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Ep. 2: Key Takeaways from BSC Research on Mattress Shopping Behavior During COVID

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Mike and Jeff dive deep into the numbers from the Better Sleep Council’s recently released consumer survey.

The BSC’s survey focuses on mattress shopping behavior during COVID. Magnuson and Cassidy uncovered some faulty and misleading conclusions in the published results, while also identifying some valuable and credible takeaways.

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Full Transcription:

[Mike Magnuson]

All right, well we’re sliding this in.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Yeah, where is this going to go?

[Mike Magnuson]

We’re going to just slide this into season one, it’s kind of an emergency episode because this new data came out. So let’s dive in. We both read this and immediately had a lot of thoughts, and purposely decided not to talk to each other.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Well, we should say what we read.

[Mike Magnuson]

Yeah, so we both read this article that came out from the Better Sleep Council, regarding a study that they did in the fall October-November of 2020 during COVID about consumer shopping behavior. And the headline of the story focused on reviews, the headline of the story was “consumers give online reviews three stars” and the little subheader was “mattress buyers are less reliant on such reviews than other shoppers but still value their survey finds”. So really leaning heavily into this notion that reviews are not as important as you might think, something like that. That’s what I feel they were, if you read only the headline, that’s kind of the message they were trying to impart here. Obviously, that caught our attention because it kind of flies in the face of everything that most people would ever think, who look at this category, and who understand this category. It was quite counterintuitive but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong, obviously counterintuitive can be right, so we both looked at this. We read it with a great interest for that reason, and then coming out of it we both had a lot of thoughts. And we specifically decided not to talk about it, like we were going to talk about it anyway for sure, but we said let’s just actually record the conversation we would have had otherwise anyways so that even the people can benefit from our thinking on this. I honestly have no idea what Jeff’s thoughts are on this.

[Jeff Cassidy]

They may not benefit, but it gives a little insight into how Mike and I work.

[Mike Magnuson]

We did think about a framework for going through it and we discussed that part, so one of the things we thought about was, in terms of key takeaways, because this was also posed to us. The reason I even found out about this is, that it was brought to our attention by someone who asked what thoughts I had on this, I thought if I’m thinking about any kind of a study what are the key takeaways? I think about it, to be a key takeaway, it has to be… Number one has to be right and number two, it should be ideally maybe surprising, something that you didn’t necessarily already know. Those would make the key takeaways, but at a minimum right, then we started to think about a two by two matrix of right, not right, surprising, and not surprising. I’ll call it instead of ‘right not right’, I’ll call it ‘convincing and unconvincing’ just to be a little bit more diplomatic, that’s the right word I’m looking for. Surprising and unsurprising, convincing and unconvincing. And, the one quadrant of that two by two matrix, unsurprising and unconvincing, doesn’t exist. Because if it’s unconvincing, it can’t also be unsurprising. Like I don’t believe that’s true, but also it’s not even at all surprising that would be true, that doesn’t make sense. So there’s nothing in that quadrant, so it’s more of a hierarchy of the other three quadrants. Well obviously the most insightful would be surprising and convincing, and then below that, you have convincing but not necessarily surprising, and then the last would be it’s surprising but it’s not convincing like we don’t think it’s right. We’re going to talk through it because there’s stuff that falls into all three buckets here in this article. At least in my opinion there were. So we, Jeff and I, have not at all compared notes on that part. We’re going to give our thoughts on which stuff falls into which of those buckets as we go through this, but let’s start with what were your overall thoughts on the article and the summary of it? As well, we also looked at the data behind the survey, we went deep into the actual questions that were asked, and the individual responses to those questions, so we’ve done our homework here.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Well obviously just like you, I love data. So anytime there’s a survey like this in the mattress space, I love it in general and appreciate the thought, effort, and cost that goes into generating it. Like you, also the title that consumers give customer reviews three stars was shocking to me. Because it goes completely against everything that we see and hear, from talking both verbally to people who call in, but more often responding to people who email, post comments, things like that. It goes completely counter to what we see,  that was what pulled me in right away. My high-level takeaway is I have some concerns about it. I think some comments are misleading,  I don’t think they’re intentionally misleading, but I think people can get the wrong impression if they just read through. I’m very hesitant about some of the conclusions around customer reviews because it’s so different. It’s so different from other things that we see, not only in other categories but even in this category including other studies, other surveys that have been done. So I’m very hesitant about the conclusions that it’s making as regards online reviews.

[Mike Magnuson]

I echo that, but I would raise you I’d raise you one, I felt like they wrote the headline of the story based on perhaps their most specious conclusion in the whole article. That was the most unsupported by data that they had, there were so many other headlines they could have written, this one not only does it not pass the “smell test” of common sense lining up with what many studies have done across a category that looks at big-ticket item purchases and consumer shopping behavior, doesn’t it all line up with those. But it also doesn’t line up as you pointed out, with other studies that have been done in this category, nor with anyone’s anecdotal experience that I’ve ever talked to, including talking to retailers and manufacturers who also interface with customers. It just doesn’t pass the smell test, and then not only that, it’s based on the responses to one question in the survey, that in my opinion was a poorly worded question, and then it even contradicted directly by another question in the same survey that was more clearly worded, so than to say this doesn’t pass the smell test it’s based on just the answers to one poorly worded question, and then contradict it within the same survey, and then you’re going to make that the headline. It was a weak comment to state in the headline because I don’t think it’s at all supported even in the data of this survey. Anyways we’ll talk about what some other headlines could have been because I do think there is some good data here, and that’s quite something we may debate because it sounds like you’re questioning whether there should be a focus on this data at all, given some of the very inconsistent things, but anyways that was my high-level takeaway.

