The magical sleeping business

There are magical places called furniture malls. They are somehow able to alter thoughts of people who enter them. Imagine you’re shopping for a new bed and you think 1.500 Euro is a reasonable price. When you are engulfed in furniture stores you end up wondering where to get that 4.000 Euro for the fantastic-hard-to-refuse offer you just got.

Or at least, that’s what happened to me :). About a year ago we set our minds on getting a new bed. The old mattress developed a dent in the middle and just didn’t provide the comfort we like to have. The hardness of the mattress wasn’t right for me or my wife. This resulted in not sleeping well, waking up and not feeling rested and a mild back-pain now and then.

Sleeping is very important. You spend roughly 30 percent of your time doing it. Although science can’t yet fully grasp the sleeping process i can tell from personal experience it’s important :). Therefore people will be anxious to buy the right mattress or their health might be in danger.

What follows is my take on the (Dutch) mattress market from a consumer point of view.

There’s a trend that sleeping becomes more and more luxurious, a big example of this is Hastens who manufactures beds for more than 10.000 Euro. These beds are stuffed with horsehair and all different ‘exotic’ material you wouldn’t think of putting in your bed. I have slept on a Hastens in a resort once and the beds are actually very comfortable. Another example is the rumour that good sleeping is somehow a Swiss or Scandinavian thing and that products from those countries think they’re justified to charge a premium.

Sleeping is also becoming more high-tech. A few years ago a box spring was very good. Now some form of (pocket)springs are default and you need at least 5 different comfort zones. The foam is now the same as used by NASA! This foam ‘remembers’ the shape of your body and supposedly gives you more support. Of course box springs and high-tech foam mattresses could be better so the new thing is the hybrid mattress where you have a layer of NASA-foam on top of your 7 zone pocket springs.

The Dutch market for mattresses must be huge, if you assume every adult has a mattress which he or she changes  every 10 years and the average price is 500 Euro the annual turnover is 500 million Euro.

In my search for the perfect mattress, both in price and comfort, I came accross 5 different offerings:

  • Premium brands like Hastens, M-Line, Auping and Eastborn.
  • White label brands from the furniture stores like Beter Bed.
  • Budget brands like Leen Bakker, Kwantum and Sandic.
  • IKEA, the ubiquitous furniture store.
  • Webshops, notably Energy+, who sell exclusively online. Others are Medi-Active

When buying a mattress there are a number of factors you take into consideration. The 5 offerings provide different degrees of attention to those factors. This can be depicted in so called value curve (inspired by Blue Ocean Strategy):

The reasoning behind this curve is as follows:

Price: The premium brand is by far the most expensive. They easily charge 1.000 Euro for a 90×200 mattress. For a budget mattress of the same size you will need to bring 100-150 Euro. Energy+ charges 350 Euro for a 90×200 mattress.

Perceived Quality: No doubt the premium brands make sure you think they have the best quality. It’s for a good reason they’re so expensive so they must be good :). The Energy+ offering convinced me to have almost the same level of quality as, for example, M-Line. Please note that I deliberately mention the perceived quality, this is a subjective factor. The objective, measurable, quality can contribute to the perception. Energy+ for example has a stress test report from the Dutch TNO which states that their mattresses don’t form pits. The Dutch “Consumer Union” Consumentenbond regularly performs grouptests of mattresses in which once a budget mattress from Kwantum alledgedly came out as the winner.

Mass media marketing: The premium brands buy prime-time slots for showing their commercials on TV as wel as all other sorts of promotion. The white label brands are known for their persistent presence in the weekly snailmail. IKEA has the marketing efforts of the whole company also working for their mattress department. Energy+ in contrast doesn’t do mass media marketing except for some free publicity.

Showroom: The premium brands have nice showrooms with dedicated salesmen. You can try out all sorts of mattresses and get expert advice on what’s best for you. IKEA for example let’s you choos yourself and guides you with a simple system to find the right mattress. Online stores don’t have showrooms or only very limited.

Delivery time: When you buy a mattress at IKEA or a budget store you can usually take it with you right away. Strangely when you go to a premium bed store you notoriously have to wait up to 2 months before you receive your new mattress. Online stores usually have their  logistics well planned because that’s the only contact they directly have with a customer and that should be good. I received my mattress from an online store within 5 days for example.

Product transparency: With the growing complexity of mattresses, how stupid that may sound, it becomes harder to find out what you end up buying. The premium brands usually have nice displays with an intersection of the mattress and the salesmen can educate you on what’s inside. The online stores try hard to explain their product offerings through animations, video’s and detailed information and comparisons. Other offerings keep you more in the dark.

Written references: in the age of social media and the ‘like’ buttons everywhere the exclusivity of the store on telling you how good something is diminishes. People will seek references among their friends and on the Internet. The Online stores acknowledge this and facilitate customer testimonials, both positive and negative. It also enables them to respond to problems and provide customer care. IKEA has the benefit that they sell a lot of distinctively named mattresses. You can easily find other peoples experience with one of those. The premium brands of course do get attention but do not facilitate as such. Online communities can also be a problem when wrong information is distributed.

Referral fee marketing: When you bring a friend to a premium bed store you will probably get a thank you but not a referral fee. Energy+ relies heavily on referrals and stimulates that by paying 10% of the resulting invoice. (if you buy a mattress at them I don’t mind you sending me the invoice information…)

2-weeks free trial: When you buy a bed you want to know if it’s right for you. In a showroom you can test it out for a few minutes but no more. Some say it takes a couple of nights to determine if a bed is right for you. This poses a problem for the showroom-enabled companies. Online stores addressed this problem by providing a 2-weeks free trial. If you don’t like it you send it back and it costs you nothing. I read somewhere that Energy+ receives 10% of the delivered mattresses back. These mattresses are sent to countries in Eastern Europe, or so they say.

Eventually I ended up ordering 2 Energy+ mattresses, a slatted bed base with remote control and a bed frame from IKEA. Additionaly we also ordered pillows and a quilt. After 3 nights we decided to keep it and payed around 1.000-1.500 Euro, less than we wanted to spend in the first place!

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3 Responses to The magical sleeping business

  1. Pernette says:

    Ja goed bezig!
    Ons matras is ook crap na 6 jaar en het is altijd fijn als iemand anders het onderwerp waar je naar op zoek bent al heeft uitgezocht, uitgespit, ordelijk heeft samengevat en dat je op basis van het grafiek je eigenlijk je conclusie al kunt trekken 😉

  2. Vinko Grgic says:

    Hi there joostbijl,

    Nice article and very interesting! I ended up here by searching for a Google Image of the Blue Ocean Strategy “Value Curve”. What a great way to break down the consideration process and choose the right product! Also, you helped me to understand how to use the Value Curve properly – so thank you!

  3. jasper says:

    Leuk verhaal, maar ik mis de referral link 😉

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