How to Make the Common Man Buy a Mattress?

The mattress industry is moving from the unbranded to the branded market slowly. The branded market comprising large, mid-size and smaller manufacturers constitute around 34 percent of the market, with around 20-25 players spread across the geographies. The implementation of GST has narrowed the price gap between branded and unbranded players leading to an increase in opportunity for branded mattress players leading consumers to buy a mattress.

Consumer-driven factors such as increasing population, rising urbanisation, and improvement in institutional infrastructure (housing, hospitality and healthcare segment) are key growth drivers for the entire home & living industry including the mattress market. The high share of players in the mattress market can be attributed to the efforts and investment made by mattress players to increase consumer awareness about the quality of sleep and the importance of mattresses through the development of retail infrastructure and marketing activities.

However, when Comfort Times surveyed to check the reality, we found that the branded mattress market still has to do a lot to reach out to the common man. Urban consumers are moving slowly toward the branded mattress market but semi-urban and rural areas are still looking at the unbranded mattress segment.

Urban India and Branded Market

According to the Market Pulse report, of the total sales of 18.6 million mattresses, new bed demand accounts for nearly 7 million mattresses every year. The furniture channel caters to this new demand every year. Mattress sale has grown at approx. 3 percent in volume terms in the first quarter of 2018-19. Foam contributes to more than 50 percent of mattress sales. The organized sector’s contribution increased from 37 to 47 percent in the summer.

Results showed that about 73 percent of Indian adults want to improve their quality of sleep. This means that they are unable to get good sleep of 7-8 hours each night. There are various reasons for not getting good sleep. When it comes to improving sleep, 31 percent of Indians prefer to meditate (vs Global average of 26%) and 20 percent try natural/organic sleep aids (vs Global average of 18%). Another reason could be the use of an unsuitable mattress for sleep.

To overcome the issue of sleeplessness, people are now looking to use the best available mattresses. This is being supported by the rise in income levels and health consciousness among the people. The demand for customised and luxury mattresses is expected to increase in the coming years, whereas companies may come up with new techniques to utilize their resources and technologies better. Mattresses are no longer considered as mere consumer durables, they are an indicator of the quality of life.

The growth in the mattress market is largely led by factors such as increased income levels and infrastructural developments, in terms of the increased number of residential units and hotels in the country. Demand for construction in both residential and institutional is growing in India, with the rising awareness regarding mattress types and brands. Among various sizes available, king-size mattresses are the most preferred ones, and comfort is the most important factor for their dominance in the market.

Mattress Market in India

If we look at the mattress market size in India it is around Rs 14,000 crore, according to Market Pulse research, growing steadily. If we add bed linen and other bedroom products, that’s another Rs 4000-5000 crore market. However, the market is largely comprised of unorganized players. The market comprises only a small portion of the total population of over 100 crore.

This opens up a huge market opportunity for the mattress industry. In India, organized players sell mattresses through two mediums, one is offline and the other is online. The offline mattress market consists of retail sales of mattresses from dealers/distributors or franchised stores. On the other hand, the online mattress market consists of sales that occur through e-commerce websites like Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal, FabFurnish, Urban Ladder etc. or the company’s personalised website.

Though we see an increase in the usage of mattresses majority of Indians sleep on ‘cotton beds’ which are more cost-effective compared to mattresses. A Mattress, however, needs zero maintenance as compared to cotton beds that require regular seasonal maintenance. Most of the people who are using cotton beds are from rural and semi-urban places. However, awareness campaigns about knowledge of the science of sleep will help consumers to try and start using the mattress of their choice and requirements.

Although mattresses and sleep products have a big impact on people’s lives, the industry is still unregulated. Experts observed that anybody who can manufacture mattresses can adulterate the product by filling it up with other spurious materials, but nobody will know as it is not a regulated industry. Industry experts feel there is a need for some kind of regulation besides the need for creating public awareness.

Survey-Urban, Semi-Urban and Rural Areas

As part of this survey, the Comfort Times team spoke to several people in the age group of 30+ with an annual income of over Rs 8 lakh per annum to find out the reason why they are not buying a branded mattress and still prefer cotton beds. The majority of respondents in the urban part of India like cities in Bangalore, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Mumbai etc. do have enough knowledge of branded mattress and how it helps in the quality of sleep. Most of the respondents do own a mattress or planning to buy a mattress in the next few weeks.

However, we didn’t get the same dominant share in the mattress industry. The consumers feel they can negotiate on price at the retail buying. However, this is slowly changing with an increase in awareness about the benefits and comforts mattresses are providing over traditional cotton beds and the deep discounts online players are providing.

Although the mattress has its advantages like good sleep, zero maintenance, relief of pain, non-allergenic, it has its side effects as well like durability, hard to move, dust mites, motion transfer, obsolete technology, heating effect, time to adjust to different positions, strong odour etc.

Only 10 percent of the respondents said that they were aware of the branded mattress products and they could recall a few names of mattress brands. They also said that they would buy a branded mattress shortly. Over 90 percent of respondents consider that cotton beds are much more cost-effective compared to mattresses.