I also had kind of a general high-level comment as well, about how the data was summarized, they looked at in the summary article they combined, they just merged data from actual shoppers with data from prospective shoppers. The survey included 500 shoppers, only 314 so a little over 60 percent of which had purchased a mattress in the past two months. And a little under 40 percent planned to purchase within the next two months. When they reported on these findings, they just took all 500 people and put them into one bucket, even though those two buckets were given separate surveys, and all the questions and all the data were reported separately, so we were able to see all that data separately. I just thought that was a flawed way to even think about it because while it’s not necessarily invalid to ask people what they plan to do, that’s a very different population from people who’ve done it. Because this is not a product, and we’ve seen this time and again that people have any kind of rubric for how they’re going to purchase it going in, they just don’t know. They haven’t done it for 10 years, it’s not the kind of product where you know this is what I do, I do these things, and then I do that, and then I do this, that’s how I buy a mattress. Like no, people are like oh sh-I need a mattress, how do I do this again? Everything seems different too, I don’t even remember what I did last time, I just remember it sucked, like no one has any rubric. When do you ask them what they plan to do? Sure there’s some validity, and there are some insights that you can take from that, but that’s a completely different set of insights than you’d take from someone who’s been through the process. You should never merge those two, if anything that you should just be doing is comparing them or contrasting, to see how their experience compares to what they expected, what people’s expectations were based on the population of people who had not yet started. That is a relevant way to look at it, that’s the way we looked at this data. Simply by basically focusing on the people who did complete the purchase. And then sometimes where it was insightful, comparing that to what people said who were planning to buy and seeing how those differed.

Okay, let’s go ahead and just dive into the kind of things that we thought fell into that hierarchy. Should we start with… I think we should start with ‘the surprising but unconvincing’ because we did kind of start with the headline, we went into why we think that this main headline was kind of not an appropriate takeaway, not a valid takeaway from the data, and so I feel like that leads into that third bucket, things that would be surprising but that was entirely unconvincing and unsupported by the data. And then we’ll work our way up to what we thought were the key takeaways of the article, which would be the ones that were surprising and convincing. Does that sound good?

[Jeff Cassidy]

Sure, I think either way we start at the same place. Which is the very first paragraph of the article is something that I think is incorrect, so ‘fewer than half of the people looking for mattresses use reviews as part of their shopping journeys’

[Mike Magnuson]

I mean it’s it says 47% which right off the bat, we’d say okay well actually this study the data said 51% because you gotta throw-

[Jeff Cassidy]

That’s right, it’s bundling the two-

[Mike Magnuson]

It’s bundling the two, you got to throw out the ones who talked about what they’re planning to do because that’s irrelevant. But 51% of people who were actual buyers said they used reviews, so that’s the real number. It was a little over half. But then even the summary goes on to the site, two studies from other categories said more than 90% of people read reviews before making a purchase decision especially for big-ticket items so that immediately raises the question of, why would mattresses, clearly a big-ticket item that people don’t know a lot about, why would they be so much lower? I think the most damning disconnect here, which is just 100% contradictory, is the fact that there’s a question later on in the survey that asks “what were the most important criteria to their final decision?” So again this is the same group of people, the 300 and some people who bought a mattress, 73% of this same group of people said online reviews. How is it possible that three-quarters of the respondents said online reviews were important to making their final decision when only half-read online reviews? It doesn’t make any sense, it makes no sense whatsoever. It just goes to show the data is garbage on this particular point, because clearly, they didn’t understand the question, the way the first question was written. After all, those two pieces of data do not make sense together. And the second question was phrased a lot more clearly, “what are the most important things..” and it’s like online reviews., right there, boom. 73% of people check that box. The first question it said, what was the exact wording-

[Jeff Cassidy]

“Which of the following were part of your shopping experience BEFORE you purchased your mattress?”

[Mike Magnuson]

Then there are ten choices, that’s a lot of choices, then the choice that involves reviews is phrased awkwardly, it says “searching for and reading online reviews”. That’s the only choice in the whole list, that has a compound like an “and” in there. I guess people could be confused, to check that box they had to do both of those things, they had to search for and read online reviews, that’s one possible confusion point and maybe they felt like I read online reviews but I didn’t search for them or something like that. 

[Jeff Cassidy]

The word search comes first which implies that’s the most important thing. And if you’re going to go to a retailer’s website, if you’re going to Google, if you’re anywhere online, you’re going to see reviews. They’re not the same-

[Mike Magnuson]

And that leads me to another thing that was confusing perhaps, other than the reviews answer, four of the other answers that people could select of the 10 so basically half of the total 10 in aggregate, placed people could find reviews. Looking at online retailer’s websites that’s one that you obviously would find reviews, google searches is one you find reviews, social media you’d find reviews, and reviewing “miscellaneous” online resources seems like a place you could find reviews. They could have just thought that the reviews were kind of captured somewhere else in one of those other four choices or whatever. I would even argue that the first choice was phrased awkwardly, the one with retailer’s websites says “looking at online retailers/websites”. So if you went to a mattress review website, you might think that’s captured under that one. Retailer/website, well this was an online website, right? That falls into our online retailer/website. It’s just phrased so awkwardly. By the way, I’m not necessarily saying that if we had looked at these questions in advance we would have seen all these potential pitfalls immediately, but what is clear is that when you get the data back and it’s completely contradictory, to not only within the same survey and the same pool of respondents giving you completely contradictory answers, but also contradictory with kind of common sense and every other survey that’s ever been done. That’s when you have to look at and go ‘oh whoops this wasn’t phrased ideally’, we have to just own it, and we can’t make a grand conclusion from that.

