A rise in income levels and health consciousness is giving a boost to the mattress market in India. Today, mattresses are no longer considered mere consumer durables. In fact, they are assumed to be the indicator of the quality of life. Hence, consumers are demanding more and more functional mattresses rather than just comfortable mattress products. In answer to this, mattress manufacturers are actually manufacturing mattresses that are highly advanced using innovative technologies and most of the time, even the mattress retailers who are not aware of such technologies, and forget about the customers. Thus, this makes it imperative for retailers to gather industry knowledge and learn about new trends before catering to their customers.

Further, gone are the days when the shoppers came to any store with no knowledge about the product they wanted to buy. Thanks to the internet, people coming to any retail store know exactly what they want and are very clear in terms of their needs. The same goes with the mattress customers as well who are now coming to the retail stores fully armed with knowledge but can this be said for the mattress retailers as well? Well, not really and this makes training mattress retailers more important than ever.

ISPF on the foray

Given the fact that on average, a person spends nearly 8 hours on a mattress while sleeping and uses the mattress for at least 10 years in a row, it is imperative that the customer buys the right mattress as per their need. That said, mostly it is the mattress retailers only who help the customers choose the right mattress after effectively interacting with them and then giving the best solution as per their knowledge and expertise. However, given the present online competition and drastic changes in customer demands, retailers themselves need more information, education and training to give the best solution to the customers to boost mattress sales and benefit the mattress industry as a whole.

Realising this need, organisations such as Indian Sleep Products Federation (ISPF) have dedicatedly taken up the task of educating and training mattress retailers. In fact, in the past few years, ISPF has been constantly at the forefront to elevate the retail mattress segment of the country and has become the best guide for retailers nationwide.

Srinivasan Sundareasan, Secretary, ISPF, avers, “ISPF offers the Retail Partner Certification Program as we consider all the retailers as our partners. Two virtual training sessions are conducted per year by professionals. The last session was conducted in August 2022 and the next session will be held after 6 months. Nearly, 2000 retailers have been trained until the past year. This year, we have modified our course and made significant changes in the modules. The focus, this year is on training the retailers on using the twelve digital tools and social media marketing methods like Whatsapp, Facebook etc.”

Mattress retailers are not aware of technologies, new trends before catering to their customers. Hence ISPF is taking a step to train the retailers to get ready for challenges ensuring that retailers are ready to exploit the present market avenues that are non traditional, that brings new age of customer experience. Retailers are to be trained on the newer technologies used in the industry and how beneficial are they.

Talking about the main focus point of the overall retail training program, Sundaresan notes, “We train the mattress retailers for ensuring three things that are customer experience, customer delight and customer satisfaction.” It definitely requires expertise to ensure these three things. For that, retailers need to make it a point to analyse and understand customer mindset (perceptions, wants, needs and desires) first and then give them solutions regarding what mattress product would be the best for them. This they can learn only through a good training program.

Further, earlier marketing was directed at only promoting the product but now the focus has shifted to promoting quality sleep which has become the need of the hour amidst growing diseases, unhealthy lifestyles and hectic schedules. Today, more and more customers are looking for mattresses that can give them quality sleep and they are seeking help from retailers to find such products. In order to cater to such customers, retailers themselves need to become sleep experts and that can only happen if they are well-informed. Here again, ISPF comes to aid the retailers. ISPF provides monthly newsletters to mattress retailers giving updates on new developments and trends in the mattress industry. Besides this, the retailers also receive a certification and a mention on the ISPF website, so that the customers can contact them easily.

Unique retail training program of ISPF

There are four modules of the ISPF training program. The first is about training the retailers on general retail etiquette of the industry. The second one focuses on equipping the retailers on how to increase the consumer experience through understanding their needs and enhancing their knowledge before they make the purchase decision. The third module focuses on training mattress retailers on using digital tools in the right manner and enhancing their digital strategy in the present digital era. This includes helping them to reach out to the right customers through suitable platforms. Lastly, the fourth module focuses on helping retailers in adopting the right display techniques. This is because as soon as the customer enters any store, the first thing that catches his/her attention is the visual appeal of the store which is then followed by the products for which he/she has come to the store. So, subtly, the good visual appeal of the mattress store can induce the customer to make the buying decision. To this, Sundaresan avers, “Since we know that mattress is a product which customers want to see and touch, we educate the retailers as to how they can enhance the customer experience through simply displaying the mattress on a flat surface and then asking the customer to roll over the mattress from left to right or vice versa to see the comfort the mattress offers.”

The Corona Pandemic has changed the way the retail use to work with. The customer interaction methods, experiences, methods of attracting the customers have changed in a big way.

To sum up, the retail training program offered by ISPF ensures that the mattress retailers are able to create a good personalised experience for the customers, meet their expectations and ensure maximum customer satisfaction which can ultimately lead to increased sales. This indeed is a win-win situation for all involved in the mattress industry.

In a nutshell

Since mattress buyers of today generally go online to arm themselves with all sorts of information, it is necessary that the retailers are also fully equipped to handle such educated customers. Thus it only makes sense for the mattress retailers to opt for the retail training program offered by ISPF to up their game.

Further, in the present times, what makes retail training all the more important is the fact that before the Coronavirus pandemic outbreak, mattress customers mostly used to visit stores and buy mattress. However, the pattern changed drastically after the pandemic as people moved more towards online shopping. Thus, it is now more important that retailers are well-equipped to address the needs of the customers so that they can counter the competition posed by online brands and ISPF is just helping the mattress retailers in doing that. So, to be precise, ISPF’s retail training program is definitely a novel way of helping the Indian mattress industry reach new heights by giving a boost to the retail segment of the country.