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Pairing space-age materials with a modern-day interface, the bed-in-a-box is a product of our times.
In 1992, Tempur-Pedic recognized the potential of a special foam NASA had created years earlier to improve the comfort and safety of its astronauts. The dense and slow-responding foam could be used as a sleep surface. In short order, Tempur-Pedic used the technology to create the first commercially available memory foam mattress. Tempur-Pedic, of course, has a reputation for being a high-end mattress retailer, with its products often selling for $2,000 to $6,000. And innerspring mattresses, which lack the lasting comfort and support of memory foam, are still seen by many as the affordable mattress option.
But that just isn’t true anymore.
High-quality memory foam mattresses from reputable online companies – like Douglas, Endy, and Casper – retail for $749 to $1,495 for a queen. They are delivered in boxes the size of a hockey bag and are made with several layers of memory foam optimized for comfort, cooling, and support. In contrast, mattress stores are often stocked with dozens of products that claim to be unique. They’re typical innerspring or memory foam mattresses with impressive-sounding names and higher prices. Today, Tempur-Pedic, which merged with the traditional bedding company Sealy in 2012, is a mainstay of these stores.
How Can a Bed-in-a-Box Be so Much Cheaper?
The success of e-commerce has popularized online shopping in ways few could have imagined 20 years ago. And memory foam mattresses, because they’re compressed and delivered without losing any quality, are the ideal online purchase. Without the overheads of brick-and-mortar stores, online mattress companies offer excellent memory foam mattresses at prices far cheaper than store-brand models.
The bed-in-a-box is a perfect way to avoid an industry with a toxic reputation for hard sales and high prices.
Salespeople often assume that customers will spend 20 percent more than their budget for the sake of a good deal. In an industry where sales staff pursue commissions, it’s no surprise then that ‘up-selling’ is part of the traditional mattress-buying experience. Online mattresses bypass the traditional toxic sales pitch. Today it’s easy and affordable to buy a high-quality mattress without ever talking to a commissioned salesperson.
The process is simple. Research a mattress that suits your firmness preferences, make an order online, and receive it in three-to-ten days. Upon delivery, unbox the mattress and watch it take shape a few minutes or hours after unboxing. Most beds-in-a-box reach full firmness after a couple nights of sleep. Some traditional mattress companies make a big deal out their white glove delivery and installation services. But setting up a bed-in-a-box is no more difficult than putting the groceries away.
Simplicity and Service Are Key to Online Mattress Sales
With its cost savings and simplicity, it is no surprise that the bed-in-a-box mattress industry is causing brick-and-mortar stores to lose sleep.
In fact, Sleep Country, Canada’s biggest mattress seller with stores nationwide, has their own online-only Bloom mattress line. The Bloom is a straight-up bed-in-box product. It has a price and delivery service that fits the online mattress industry, not the traditional store model.
Speaking to The Montreal Gazette, Stewart Schaefer, chief business development officer at Sleep Country, admitted the company has been compressing its mattresses for years. Schaefer revealed that Sleep Country decompresses many of its beds at its distribution centres before delivering them to the customer.
This is a fascinating insight into traditional mattress retailers. The brick-and-mortar guys know about the cost savings made possible by compression. In fact, they embrace it for transport between manufacture and distribution. But those savings aren’t necessarily passed onto the customer. Rather, mattresses are displayed on a shop floor. And salespeople are employed to upsell and cross-sell, solely to boost profits on already-expensive products.
Why Settle for an Exchange Instead of a Refund?
Some people don’t like the idea of a bed-in-a-box. But Schaefer has revealed what’s really going on: Canadians have effectively been buying beds-in-boxes at Sleep Country for years.
What’s fascinating about Schaeffer’s interview – because it tells us what truly separates traditional stores from online – is his comment about returns:
The answer is simple. Customers of the major online mattress brands return the mattress risk-free.
With a full refund.
And free pick-up of the unwanted mattress.
And no fees.
The return rate for online mattress purchases remains relatively small. Once they try them, people like bed-in-a-box mattresses for comfort, support, price, and ease of purchase.
In contrast, the terms and conditions on Bloom’s website explain that Sleep Country does not give refunds. It offers exchanges for in-store models. On top of that, there’s also a $50 transaction fee.
Sleep Country’s Bloom line shows that the success of the online model is causing the traditional players to sit up and pay attention. But truly online mattress companies don’t ask unhappy customers to go downtown, pay a fee, and deal with the kind of sales staff that drove the customer online in the first place just to facilitate an exchange. Brick-and-mortar stores want a piece of the online pie. But they are not ready to match the online players for risk-free purchases.
Mattress shopping should be risk-free
Memory foam and its application for mattresses was a great innovation. But its finest use in the twenty-first century is not as a meal ticket for smooth-talking mattress salespeople. Rather, integration with e-commerce has allowed memory foam to reach its full potential. By placing the power in the customer’s hands, the online mattress industry has brought fair pricing and excellent service to sleepers around the world. It’s crazy that brick-and-mortar stores expect customers to return to showrooms time and again when online retailers offer 100-night, risk-free sleep trials. Perhaps that’s why e-commerce sales continue to eat into traditional market share, year over year.
Shopping for a new mattress? See our list of the Best Mattresses in a Box.