And then you look at some of the numbers and they and they just don’t make sense, like it says only 56% of buyers went to retailer websites in their purchase journey, like how is that possible, especially when you keep in mind this was done during COVID. In this same survey, it says 54% of these same people bought their mattress online, well obviously if you buy your mattress online you have to go to the retailer’s website, so basically if you didn’t buy online, you never went to a retailer’s website during your entire purchase journey, that doesn’t make any sense. Because I would guess for example that if you buy in that retailer store, there’s probably at least a 50% chance during COVID especially, that you went to that retailer’s website at some point during your purchase journey, at least. There’s no way that it’s zero, which is what this data would suggest. That was one thing, it just did not make sense.

Another thing that didn’t make sense, was it said how many people used Google? And only 54% of the respondents said they used Google. Who doesn’t use Google when you’re searching for something you don’t know how to buy? like a mattress or whatever, anything. I mean I could see as a few people, maybe if you’re just a hardcore Amazon user, you just only go straight to Amazon or something like that. But there’s no way that only 54% of the people buying a mattress use Google, I mean that’s just insane, so that didn’t make any sense. 

[Jeff Cassidy]

Also, this is a tiny point, but to the point of precision and wording in surveys and how it matters, maybe in the actual wording the survey taker saw it mentioned search engines in general, but there would be some small percentage of people who used Bing or use… or use Yahoo with some other search engine. That’s a small thing, but I only bring it up to the point of precision and wording in surveys is important, it can dramatically affect the data.

[Mike Magnuson]

Even honestly, if the people were answering just as it relates to Google specifically, it’s still way too low. I mean Google’s market share is like 90% or 80%  or something like that, so there’s just no way that only 54% of mattress shoppers use Google. if you, by the way, tell me that 54% of people use Google, and 51% online reviews. I’ll tell you that means that almost everyone uses online reviews, because I know almost everyone uses Google. I’m basically ready to just take all these numbers up, and I also know that 56% of people using the retailer’s website seems low, so it just feels like every response here was super low, it didn’t make any sense. They should all be kind of taken way up, or at least some of these most common ones should be taken way up.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Let me just put some other context around that. Two years ago, I think it was two years ago, Furniture today did a study that they presented at a bedding conference that Restonic sponsored and it was a similar type of survey around the customer journey. That one said 80% of mattress shoppers do research online. In this study, they said it was-

[Mike Magnuson]

90% use online research- 

[Jeff Cassidy]

It said 8% said they had shopped or would shop in-store exclusively. So 92% of people in this survey data, 92% go online. So 92% compared to 56% for retailer websites, 54% for Google. That compared to 92% doesn’t make any sense.

[Mike Magnuson]

You’re going online, what are you doing online? if you’re not going to Google, you’re not going to retailer’s websites, and you’re not reading reviews, what are you doing online?

[Jeff Cassidy]

It’s also interesting that in question one, manufacturer websites; aren’t even on there.

[Mike Magnuson]

They left that off, I thought that was very curious too because that seems like a logical thing that people would select as part of their journey. I also thought it was super confusing that there were two separate, but almost identical choices, for whether you went to a retail store. Again the question was “which of the following were part of your shopping experience before you purchased your mattress?” One of the choices is “visiting a brick and mortar mattress retailer” another one of the choices is “visiting a brick and mortar retailer/department store that also sells mattresses”. Why would you have both of those choices? I’m not even sure what the difference is between those, other than the one that mentions department stores. If you’re going to distinguish between department stores and other types of retailers, do that. Otherwise, why are you even having two choices at all if the main thing you’re trying to figure out is did you go to a store that sells mattresses, why not just say that. Why have two choices? If you wanted to say, did you go to a store that sells only mattresses? or did you go to a store that sells mattresses and other things? Fine do that, but that’s not how this is phrased. That was another odd thing.

[Jeff Cassidy]

That’s one thing in analyzing the data, you could say, for example, I want my percentage to be somebody who responded positively to either one of those- 

[Mike Magnuson]

But from looking at the data you don’t have any way of knowing how many people selected either one of those. We know that basically, 41% selected one and 39% selected the other, but that doesn’t mean that only 40% of people went to a store, it could mean that 80% of people went to a store, and nobody selected both of those choices, we just don’t know. Another thing that I was confused about was one of the choices was, ‘looking through miscellaneous books/magazines and pamphlets’ Again manufacturer websites are not on the list, but looking at miscellaneous books magazines, and pamphlets are on the list, I don’t even know what that is. Is this like Thomas Payne wrote something about mattresses and people are referring to that? like who’s reading a book about mattresses to help them in their shopping journey. And yet 20% of people selected that choice, so I have no idea what they were referring to, or what people were thinking of when they selected that choice. I guess I could imagine a magazine article about buying a mattress, that’s the only kind of thing that I can imagine falling into-

[Jeff Cassidy]

To your point, the fact that you and I both have different readings of that, emphasizes your point which is it’s confusing. I would read that if I was the survey taker, I would see a magazine and I would say ‘oh okay they’re asking about ads’, so did I see an ad in a magazine or some architectural big fancy book or something? My interpretation would be ad, but to your point, it’s not necessarily-

[Mike Magnuson]

They didn’t even lead with magazines, it’s in the middle between books and pamphlets, and they didn’t mention the word ad at all. 

[Jeff Cassidy]

Or something like direct mail, I imagine you do as well, I get direct mail pieces from manufacturers sometimes, actually, I got one today. That would be something I would interpret it-

[Mike Magnuson]

Maybe all those people read the Dos Marcos book, that’s probably what it was. That just shows…. that’s why this thing is an Amazon bestseller. I think a lot of mattress shoppers are reading that thing, that’s my new theory.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Yeah almost 20%, That’s pretty good-

[Mike Magnuson]

Almost 20% of people hit Dos Marcos. 

[Jeff Cassidy]

Well luckily, they didn’t say “listen to Good bed podcasts”, that would have been 60% minimum.