Also, the Comfort Times team realised that most of the people in the semi-urban and rural places have been using cotton beds for 12 years or more. They haven’t even thought of replacing them. Our survey team found out that very few houses have mattresses in rural areas. Few of the rich landlords own a mattress beyond that no other families have a mattress. In some families, only the head of the family uses cotton beds whereas other members of the family use mats and bedsheets to sleep on the floor.

How to Make the Common Man Buy a Mattress?

Our survey team found out that companies have been making efforts to reach out to more consumers and are using many platforms like online, direct-to-consumers, social media, television, print advertisements, pamphlets, retail etc. to educate them. However, retailers in these areas have to market mattresses as essential products and not expensive products.
Comfort Times survey team found out the following points from the people on what makes them buy a mattress.

Branded cotton beds: Yes, people are ready to spend around Rs 5000 for a mattress or a bed. Can brands think of coming out with branded cotton beds to offer to the common man?

Buying cotton beds: Brands should consider providing exchange offers to consumers by buying their cotton beds.

EMI scheme: Some of the brands do have an EMI scheme to buy a mattress. However, most of the people whom we surveyed are not aware of any such scheme. Retailers must spread the word about the EMI scheme among the people.

Scheme for Hostels and PGs: Hostels and PGs in some of the Urban and semi-urban areas use cotton beds. Can brands think of some scheme to promote their mattress among these places? This will help students and working professionals understand the benefits of mattresses.

Trials offer: Retailers in semi-urban areas can consider giving a 30-day trial for those who want to try out mattresses. Currently, retailers in these cities are hesitant to give products on trails.

Educate on the importance of sleep: Retailers should try to educate common people on the benefits of sound sleep and how mattresses can help them in improving their quality of life and improve their health.

Indian consumers still prefer going to retail stores and feeling the mattress by touching or sitting on it. This is how they decide on the comfort level of mattresses and make their decision which makes the offline mode of distribution more popular. Hence the retail market has the dominant share in the mattress industry.

The consumers feel they can negotiate on price at the retail buying. However, this is slowly changing with an increase in awareness about the benefits and comforts mattresses are providing over traditional cotton beds and the deep discounts online players are providing.

Although the mattress has its advantages like good sleep, zero maintenance, relief of pain, nonallergenic, it has its side effects as well like durability, hard to move, dust mites, motion transfer, obsolete technology, heating effect, time to adjust to different positions, strong odour etc.

The local mattress market, which is tightly in the grip of the unorganized sector led by the street-side shop and the local diner, is fast shifting towards branded mattresses.

The organized mattress market encompasses four types of mattresses namely Coir, PU foam, Spring and Combination mattresses. Indian consumers usually prefer a coir mattress or a foam mattress but the demand is now changing towards plush mattresses. The organised sector is growing with the rising demand for good quality mattresses among Indian urban consumers. If brands and retailers address the issue in semi-urban and rural areas, no doubt that mattress sales in India will double in the next few years.

Can retailers Make the following changes for better business?

Enhanced shopping experience: Providing customers with an exceptional shopping experience has become the top priority for businesses. Unlike earlier times, just knowing customer preferences does not suffice. The aim now is to make the entire shopping experience fully integrated. All retail showroom mattresses in semi-urban and rural areas have to provide the same seamless experience as top showrooms in metro cities.
At a time when people seek instant gratification, customer experience has come up as the true brand differentiator. A 2013 research by Walker revealed that customer experience will eventually overtake factors like price and product to become the main brand differentiator by 2020.

Emphasis on customer feedback: Gone are the days when there was hardly any communication between businesses and their customers. With various social media channels like Facebook and Twitter coming into the picture, customers today have the platform to voice their ideas and opinions on a particular product, service or company. Feedback is considered an imperative factor in building a strong relationship with customers. Led by this feedback, mattress manufacturing companies are making relentless efforts to improve the quality of their offerings. Retailers should take feedback from all the people who visit their showrooms, even if they don’t make any purchases.

Introduction of digital payment options: Following demonetisation in November 2016, lakhs of Indians had to resort to digital payment solutions. With the government planning to create a trillion-dollar economy through digital transactions by 2022, the country is undergoing a digital revolution at present.

Thanks to a wide array of benefits including convenience, safety and security, a large part of Indian customers are now moving towards digital payments. Retailers and brands should start accepting digital payments in their stores. This will help customers not carry cash always.

Doorstep delivery and cash on delivery: Even today, buying a mattress is quite a tedious task. One had to be physically present in a store, choose the mattress solely based on the store owner’s suggestion and lastly, make arrangements to take the mattress home. Sometimes, the entire process would take 2-3 days.

Retailers should take responsibility for providing mattresses to customer’s homes. This will be an incentive for a consumer to buy a mattress. Also, they should provide cash on delivery facility.

Special customer benefits: Modern businesses aim to offer their customers VIP treatment. For this purpose, they have implemented several lucrative offers that include cash-back vouchers, large discounts, free trial periods, extended warranties, etc. Retailers should start offering such freebies to consumers to keep them hooked.

After-sales support: Can retailers call a customer after six months of his purchase to enquire about the product and offer any services if needed? This will make the customer happy and make him loyal to that retailer.

ISPF is an industry body which promotes importance of sleep and role of mattress for a Indian consumers. ISPF plays very important role in connecting Indian bedding industry ecosystem. ISPF also acts as bridge between India and international players.