Isn’t the mattress industry already tough enough to navigate for the consumer? Lack of transparency on products, thousands of companies screaming product/price/promotion advertising at them, the never-ending sale/used car sales approach for some retailers, producers with long warranties and bad service?
Let’s add to this list of problems, shall we? Fast Company recently published this article titled “The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmare.” David Zax, the author, takes a look inside what he calls a “bizarre industry.” The story starts out with David needing a mattress and is eventually exposed to the “expert” mattress review sites out there claiming to know what products are good or bad in our category. David then tells the story about Dereck Hales of Sleepopolis mixing it up with Casper which goes something like this.
Dereck does a review of a Casper mattress and pretty much says that it is a nice bed. Casper has an affiliate relationship with Dereck as they do with several other affiliate sites so all is well. It is reported that Phillip Krim, CEO of Casper, was getting a little heavy handed with these review guys asking for more business to be directed his way, but in fairness to Phillip, he was willing to compensate them for their trouble. Dereck from Sleepopolis had made deals with other mattress brands and declined that offer and so Casper withdrew its affiliate program with Dereck and others. After that, in April of 2016, Sleepopolis revises its opinion of Casper saying now that “after 18 months of reviewing competing mattresses he could no longer recommend Casper as a good sleep solution.” Not only that, but he inserts a yellow box on his site that says, “Thinking about buying a Casper? Do your homework! Check out these 4 mattress companies that Sleepopolis Loves.” That may not sound like a big deal but when you are Dereck and driving 500,000 qualified mattress buyers a month to your site, the negative press starts to make an impact if your Casper. Not to mention the fact that he is now pushing that consumer to your competition! So what caused Dereck to have a sudden change of heart? Did Casper change their specifications? Did his Caper develop body impressions that caused him to rethink his original opinion?
So Casper sues Sleepopolis over it, the two settle and both go back to living life right? Not hardly. Casper then provides a loan to a different mattress review site to purchase Sleepopolis and guess what…a new Casper mattress review is posted supporting the mattress as a great product to own. I am NOT suggesting that Casper influenced this review in any way. Phillip Krim even says himself, “We exert no influence and have no influence over the site, other than that we lent them money.” Alrighty then. (If you have not read this article by Fast Company there is much more to it and you really need to give it a look so click on the link above.)
Here is my question to you… at what point do consumers stop trusting the consumer review or the so-called “expert” opinion like those of Sleepopolis? My wife has been asked to review products on retail sites and after she does they will give her the product for free. Where is the integrity in that? “Expert” reviewers are getting paid BIG MONEY if a consumer buys a bed based on that review sites affiliate link. How many of those reviews are going to be negative towards that product knowing a bad review will deter the consumer from clicking? I’m not saying Sleepopolis did anything wrong or is doing anything wrong, HOWEVER, there are affiliate review sites out there that are without a doubt COIN OPERATED. (Thank you Barry Kahn, still love that expression.) The best affiliate payment gets you the best placement on their site and a glowing recommendation, so how much value should be placed on that “expert review”?
I asked my buddy Mike Magnuson from goodbed.com this question and he had plenty to say. “I have struggled with this problem from the beginning. Delivering an honest opinion about the products that we review is at the core of who we are and we feel if we don’t do that right, we will break a trust with the consumer. The good thing about the internet is that there are essentially no barriers to entry. Anyone can come out and create their own content. The downside of that is you are going to get some bad actors taking advantage of the consumer in order to generate profits.”
So now we have to figure out what retailer to buy a mattress from, understand all of the mattress options out there, and then decide of all of the “experts” offering their assessment, which ones aren’t totally full of crap and just saying what they say to get the affiliate fee? At what point will the consumer review or the expert opinion not have any value at all? When you think about it, isn’t it the same way on some of the retail floors out there? Is an rsa selling a bed because of the larger spiff OR because they really think that it is the right bed for the consumer?
Riddle me this Batman, who in the hell crowned some of these jokers experts anyway? Explain to me what qualifies some of these guys to render a verdict on what bed has the best edge support or will last the longest in the home? Do they have some testing equipment in their basement spitting out scientific measurements on firmness loss and foam density to arrive at these conclusions? How about when they tell their audience that the bed they tested is comfortable? Who are they to define comfort!
So what do we as an industry do to combat this? We support the good guys. Find the review sites that work hard to do their best at representing products in an honest way. There is nothing wrong with people making money on affiliate fees or with advertising dollars, HOWEVER, those things should not get in the way of an honest representation of the products they talk about. Is that asking too much?
What do you think? Know any good mattress experts? I do and his name is Mike Magnuson and he is the founder of goodbed.com and contributor to this blog post. I have known Mike for several years now, meeting him fairly soon after he started goodbed.com. We have become good friends and have also done some business together and I can tell you with 100% certainty, that he works hard to keep things real. He did not ask me for an endorsement here but I offer it freely because we should all support people that get it right and want good things for this industry like he does. If you want to promote your retail stores or your bedding brand I encourage you to reach out to him and his 2 million visitors; it will likely lead to more business for you. And when you do, be sure to tell him Quinn sent you so that I can get my affiliate check in the mail. KIDDING!