[Mike Magnuson]

Anyways there was a lot of oddness in that, and that’s really to me that was the number one thing that I had in this surprising but unconvincing bucket. It was unfortunate that was the point that was selected to be the headline of the story. Because it’s I believe very misleading as a headline or even as a takeaway at all. Do you have anything else in that bucket of surprising but unconvincing? 

While you look for your next one, I’ll give you another one here. I had another one in that same category of surprising but not convincing. Broader Better Sleep Council research in 2020, asked consumers what type of information they seek when mattress shopping and online reviews came in third on the list 44%, following price comparison at 55% and promotions and sales at 45%. They’re referring to a different survey than they did in 2020, and they’re kind of saying oh this ties out to that because online reviews came in third there. First of all, price comparison and sales and promotions are the same things. That’s all about whether people are going to pay for the mattress. Of course, those two things come in similarly, and of course, those two things come in first, because pricing is going to be critical for any big purchase people make. If you consider pricing and sales and promotions are the same thing, online reviews came in second. And when you consider the fact that price is a zero-sum game, there’s nothing…  If you give a little bit on price, you’re taking a little bit from yourself. There’s no finding a win-win in price online reviews are the most important factor that a retailer or manufacturer can use to create value. So to cite that data and say previous research also showed that online reviews are not that important, or to even suggest that, is completed again a misleading takeaway in my view. Because really what they should be taking away from that data, is that online reviews are the number one thing that a retailer manufacturer can use to create value. Because they’re the number one thing people care about behind price, which you can’t create value with. 

[Jeff Cassidy]

Another one that I had was, in the article they said “while mattress purchasers made less frequent use of consumer, review sites they ranked them first in terms of usefulness in their shopping journey, of respondents who recently purchased a mattress, 62% ranked consumer websites in the top two in terms of usefulness” This just doesn’t make sense to me, the consumer review sites can be the most important, yet they were so infrequently referenced as part of the-

[Mike Magnuson]

Yeah, it was very confusing, the portion of people who were asked that question, were not all of the people. It was only the 51% of people who said that they used reviews, even got asked that question. So it’s like 160 people got asked that question. Then on top of that, it’s super confusing because the summary says consumer review websites but the question that they’re citing that data from the answer said consumer review website, singular,  parentheses. Meaning consumer reports, really what they should have said is that consumer reports. 62% of people who said they looked at reviews and said they looked at consumer reports, said that consumer reports were one of the top two sources of reviews that they used. It’s not even measured by everybody who said they use reviews, it’s not even that entire 160 that’s based on. It’s based on the subset of that 160, which is already a subset of the 300 and some, who bought the mattress in the last two months. it’s the subset who said that you used consumer reports, and then something like a quarter of those people said it was their number one, which was rather low, but then a lot of people put it as number two. When they put it in the summary it reads like consumer review websites, plural, it’s not at all clear. Anyways that was very confusing, but that’s what that data means. 

[Jeff Cassidy]

Okay, so great point on what you just said. I hadn’t read it that way, to the point of not being clear, it was confusing to me too. That same point is in their question six on the survey, and in the article, it was “somewhat surprisingly given relatively low use of review sites, online reviews ranked relatively high in terms of importance in shoppers purchase decision”

[Mike Magnuson]

Exactly. That’s the point I made earlier. That three-quarters of people who took this survey said that online reviews were really important to their purchase decision. That’s absolutely an impossible statistic, if the other one, that 51% of people, read reviews in the first place was to be true. It’s just the two cannot be true together. And one of them is phrased a lot more clearly than the other, that one also happens to jive with common sense and every other survey that’s ever been done. So if I’m putting my money on which one of those is right, I’m putting it on the second one, the three quarters.

[Jeff Cassidy]

By the way, that ties very closely to the Furniture Today Restonic research, where it was north of 73%. 73% online reviews for Baby Boomers, 76% for Gen X, 83% for Millennials-

[Mike Magnuson]

That was for mattresses, right? That wasn’t general research? 

[Jeff Cassidy]

That was mattress specific, and it was two years ago 2018-  early 2019 I think.

[Mike Magnuson]

I had another thing that refutes this point,  this data that only 51% of people use reviews or whatever, there was a comment like 52% of consumers who used reviews went to mattress review websites. Which is by the way already given their data, it’s 52% of a subset of the total, it’s 52% of 51%,  they’re saying 27% of buyers go to mattress review websites. This doesn’t even remotely add upright when you say that 27% of all buyers report they went to mattress review sites. There are roughly 20 million mattresses sold a year right? Do some rough math here, 20 million mattresses sold, that’s 27% would be a little over 5 million people. Okay, Goodbed alone has seen about four million mattress shoppers in the past year. Then you take the other 140 mattress review websites that we track, and you aggregate all of their traffic, I guarantee you aggregate all their traffic across YouTube and their websites, and what have you, you’re going to get at least 10 to 20 X our traffic. That’s 40 to 80 million people, now granted that’s I understand there’s double-counting because some people go to more than one site, I also understand that there are some people who are on these sites and don’t end up buying, but there’s no way that 40 to 80 million comes down to five. There’s a 0.0 chance that only 5 million of the 20 million people who bought a mattress in the past year or whatever, even if it’s 25 million, even if it was a big year, there’s a 0.0 chance that number is only 5 million or whatever. There’s no way that all those people are on these review sites, our site, other sites, the content isn’t that interesting. We’ve said this a million times,  if anyone can say that it’s us, we can say it about our content, it’s just not that interesting unless you’re shopping for a mattress. I mean there’s a 0.0 chance that number ties out to actual empirical observable data about the number of people visiting these 100 plus mattress review sites. Again it just doesn’t pass the smell test and it’s directly contradicted by other much more reliable data than a 300 person survey. 

