HIGH POINT — Online mattress guru Mike Magnuson said the COVID-19 pandemic has given a boost to online mattress retailers as a majority of consumers now say they are willing to buy a mattress without trying it in a store.
Magnuson, CEO of independent mattress information source GoodBed.com, has been tracking that key metric since 2015, when online mattress retailers began gaining ground in the marketplace.
The number of consumers saying they are willing to buy without trying a mattress in a store rose steadily to around 43% by early 2018, but that number had flattened out since then, he said in a Bedding Conference address.
But with the arrival of COVID-19 concerns in March, that number rose dramatically, spiking briefly to more than 70% in April before settling at 53%, a figure 10 percentage points higher than before the pandemic. The pandemic’s impact on consumers’ willingness to buy without trying the mattress in a store was very consistent across all age groups, according to Magnuson.
That creates a climate that is more conducive to online mattress sales, he observed.
Magnuson also outlined the most disruptive threats facing the industry these days.
He said “ultra-cheap mattresses” are training customers to think of mattresses as a disposable item versus an investment in quality. And he noted that Amazon is sparking an “inevitable race to the bottom” with an emphasis on cheap mattresses.
Another disruption facing the industry is the rise of mattress review sites, which he described as a major competitive threat to mattress retailers, noting that there are now more than 135 different mattress review sites. “Consumers can no longer avoid review sites in their shopping journey,” Magnuson said. “Once a consumer lands on one of these sites, I would expect that they are much less likely to visit a brick-and-mortar store.”
Mattress review sites are experiencing rapid revenue growth, with the sector perhaps generating as much as $50 million in revenues in aggregate, he estimates. That growth is fueled by the commissions they receive to incentivize sales. Magnuson believes that most consumers don’t fully understand the economic motivations of these sites, which gives the sites a big advantage over retailers, whose business model is more familiar to mattress shoppers.
Review sites are also growing more powerful and sophisticated as they consolidate their positions with backing from outside investment firms. By building portfolios of sites, both organically and through mergers and acquisitions, these companies often have multiple sites appearing in Google search results for each query, Magnuson said.
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