep when using our products. Consumers love to measure almost everything and there are only a few brands connecting to this growing trend. If you want to create the need for better sleep, show people how bad THEIR sleep really is. Remember that technology is sexy and people want more of it in every aspect of their life.
3. Change the way we talk about our products. I realize I am a broken record on this, but everybody in the industry has to invest in telling our story and by that I mean the tangible and intangible benefits of products that help you sleep better. All of this product-for-a-price nonsense is never going to get us the love we are looking for.

If we just do these three things, we will make huge improvements in the purchase cycle and make ourselves more profitable at the same time. Remember, we are in this together and if we work at it we can make the sleep products we sell more of a priority, therefore placing ourselves at the top of consumer’s MUST-HAVE list.

What do you think? Did I over simplify things? Tell me in the comments section!

3 thoughts on “Shorten the Cycle, Stop the Madness

  1. A few thoughts:
    One, as a matter of respect for others, you should cease to use words like “bullshit” in a public forum of this sort. Expressing yourself in this way does not lead to calm, level-headed discussion between parties with differing opinions.

    Two, warranties on TV’s and gold clubs are not 20 years, or 10 years, or even 5 years. Ten years ago I bought a top-of the-line high-end range for my kitchen, and the warranty was 90 days. Yes. I spent $5000, and the warranty is 90 days. So if you want to talk warranty length and have us listen, at least try to use a comparison that sheds light. And yes, I’m sure those TV and gold club execs DO talk warranty ~ that’s why they are typically no longer than 90 days. You think any rational person would let themselves in for more liability than that?

    Three, you’re a marketing executive with a very large corporation. You know nothing about the reality of being a small independent retailer who works seven days a week, trying to guide the customer to a mattress which will be right for them. Outsized warranties are a true headache for us dealers in the industry who still value our integrity. We look our customers directly in the eye when they walk in with a complaint. People with warranty complaints are not anonymous people, they are our friends, neighbors, business associates, or the people we meet on the street, in restaurants or in other shopping venues. They are our lifeblood and our reputation depends on treating them fairly.

    Have you looked about you these days? Have you seen the girth that mattresses are expected to support 8 hours a night? Does a 20-year warranty seem reasonable to you? Don’t forget that with today’s personal accounting technology, people can easily keep track of when they bought their mattress. With our Point of Sale accounting technology, we can easily reprint a customer’s sales receipt from twenty years ago. The industry can no longer rely on amnesia and sleight of hand to cover themselves on these outsize warranties. And how are many warranties still handled today? By snail mail and paper photographs! The warranty process for most consumers is a protracted nightmare. The manufacturers are betting that most people will be so busy in their lives that they don’t have time to deal with such an antiquated ridiculous system. And how do you think dealers feel about charging for the delivery of the replacement if the warranty is approved? We never do it, so there’s another expense that we cover which should belong to the maker of the defective product. If manufacturers really believe in their big bad warranty claims, then I challenge them to streamline their warranty processes. I challenge them to reimburse the dealers for delivery expense when we replace failed product.

    And it’s SO easy for the manufacturers to get caught up in vying with one another, forgetting all about the people who will take the brunt of the abuse (both from the customer and the manufacturer), the lowly dealer who works 7 days a week. Perhaps the big chains have the financial muscle to force large corporations such as yours to take back failed product on your dime, but it doesn’t work that way with small independents. We HAVE to make it right with the customer or lose our reputation, and many times we do so by stripping our margins to zero, or outright taking a loss, depending on how reasonable a customer will be given the warranty the manufacturer promised. Keep in mind that most of our customers are in excess of 250 pounds these days, and many are over 300. Are you building mattresses to cater to these new obese Americans? It seems to me that most manufacturers are in a race to the bottom; they will drag their brands to new lows so that they can sell to companies like Big Lots. Very few are focusing exclusively on quality. Very few are being reasonable about how long a mattress actually lasts. We have taken to actually weighing mattresses when they come in our warehouse to assure that we’re getting the promised quality. We calculate densities per layer to come up with what the thing ought to weigh given the foam density claims.