[Jeff Cassidy]

I have another one, it’s a further field. But it was actually from the bullet point summary on the actual survey that was on their website, and it was “close to two-thirds prefer to receive their mattress folded rolled or compressed’. That from the summary on the survey itself,  and there’s nothing in the survey data that’s about preference.

[Mike Magnuson]

Right it said what do you expect will happen or what was it, one of the two.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Exactly, it was nothing about preference. That’s huge… If somebody’s trying to make decisions based on this data, which I doubt that they are, but if they were you’d be making a faulty assumption. which is ‘oh my gosh, we should try and make all our beds boxed and compressed because that’s what people want’ and no that is saying that’s either what I expect or what happened.

[Mike Magnuson]

Another thing that didn’t make sense in the survey sample was only 25% of buyers ended up buying a spring mattress, what? Only 25% bought a mattress that has low springs, I mean maybe there’s something I don’t know about what’s happening right now out there. I know there have been some shortages with the supply chain, and some areas were hit worse than others. I don’t know, it may be a weird anomaly reflective of the time this survey took place. But it just struck me as odd. It also struck me as super odd, much less forgivably odd, that 20% of the sample size weren’t even looking for a mattress, 10% were looking for a sofa bed, 5% were looking for a futon, and 5% something other. Well, those people should have been eliminated at the screener question, because those are completely different purchases, those are not in any way… you don’t want to merge sofa bed or futon shoppers with mattress shopping. Is not the same thing, they should have been eliminated at the screen request, 20% of the sample size should have been eliminated, that’s significant. That’s a big miss. 

[Jeff Cassidy]

That’s a great point. 

[Mike Magnuson]

Also what was weird amongst the people who remained, and this isn’t like a flaw of the screener, it’s just the weirdness in who these people are. 6% of the prospective shoppers plan to buy a water bed, 6%. And 4% did, that’s what they said at least. 314 people who bought a mattress in the past two months, said they bought a water bed, that’s like 15 people. I mean I’d be surprised if 15 water beds were sold in October and November of 2020, and every single one of those people was in this survey.

[Jeff Cassidy] 

The odds are just crazy, they were all in the survey, that’s amazing.

[Mike Magnuson]

That just makes no sense, so there was a lot of weirdness in the data as well. Let’s move on to the second bucket, the convincing but unsurprising. These are things that I thought were genuine takeaways, but things that we’re not at all surprised to see. The first one I would say is that the portion of buyers who reported going to mattress review sites was seven points higher than the portion of prospective shoppers who plan to use mattress review sites. This is again an example of how you should use the two data sets that they gathered here, you should be comparing what people did amongst the buyer pool, and what people said they were going to do amongst the prospective shopper pool. There was an interesting insight there that seven points more people among the buyers went to mattress review sites than said they were going to amongst the prospective shopper pool. That makes sense to me because you’re a prospective shopper, you have no idea there’s going to be these websites that are focused on mattress reviews, you have no idea that when the second you start googling mattresses that you’re going to see dozens of these things all over your Google search results, you have no idea. That makes sense that a lot more people are going to report that after the fact… 

Another thing was of the people who went to mattress review sites, 30% said they were the number one most useful resource, and over half said they were one of the top two most useful. Think how frightening that is, such a huge portion of people who go to those sites which by and large are spammy deceptive mattress retailers disguised as review sites, that are just selling you the mattresses that make them the most money, that such a high portion of people said that they were one of the most useful resources. That’s a shocking statistic, totally convincing though. and not shocking to see-

[Jeff Cassidy]

That what you’ve been saying and what you presented at the betting conference, ties totally to that supports it.

[Mike Magnuson]

When I say shocking. It’s shocking but it’s not surprising, because we knew that this was the case,  this is why we raised the alarm bell about these sites because they are having such a huge impact on shoppers. 

Another thing convincing but unsurprising, consumers used or planned to consult a wide variety of online review sites, so three to four categories of websites on average, were ticked by the consumers who were asked that question. That makes sense to me, that jives with everything we’ve always seen. That people are not relying on one source only, they want to feel like they’re “doing their homework” so they consult multiple sources or even multiple categories of types of sources. That made sense. 

Another one was for people who read reviews, retailer and manufacturer websites were both listed in the top three most visited places for reviews, however, neither retailer nor manufacturer websites were in the top three most useful places that those people visited. This underscores is a key way that we Goodbed are really going to be able to help retailers and manufacturers in 2021. By helping them show more and better reviews on their websites, because clearly people are going to these websites, they’re part of the journey but they’re not finding these websites as useful as they could be.By the way, what were the top three most useful places that they visited? it was all places where you’d get reviews, where you get third-party validation. It was… we talked about consumer reports, it was social media, it was retailers like basically amazon where you’re getting reviews. There’s no reason why retailer manufacturer websites shouldn’t be in that top three, we’re going to help them get there.

[Jeff Cassidy]

And the traditional manufacturers and traditional retailers, they have low numbers of reviews, both for products and for stores. So in those places where people are seeing consumer reviews, those are not the retailer manufacturer websites, there are these other sites that suck people into buying something else. That’s a huge problem that we, like you said, we are excited to help solve.

[Mike Magnuson]

Moving to another example of convincing but unsurprising, reviews housed on retailers websites ranked first amongst the most popular review sources, with 57% of consumers who read reviews or planned to read reviews saying that they had visited or would visit those sites. That makes sense, retailer reviews on e-tailor’s site we’re tied for second most popular. By the way, popular here does not refer to the most useful, it refers to the most utilized. Just again that sort of just goes with the previous point I made before, that people were going to look for reviews on these websites, but in the end they didn’t find them as useful and that’s where we can help. 

