Boundless retail means constant evolution, says the Mattress conference board

Towson, Arizona. Consumers are a tricky bunch, and their preferences for shopping channels can change on a whim.

This was one of the main takeaways from a panel of retailers during the Bedding 2023 conference held here earlier this month. Executives from Old Brick Furniture & Mattress, Johnny Janosik, Taos Lifestyle and Wayfair each shared different perspectives on how operations have been challenged by the pandemic and taxing their teams and what the future of borderless or omnichannel retail is for the future.

During lockdowns and supply chain challenges throughout the pandemic, consumers — thirsty for their nest feathers — have been shopping for and buying mattresses and home furnishings online, over the phone, and via chatbots on computers.

This trend has prompted retailers to get serious about online sales and other ways to reach and meet consumers wherever they decide to shop. Retailers continue to evolve in their approach to the changing needs and desires of consumers.

“We found our brand and brand offering to be great service at the store level. The company’s website was pretty flat until 2019 when the company turned the switch on e-commerce,” said Dan Welch, CEO of eight stores, Dover, Del.

“Our primary goal remains to attract customers to our stores,” Welch said. “If we bring it to our door, we find that we have a great deal of success in closing the sale.”

Brian Motyl, vice president of sales for nine-store Old Brick Furniture & Mattress in Albany, New York, describes the retailer as a hybrid selling online and in-store.

“We’re big advocates of the online experience to make customers aware of our brand and what we do,” he said. “The goal of mattresses in particular is to get consumers into the store; that’s where we find we’ve had the most success.

“We’re working hard to get them to start this process online,” Motyle continued. “Sure, our e-commerce business is important to us, but we find our biggest ticket and most of the success is through our in-store experience.”

Taos Lifestyle in New Mexico is in a bit of a transitional phase right now with its e-commerce strategy, said Mary Dumito, president and CEO. It echoed Motyl and Welch’s comments that the store’s online presence is designed to inform consumers of the store’s existence and encourage them to visit.

Today, changes are afoot with a number of tools that Domito uses, including Podium, to communicate directly with consumers who shop on the company’s site.

“The website is about driving traffic to the store in our very unique mountain community,” she said. “I’m an hour and a half away in either direction from anyone else selling mattresses, so I pretty much own the entire area in southern Colorado and New Mexico.”

Dumitto said the strategy is moving toward specific targeting of online consumers.

“I’m not about to pretend I’m Wayfair or anything like that,” she said. “We will be able to direct consumers to specific items on our site that are easy to deliver to consumers, such as our packaged beds that can be easily shipped.”

Wayfair, the only e-commerce retailer on board, has a very different approach to selling and relies on massive amounts of data gleaned from its customers.

Jason Shapiro, associate director of category management for the online retailer, pointed out the company’s differences and pointed to its successes during the pandemic when it reported an increase in volume.

However, note the limitations.

“There’s a lot you can’t do online, and there’s a lot you have to bring someone into a store to really educate,” Shapiro said, adding that Wayfair has had success developing its own phone sales channel in which team members are trained to help consumers with Find the right mattress and reduce comfort revenue. “We just opened our fourth store yesterday in the Chicago area with more opening over the next several years.”

Shapiro said the in-store model would allow Wayfair to reach two different types of customers: those who want to try something before they buy and those who are interested in the design services offered through Wayfair’s Joss & Main brand.

“In the mattress and bed space, the stores allow us to make sure that people get the right solution for them,” he said. “Now, obviously, every option has its pros and cons, right? And everything continues to evolve.”

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