    So. Yes. Warranty discussion IS very important. And an old hand like me just thinks that ALL of you big fancy-pants executives in ALL of your meetings should be focusing on the important things ~ are we building a quality product? Are we producing what we say we’re producing? Is what we’re producing relevant to the weight of the American consumer? Do we have the research and documentation to back up our claims that we’re building what we say we’re building? Do we still care about independent retailers, and are we willing to treat big box chains and independent retailers with some kind of parity?

    In our business, we counter the warranty insanity by straight up telling the consumer that they will get 5-7 comfortable years on a high-end bed, provided they are not 400 pounds. Honesty is always the best policy. And while it puts us at a selling disadvantage with the 10+ big box chains that surround us, we have managed to survive.

    Oh. And the $5000 kitchen range? Ten years later, just fine. Looks like new, never had a problem. Warranty wasn’t an issue because the thing was built to last.

    1. Barbra,
      Thanks a lot for the very thoughtful response to my post. A few things for you:

      1. I use the word “bullshit” after great consideration. I write like I speak to keep the tone of my blogs as conversational as possible. I apologize if this offends you in some way but it is authentic and there is really no other way to say what I wanted to say that captures that sentiment exactly the way “bullshit” does so I stand by the use of the term.

      2. Compare the length of warranty with any durable good and I think you get to the same place. The bottom line is that those companies consider warranty I am sure but not to the degree that we do is my guess and if they do, I really doubt that it is under the pretense of driving more people into the market. That was the point. Shorter is better in my opinion so I think we are on the same page there. I feel for you retailers when it comes to handling the warranty claims believe me, I had to deal with that myself for a long time. It isn’t good for anyone.

      3. As for me not knowing anything about small retailers you are very wrong about that. I worked in small territories for the first 5 years of my career. I have also worked thousands of hours at retail, been to dozens of homes on delivery trucks doing mattress inspections where I was attacked by a pet goose, and my family has been on the retail side in the mattress industry, so I get it; I promise. The retailer has a very tough job when dealing with the warranty claims. I think it is great that you have passion about this and I hope that you are communicating it to the highest levels where the executives making those decisions hear your voice. I think that what Tempur-Sealy and Serta/Simmons did recently is a step in the right decision and if you look at what drove that, they said it was the voice of the retailer. Keep it up.

      4. Working with Leggett and Platt I am passionate about using springs for COMFORT as well as support. Less foam means less opportunity for body impression so we have been working hard to create products like NanoCoil and SofTech micro coils to help producers out there build products that last. No matter how large the consumer is.

      5.As far as caring about you small retailers we do. I do not work for a company that makes beds but we do support those guys with innovation as mentioned in #4. You guys are the backbone of what we do out there which is why we created Sleep-Geek.com. We don’t make money on that site, we built it for you! We created Geek U inside of sleep-geek.com so that your sales associates could learn about sleep, and how to become consultants to the consumers out there and give them the best possible experience when in your stores. We spend a significant amount of money on this digital property so that companies like yours have access to the same information and training platforms that the big guys out there do. We exist for you and because of you. It doesn’t sound like you have spent much time on this site so please give it a look and let me know what you think. As for fancy pants, I am much more comfortable in jeans but do like to dress up on occasion. 🙂

      I think warranty and the process around that is very important and if you read back to prior post like this one…(https://mquinn.com/2014/06/sertasimmons-announces-warranty-changes/#more-2991) you can get a better feel for that. In summary, I think that shorter warranties are better and the manufactures out there need to support the retailers at every step of that process. If they don’t, the social platforms will allow consumers to smoke that out and change will happen even if it is forced. It will just take longer than you want.

      I appreciate your comments and the fact that you took the time to write them for me. If there is anything I have not addressed, please respond to this or send me a note to my personal e-mail at mark.quinn@leggett.com. Have a great 4th!!!

      MQ

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