We talked a little bit about this next data point. 73% of buyers said online reviews were important to their final purchase decision, this again convincing to me, this totally jives with other data as you pointed out, but not at all surprising. This is what we would have expected, at least three quarters of people think online reviews are important to their final decision. This by the way was 11 points more than the mattress brand, okay so reviews are more important than match spread. Again I put it in there in the convincing but unsurprising category though, because I really do think that reviews people come into this category they don’t bring a lot of brand loyalty in our experience, they’re looking to see… show me what you’ve got, like what can you do for me, you know like and show me the prooft in the reviews. And by the way, reviews are also 20 points higher than recommendations from friends and family, so again I think that’s a worthwhile point to note but unsurprising that people in this category will value reviews from strangers over recommendations from friends and family. 

[Jeff Cassidy]

It’s good that recommendations from friends and family are lower.

[Mike Magnuson]

It’s good because of friends and family tend to be misleading-

[Jeff Cassidy]

Yeah or potentially completely irrelevant-

[Mike Magnuson]

Yeah that’s why they’re misleading, because they’re not relevant to that- 

[Jeff Cassidy]

Another one that was convincing but not surprising, 54% of people had bought or planned to buy online compared to 41% bought  or planned to buy in a store. That’s not surprising, it ties very closely to what we see in our own data, so that was one just reinforced-

[Mike Magnuson]

During COVID, that’s like a COVID-

[Jeff Cassidy]

Yeah and this is a COVID period study too. Another one that was not surprising but also convincing, and good to see data was,  people willing to travel 20 to 40 minutes to a store. That might be thought of as a lot by some people-

[Mike Magnuson]

That’s  80%. It was 80% would travel up to 40 minutes-

[Jeff Cassidy]

Yeah 80%, not surprising to us. it’s something you’ve been saying for a while too, that people are willing to drive much further than you’d think and this data supported that.

[Mike Magnuson]

I agree, and totally unsurprising as you said, I’ve been saying that for years. But it does directly contradict conventional industry wisdom, which is that people will go to the closest store. That’s the whole reason we have so many stores, that’s the whole reason why any given chain has so many stores in the same market, is because there’s this conventional wisdom that people are just going to go to the one next to them,  so we better have one next to them. Because if the competitors are closer, we’ll lose that business. I’ve been saying for years that if you do a good job online, and you got found online, and you make yourself the place that people want to go based on how you present yourselves online. That measures way more, and people will drive way further, they’ll drive right past 10 of your competitors’ stores to get to yours. Because their journey is moving online and the decision of their journey is moving online. By the way, on that point of the decision journey moving online, in this same bucket of convincing but not surprising, there was a statistic one-third of consumers who reported shopping entirely online still made their purchase in a physical store. That was something that was written in the summary article that just made no sense.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Did it say they made their purchase or their decision was finalized?

[Mike Magnuson

“One-third of consumers who reported shopping entirely online, still made their purchase in a physical store” That was the direct quote from the article. This obviously doesn’t make any sense-

[Jeff Cassidy]

Because if you didn’t do it all online, you bought it in a store-

[Mike Magnuson]

Yeah, especially because the reason why they went to the store, it was later in that same sentence or that same paragraph, it said that the reason they went to the store was to try and test the products and compare them, so if you went to the store to try and test and compare well clearly your entire journey was not online. You had a critical step there, in my mind a critical step, but what I think is an important takeaway from that, is that it speaks to the point that in the consumer’s mind their journey was entirely online. Even though yeah they went to the store at the end, and they tried it and compared it and whatever, in their consumer’s mind, all their decision was pretty much made with their online research. That last step was a perfunctory step, and so from the retailer’s standpoint, it’s really critical to understand that particular takeaway of this data point. Because that means unless you showed up online, when they were doing their research and were compelling as a reason to shop there, you were never going to be the store where they did that perfunctory last step. You were never going to be that, only the ones who showed up online were going to be the ones who got that step and who ended up getting that sale. That really came through in this data as well, but again not surprising because we’ve been saying all that stuff all along. 

Another one I put in this category, low hanging fruit, 90% of all shoppers as you pointed out earlier used at least one online information source in their buyer journey, I mean to us if anything that seems low, because we know that so many people use online. But easily 90% that surely makes sense. Another one, more than 55% of online buyers included online reviews in their journey while only 38% of in-store buyers did so, also about 80% of online purchasers ranked online reviews as a top two influence while only 65% of in-store buyers gave it a similar rank. So essentially in-store buyers would not say online reviews are quite as important as online buyers, because of the fact that of course online buyers have literally nothing else to go on. So for an online buyer, the idea that only 55% of online buyers included eviews in their journey is ridiculous. It’s clearly way higher than that, but the idea that number would be 15 points higher than the equivalent number for in-store shoppers makes some sense to me. Both because of the fact that online shoppers have nothing else to go on, and because of the fact that in-store shoppers often can’t find reviews. They just often aren’t reviews of the products that they’re wanting to buy, it doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t value it, but it wouldn’t compel them to make a purchase if they had been available. But it makes sense to me, given what we know about their journeys today, that a lower number would cite that. So that was all I had in number two, did you have anything else in that second bucket of convincing but unsurprising?

[Jeff Cassidy]

No, no other ones that you didn’t mention.

[Mike Magnuson]

Okay let’s move to the last final bucket, now these are the key takeaways I think for the article: convincing and surprising.

[Jeff Cassidy]

 I’ll tell you what my first one was, retailer websites topping the list of most used or planned for use in the shopping journey. I mean it’s consistent in the data, so I’m predisposed to believe that it’s the case-

[Mike Magnuson]

Just on a relative basis, that would be the highest category.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Right,  and that kind of surprised me honestly. But that’s also a good thing, and an urgent thing for retailers. Which is great, okay cool consumers they want to, they’re coming to my site, and they want to come to my site, that’s great. The flip side of it, is oh crap I gotta make sure that my website represents who I am and gives the information that these consumers need, otherwise they’re out and I lose-

[Mike Magnuson]

I think that was surprising only during COVID,  if it was Pre-COVID I would have been a little bit more surprised by that. But during COVID in my mind-

[Jeff Cassidy]

Because you’d think they would go to the store itself?

