The mattress industry has benefited from the consumer shift to spending for the home during COVID-19.
Consumers are now looking at using online and offline platforms for his/her benefit. Going forward omni-channel strategy improves operational efficiency and better business sense for the Indian bedding industry
Omni channel strategy is the one that offers the retailers an ability to provide their customers with an integrated approach of both online and offline sales and marketing. Omni channel strategy is considered as a savior to offline business and an excellent booster for the online brands.
The Indian Mattress industry has been following the conventional method of sales and marketing mattresses offline and is now getting to know the Omni Channel strategy as one of the means of sales and marketing. The initial few months of the pandemic had affected the Mattress industry, in turn, affecting the large mattress retailers and not to mention the small-time retailers as it is hit the most. The Omni channel strategy has proved to be successful in the US and one of the statistics reveals that after the introduction of Omni channel strategy, the customer retention towards a particular brand is 89 percent. In India, retailers in the front end of the market were faced with the brunt of the COVID 19 initially and at present retailers feel that the Omni channel strategy might work for the Indian Mattress Industry in the long run.
“Sales had reduced by fifty percent during the initial months of pandemic and is now seeing a slow rise. We have both upmarket brands and local brands in our retail outlet. Introduction of Omni channel strategy might help us in the long run-even small retailers like us. Going online, might make a small retailer like us to face the global competition and it becomes quite challenging,” says Riyaz, a retailer.
When some retailers complain of facing stiff global competition a challenging task, others state that the new strategy might not work at present but might work for the Indian market in the later stages.
“I have been in the industry for 22 years and the coir segment of our retail outlet has a strong customer base and the pandemic hasn’t affected them much. The customer base we have earned for the last 22 years is because of the offline store. We haven’t had an exclusively online presence and adapting to Omni channel strategy might help us extend our customer base. People can buy necessities online but a mattress needs to be touched and felt in order to buy that. The customer needs to know the quality too before buying. He can read the features given online but cannot know until he experiences it. But an Omni channel strategy might help a customer to finalize a mattress based on the features and quality based on the reviews. One of the main reasons a person comes finally to visit a virtual store of a mattress is to experience it. Work from home has been incorporated since the lockdown and people after their stressful day wants to have a good sleep. Buying a mattress online would not let them experience it, but gives them an idea of the price range and the variants. A Maruti 800 car, an Omni car, and an Audi car all destined to got to Tumkur will take the passengers to Tumkur but it is the ease at which each of them reaches the destination that makes them different,” says Lakshmi Narayan DS of Living Walls Furnishings.
He also added that there were few customers who researched online and bought one of them through virtual stores but have complained of poor quality. This is the end result of going through only an e-commerce site and making a purchase. On the contrary, if a person goes through the Omni channel strategy, he gets access to both online and offline buying experience.
“We have deployed other google tools that enhance our online relationship with our customers like the google 360-degree tool that helps a customer have a virtual view of our store. In the present scenario, the Omni channel strategy might work as most of the customers spend 3-4 hours of screen time. This strategy must also help us take our business globally and also extend our customer base globally,” adds Lakshmi Narayan.
Some of the retailers feel that the Omni channel strategy works well for the US as the return policies of a retailer in the US are very good. A customer will get a replacement after a year of usage. Whereas in India not all shops or retailers follow such policies. Each company carries a different policy.
“Most of the Mattresses we deal with exclusively don’t have the policy of selling them online. Only offline sales are accessible to us. Some of our mattress retailers are against these online sales as there is an investment on infrastructure and on the display of our mattresses,” says Srinath of Inscape (Sleepwell World).
Relaxing the policies and spending on the setting up of online sales and marketing gives a better sales and marketing perspective to the retailer,”
“Omni channel strategy does not work out for Indian Mattress market as most of the dealers make an agreement with us of not going online. With this, the 50 percent of the retailers would not be able to go online,” says Dheeraj of Haryana Handloom.
Though Omni channel strategy is still in the inception in the mattress marketing industry, retailers are positive towards the new strategy. There are customers who have different views regarding the strategy.
“I have been a fan of online shopping for day-to-day basic necessities. We, as a family, take decisions collectively – if it is a wellness product like a mattress; and till date, we have not purchased a mattress online. We have been regular customers at a shop in Banashankari, Bangalore. Since the pandemic, we haven’t been out and I tried researching and shopping it online through various sites but I could not find the right mattress and was reluctant to go ahead with online shopping. I finalized a mattress after researching online and planned to buy the mattress in a shop as I would spend less time in a shop. I found on an online app the specifications and bought it from the shop. I decided not to buy a mattress only online. The introduction of Omni channel strategy might ease the burden of looking at fewer options and gives access to more number of outlets. We have been purchasing a particular brand of mattress since it is of good quality and we know it would be of good quality for the money we bought. Though Omni channel strategy is not a strategy I’m familiar with, the concept might making buying a mattress easier” says Nandini Satish, customer.
“I wanted to change one of the mattresses and decided to browse through various options available online. I visited websites like amazon, wake fit, Pepperfry, and other e-commerce sites related to Indian mattress industry sites Each site has mattresses of a standard size. I needed a 36 inches bed but I didn’t find a perfect measurement of 36 inches. The mattresses I saw online was 34 inches or 34 and a half inches which didn’t meet my expectation. I conducted research for ten days consecutively. I finally visited an offline store and I explained my requirement. The retailer was able to help me with the size of the mattress that I needed. The Omni channel strategy to work must prioritize the customer requirements first. The online store must be able to provide a customization option wherein the customer must be able to place an order of his requirement. When you approach a regular retailer he will have a specific size available with him. When you are planning to buy a mattress online, getting a perfect size might be a challenge. There are cases where the order placed online is different from the one received. But with customization option, Omni channel strategy works better,” says Usha, a businesswoman.
“Suppose I need a mattress variant that is not available here in South India. A concept like Omni channel strategy might let me browse through various options and retailers in any part of India where such a variant of mattress is available. I can choose few retailers in the deduction method and contact them over a video call and I ask them to help me choose the mattress as per my requirement,” says Satish, Engineer.