Understanding The Indian Consumer Insights On Mattress Buying Patterns

In the early 90s when India was in the throes of liberalization thanks to an IMF-induced crisis, Gurcharan Das’ book, India Unbound in 2002 kept up the hope of the Indian middle-class voracious consumers in India into the third largest economy after the US and China. For a country that had IMF at its doorstep threatening to recast its economic fabric 11 years ago, Das, the chairman of P&G in India, was a messiah. But the elusive Indian consumer is still that, elusive. The saga continues.

Without looking specifically into the mattress buying patterns of the Indian consumer, let us take a quick look into the general buying behaviour. The question literally is where do we start? Well, since it is the age of online shopping which even our industry is betting on, let us look at this sector. A 2017 study done by SAP Consumer Insights Group shows that 50 percent of Indian consumers shopping online is likely to abandon the shopping store after browsing and adding items to their cart. It further says that almost 30 percent are likely to keep items in their shopping cart without checking out for over 3 weeks. Some of them are conscious but are not able to make up their mind while some of them forget that they have something in the cart. If the ecommerce companies in India are kept on tenterhooks then it comes as no surprise.

Brands, both Indian and international, will do better if they tag along with the typical householder to a market during their shopping journey. We did an impromptu, albeit anecdotal study to find that even the shopper feels inadequate selling and haggling with the buyer. That’s part of the Indian psyche. The SAP survey confirms this view. Over 45 percent of the respondents to their survey said the troika of price, discounts and promotions are key to online buying.

There is a definite movement in the Indian consumer consumption pattern. According to a study by BCG, the number of households in the affluent category, with an annual gross household income of Rs 10,00,000 – Rs 20,00,000 bracket, is moving up. So is the number of households in the elite category over the Rs 20,00,000 bracket. Obviously, in terms of experimentation. The consumer is buying new categories of goods, travelling abroad more, and yes, saving significantly more than her counterparts in the US and other countries. While the drivers for this change is the usual suspects of urbanization, rising affluence, and increasing penetration of mobile network offering an unprecedented convenience factor, the increasing brand perception is key for our industry. According to BCG, 30 percent of households buy a “good” because they perceive it to be “better”. With time this population is only going to increase. This is sweet news for our industry.

As per a study by IBEF (India BrandEquity Foundation), the Indian consumer is spending maximum on food, housing, consumer durables, transport and communication sectors. A study by Anupama Dave of the Marwadi Education Foundation on Indian consumers’ food-related items informs that more and more youngsters consider food as fun. They are taken in by the convenience food segment making them one of the most prolific consumers.

“Their preferences have changed from home-cooked food to fast and ready-to-serve food. Young consumers are passionate about visiting fast food outlets for fun and change. Besides that processed foods are accepted as an alternative to home-cooked food because of the convenience it offers,” says Anupama Dave.

The question is what lessons can we take away from the sleeping products industry? The studies point to some interesting factors that influence our consumers. The first and foremost is the fact that consumer is willing to “pay more” for a better brand. Second, consumer considers convenience as a plus and does not mind indulging.

Our industry can leverage these two points to launch a perception-changing campaign. The factor of pricing, discounts and promotions has to be part of the mix since that is what drives the Indian consumer both offline and online.

Wooing the Sleep Deprived

So how are companies planning to get the average sleep deprived Indian to bed? Well, for one there is a newfound zest among youngsters who are doing new-age sleep startups. And investors are listening.

The more traditional players such as the hospitality industry, and the pharma companies are taking the path they know best. Hotel brands are offering sleep menus comprising a choice of pillows, aroma therapy, soothing music and likes.

Pharma companies are also dabbling in this market with products ranging from anti-snoring products to mild sedatives, creams, oils and the like. The electronic and lighting giants are peddling various sleep aid devices ranging from foot massagers to lighting solutions. The mobile app industry has suddenly seen a boom in sleep related mobile apps.

Is the consumer paying attention? Looks like so. There is a growing awareness about the advantages of good sleep and people wish each other a “good sound sleep” more than just a “good night”. In Whitehouse, there is the famous rule: “Do not wake up the President”. Very few Presidents were woken up and that too when in crisis. This rule should be made for every household.

The Connect

For the Indian mattress industry, there is a lesson. Selling a mattress won’t push the consumer into buying one. It has to sell the after-sleep experience to the consumer. A healthy individual needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep and those that do not clock would slip into a sleep debt. An average Indian is said to sleep only for 6.5 hours which may not be after all the so-called deep sound sleep. Put the lights down; snatch those electronic devices; and cut the noise. These should be the rallying cry. The mattress industry should take it upon itself to reestablish the “circadian rhythm” in the average Indian. “A deep sound sleep makes you fitter, faster and successful,” should be the rallying cry. We are somehow taken in by the hard-working, midnight-oil-burning metaphors of success that we forget that all those who did it found a way to get their deep sound sleep when they were done.

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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.