[Mike Magnuson]

Yeah because Pre-COVID some people would just go to the store, they wouldn’t bother going to the website. But I don’t see a whole lot of people doing that in a COVID world. I think people are generally, even if they’re going to shop in a physical store they’re still going to go to that store’s website before they do so just to see. If nothing else they want to minimize the time they’re spending in the store, just from a safety standpoint. I wasn’t so surprised right now.

I was surprised that over half, according to this study, said 52% of consumers who used reviews went to social media exit, and it was phrased as eg. the brand’s Facebook page for reviews. This was more than consumer reports. I was surprised about that, and it was 14 points higher than the percentage of prospective shoppers who said they plan to use social media for reviews, so I thought that was surprising. Now on the flip side, that contradicts that a little bit, the results do indicate that consumers expect social media reviews to be more useful than they actually are, that was another quote from the article. so ‘while 71% of respondents planning to shop for a mattress said they thought social media reviews would be very useful. Only 54% of respondents who actually bought a mattress actually rated them as one of the most useful. That actually totally ties to my expectations, that particular takeaway, but the fact that they actually went to social media at all was a surprise to me. And it did seem to show up in the data in a few ways it wasn’t  contradicted so I believed it. I also in that same category, was surprised that nearly half of consumers said they went to consumer reports- 

[Jeff Cassidy]

I was surprised by that too.

[Mike Magnuson]

That doesn’t seem right to me, because that would imply a massive amount of traffic that I don’t think empirically they have. It could be the kind of thing people say that they’re going to do, but don’t actually do, or think is a good idea but then when push comes to shove they realize that they don’t even have a subscription.

[Jeff Cassidy]

But that was 49% for the purchasers, where did you go?

[Mike Magnuson]

Oh okay that was the actual purchaser data, even still it surprises me, and it seems a little bit high, But I’ll put it under…  it could have gone in the unconvincing but surprising, but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt, and say I’ll put that in convincing and surprising.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Well they could also..That one reads to me like consumer reports, but it could also be Goodbed in that bucket. I mean we’re the largest platform for consumer reviews, so if somebody went to Goodbed, if I’m looking at that list, if I was the survey taker, I would put Goodbed in that bucket. 

[Mike Magnuson]

it’s possible, it’s hard to say. The next one I had in this category, it was a quote that said “our research suggests that we no longer have in-store shoppers and online shoppers as distinct groups. Almost 75% of consumers said they had shopped or planned to shop both online and in store regardless of where they eventually made or would make their purchase. Only 16% of respondents said they had shopped or would shop exclusively online ,and only 8% said that they would shop exclusively in store”. I was surprised by this, I felt like it was convincing, I put it under the convincing camp but definitely surprising. The reason I think is convincing is because I think this is certainly where we’re going, I’ve been saying that for a long time. But I was surprised that we’d be this close to that already, surprised the data would say that we’re already that far along in that regard. Especially, I was particularly surprised that 16% of people saying they would shop exclusively online. During COVID, I thought that was a very low number, I thought there would be a higher percentage of people who’d say I’m only going to shop online during COVID so to only have 16% of people in that camp seems low to me. 

By the way, I’ll also add it wasn’t at all clear to me where this data came from, because I looked at those questions closely, and I could not figure out any questions of the ones they published that could have told you this even if you knew response by response what people’s selections were. You definitely can’t get there from the aggregated total response data they provided, but even if you had the respondent by respondent answers, I don’t see how from the questions they published you could ever get this data in the first place. So maybe it came from some separate survey or something, nonetheless, I’ll say it’s convincing because I think it’s directionally consistent with where we’ve been saying that we’re headed.

Another one is when they asked the people who had bought a mattress, why they purchased where they did, 30% of online buyers said COVID safety, now this was misquoted in the article. It specifically said, in the article, that 61% of people said COVID safety. That’s false, that was the response to a different question, they’d asked a subset of respondents who had not indicated that they had been to a physical store, they asked why did you not go to a physical store? and 61% of those people said COVID safety as their number one reason. So that was misstated in the article, however it was true that 30% of people who bought online said COVID safety was the reason, the principal reason, why they did so. I thought that was a good thing for Brick and Mortar retailers because obviously that’s temporary, so if 30% of people are saying that COVID safety is why they bought online, great. In 12 months, when hopefully COVID safety is no longer a factor, that goes away and now we’re back to competing on the rest of the factors. 

Amongst the rest of those factors, I thought it was interesting 40% of online buyers said convenient, fast, easy, or free delivery, fast shipping versus only 19% of store buyers citing those reasons as why they bought in a store. So that to me is a fail for Brick and Mortar for the buyers of online to be that much more emphatic about those, what I would lump together as convenience rationale, like convenience factors, for the online buyers to be so much more emphatic about those being a reason to buy online than the in-store buyers were, that’s a fail. Because I feel like Brick and Mortar can do better on that, on convenience. They have advantages over online that they’re not exploiting, like take fast shipping as an example, how could they lose on fast shipping? I mean that should be like a slam dunk for the in-store category. Free delivery? it’s a hell of a cost, a hell of a lot less for a delivery to be made by a local store than it does to be shipped FedEx across the country, how can they lose on that? they should never be losing on that. How could they lose on convenient and fast? you should be able to go there in the morning and at the latest have it there the next day. I mean putting aside the supply chain situation now of course, but under normal situations, you should be able to get it potentially the same day, certainly the next day. So the idea that they’re losing the convenience battle to online is a failure for brick and mortar I would say.

Another one from this same question, 22% of online buyers, said price cost and good deal was the main reason they bought online, versus only 6% of store buyers cited that reason. That’s a gap that I would have expected ,like that online wins the value perception over us in store. That being said, I thought that this gap was closer than I would have thought. Like 22 to 6 is a closer gap than I would have thought. I thought that as a positive thing for the store, that they’re not losing the value perception gap as much as I might have thought. Because that’s to me that in the past that’s really been, outside of COVID, that’s been kind of a really key driver of online’s success is people just think they’re getting more matches for their money. If you feel like you’re not getting good value, you’re going to go elsewhere, I thought that was a closer gap than I might have expected, and that’s a good thing for Brick and Mortar,

Another one from that same question 55% of in-store buyers said their reason for buying in-store was to try it, test it and compare brands. The fact that this is the clear number one reason why people buy in stores, is kind of good and bad. It’s good because it’s something that it’s hard for the online channel to replicate. It’s bad in that it’s not really like a defensible core competency of some… It’s not like a strategic advantage per se. it’s just like-

[Jeff Cassidy]

We have the products there in the-

[Mike Magnuson]

Have the products in the room that happens to be near you, that being said that question didn’t really allow for…  The answers that they provided and that question, didn’t allow for any of the things that I really would consider to be strategic core competencies to show through. For example, there was no option to choose customer service, I mean like that would have been interesting to know, and who wins that perception too? like do online buyers think  that’s a reason to buy online? or do local buyers think that’s the reason to buy local? I would love to know who wins the customer service perception gap. Another one would be salesperson expertise, something along those lines, like that wasn’t even mentioned at all either. Now maybe some people just because it wasn’t mentioned, they bundled it under try it, test it, and compare brands. Like that’s part of that experience perhaps, but we don’t know. I took that as kind of a good and bad that 55% number.

[Jeff Cassidy]

That’s it for my list.

[Mike Magnuson]

Okay so I had one more in this convincing and surprising category, which was and I’ll quote here again the summary “the path to a mattress purchase was relatively short, half of those who bought said they spent one week or less shopping for their new mattress, while only 31% said their shopping lasted more than two weeks” I’ll add to those statistics, so basically 70% of people are making their purchase within two weeks of starting it, and 90 percent are making their purchase within a month of starting that purchase process. I’ll also add that the data from people who purchased, was very similar in this regard, to the data from the prospective shoppers and what they said that they were planning to do in terms of the time they intended to spend on this. We saw a lot of consistency there, so I found this to be convincing but this is even shorter and faster than we’ve seen before, so that’s why I put it under the surprising. In the past, we’ve kind of heard from our users, like 25% of them are looking to buy today, 25% this week, 25% this month, and 25% you know sometime after. That’s data from five-six years ago, maybe more even. This indicates to me that the purchase cycle is being compressed just over time, it’s gotten shorter, and to me the key takeaway for a retailer or manufacturer here, is that it just means that the target you need to hit in your marketing, is even smaller than I would have thought. I’ve been saying to people for a long time, I’ve been using kind of just casually the reference that one percent of people are in the market for a mattress at any given time, and this data would suggest that’s even smaller. It’s more like a half a percent, because I’m saying like you keep a mattress for 10 years so you’re in market once every 10 years, and then you’re in market for like a month-ish you know one-tenth of the year let’s say, well that’s one percent at any given time. Well this is saying, you’re in market on average for less than two weeks,  so even if you’re replacing your mattress more often than once every ten years, it’s still well less than one percent of people who are in the market at any given time. When it comes to spending money on TV and radio and newspapers, I mean it just underscores the point that you’re flushing good money down the toilet, on that average advertising channels, because more than 99 out of 100 people could care less about whatever is you’re saying in your ad. 

Those were kind of the key takeaways I thought in that last group, if we had to come back and just kind of summarize this all, because we did spend almost an hour and a half here on this article. I hope people are still with us, but if we’re summarizing our thoughts I mean really the key thing here to take away is that the headline of this article is completely misleading and wrong. Holistically looking at the data in this article; that takeaway is not in any way substantiated by the results of this survey so it’s a very misleading and unfortunate headline.

What the headline probably should have been is something along the lines of; the takeaway that they posted about mattress shopping today cannot be reduced to a conflict between online and in-store. That basically what we’re seeing is that there’s a lot of people overlap between these two channels, they’re merging together. That’s super insightful as I mentioned, this is something I’ve said, we’re headed in this direction but I was surprised that the data would suggest that we’ve come so far already and it’s probably a function of COVID accelerating things. That’s a hugely insightful takeaway and it was supported by the data, that’s what the headline of this article should have been.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Yeah. For me, it’s that over the past couple of years the percentage of people whose journey takes place online has grown and we’re pushing 100%. That reviews are one of the most important influencers for shoppers and that retailer sites in particular and manufacturer sites as well are very important and are something that consumers are going to. And for us, and how we can help and how we want to help is that we can help the retailer and manufacturer websites become more valuable and more effective for the shopper by giving them what they want on there, which is good third-party validation in the form of customer reviews. So, the good thing for a retailer is more people are wanting to visit my website, are visiting my website, and are planning to visit my website than I would have thought. So, I have a big opportunity there.

[Mike Magnuson]

And the other good thing is that we’re going to be able to help them.

Yeah. Alright, well said, there you have it. That’s our takeaway on this new Better Sleep Council study and if you like what you hear, please subscribe and leave us a review on whatever podcast platform that you use, that will help other people find this podcast. So, in the meantime we thank everybody here for listening and especially for sticking with us this long in this kind of special episode of Mike It Up. That’s it for us, we’re out.

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