As founder of a mattress information website, people often ask me what I think of the information that Consumer Reports provides about mattresses. This question comes up enough that I thought I’d share my answer publicly.
What do I think about Consumer Reports mattress information?
Let me start by saying that I love Consumer Reports. I’m a big fan of their mission and methodology, and a long-time reader of their publications. When I bought my last car, Consumer Reports was an invaluable resource. I’ve also used their information to guide other major household purchases, such as kitchen appliances. In fact, before starting GoodBed, I even read through their many articles about mattresses and found a number of useful ‘shopping tips’ in them.
That said, when it comes to providing specific recommendations about which mattress to buy, Consumer Reports is perennially stymied. The thing is, the heart of their model is in making ‘one-size-fits-all’ recommendations based on deep first-hand research of select products. However, in the mattress category, this approach has two critical downfalls:
Problem #1: There is NO ‘best mattress’ for everyone.
This is perhaps the first thing that every mattress shopper should know. In fact, there is not even such a thing as a ‘great mattress’ for everyone. Not even at a given price point. In short, this is a complete fallacy. As a fan of Consumer Reports, it’s very disappointing to see them perpetuate this fundamental misunderstanding. The reality is that everyone’s mattress needs are unique — depending (for example) on your body’s specific size and shape, and your personal comfort preferences.
Mattresses are actually more like pants than they are like washing machines. As such, publishing a list of the ‘best mattresses’ is kinda like saying the ‘best pair of pants’ is the Levi’s 535 Jeggings in a size 7 Long. Obviously, it would be crazy to recommend this exact pair of pants for everyone…
Unfortunately, most consumers don’t know this about mattresses, and might well make the mistake of relying on Consumer Reports’ recommendations. This will surely lead to unhappy consumers — and perhaps even unhappier retailers, who’ll need to deal with the resulting returns, comfort exchanges, negative consumer reviews, and the like.
Problem #2: Each mattress shopper needs to be matched with a specific model.
Choosing the right mattress is like being ‘fitted’ with a product that is tailored to your personal needs and preferences. To have confidence in your decision, you need information about the exact model you’re considering, and how it works for people like you. General information about that brand or about another model from that brand is not sufficient — and can even be completely misleading.
Unfortunately for Consumer Reports, there are thousands of available mattress models at any given time. Yes, sometimes the same model is sold under multiple different names, but knowing (with confidence) when this is the case is nearly impossible. And even models that share the same name often come in several comfort levels (eg, Firm, Plush, Cushion Firm, etc.), which usually gives them very different characteristics.
So, how many models are covered in the heavily promoted new study from Consumer Reports (forthcoming in the May 2013 issue)? A grand total of 12 models. For context, the average retail store shows 40-60 unique models on their sales floor, and there are many thousands of models listed on GoodBed from across the country. Unfortunately, if you’re considering one of these thousands of other models, you’re out of luck.
So, is there a better approach to mattress information?
Having focused exclusively on this problem for several years now, we believe that mattress shoppers need the following:
- Information about specific models that are available in your area.
- Ratings for those models from people like you.
Can GoodBed provide this? In short, yes we will. But, in order to create a resource that will finally help consumers choose the right mattress (and buy it with confidence), we’re going to need a little help from those of you that share our beliefs that everyone deserves a good night’s sleep, and that shopping for a mattress doesn’t have to suck…
Is there hope for Consumer Reports in the mattress category?
As I said earlier, Consumer Reports is a great organization with a noble mission. In many ways, our mission is to be the Consumer Reports of the mattress category. We aspire to the level of trust and respect that Consumer Reports has earned over its many years. And yet, our dedicated focus on mattresses allows us to develop a specialized solution that meets the unique needs of this category in a way that a generalist publication could never do.
At the same time, I also believe there are things that Consumer Reports can do that will be harder for us to offer. For example, scientific studies of durability require specialized equipment, a large laboratory, and significant expertise in testing and measuring such things. Predicting durability is a very important question in the area of mattresses. We hope to see more from Consumer Reports in this area, and we would even be interested in partnering with them in this regard.
In the meantime, I hope Consumer Reports will refrain from misleading consumers into thinking they can rely on a ‘one-size-fits-all’ list of mattress recommendations. Mattress shoppers are confused, and desperate for a simple answer like a list of the ‘best mattresses.’ It’s incumbent upon reputable information sources like Consumer Reports to protect them from this type of misinformation, not foist it upon them.
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In a recent post, I talked about some key highlights from 2012 here at GoodBed. While it’s always fun to reflect back on our progress, it’s even more important that we share with you — our community of mattress shoppers and mattress business owners — a clear vision for where GoodBed will be going in the coming year. Internally, we have come to refer to these plans as “GoodBed 2.0“.
Key Goals for 2013
In 2013, we’re focused on 3 main goals:
- Increase consumer feedback — especially from consumers that would not have ordinarily taken the time to share feedback about their mattress (many of whom are happy with their experience). This will result in far more useful data for mattress shoppers, and will help business owners be represented much more fairly and accurately.
- Quantify our impact – our key focus here is on tracking and measuring our ability to connect consumers with great products at great local stores. This is, after all, the main way we create a win-win for both consumers and businesses. So we all need a way to know how we’re doing on this!
- Make people want to share GoodBed — to be sure, part of this is simply creating a great service. But a service like ours gets more valuable to you the more people are using it. Consumers benefit from more manufacturer and retailer participation, retailers benefit from more manufacturer and consumer participation, and manufacturers benefit from more retailer and consumer participation. So it’s important that we provide you with tools that get others to participate.
Almost everything we do this year will be tied to one or more of these goals!
New Initiatives from GoodBed
To meet the goals listed above, the way consumers interact with GoodBed is going to change over the coming year. In the new and improved interface (being referred to as GoodBed 2.0), we will help guide mattress shoppers through the entire process of deciding what and where to buy. While we’re not ready to share our entire road map for the year, here’s a sneak peak at a few exciting things we have in store for Q1!
Well over 90% of mattresses are purchased in local stores — so what kind of a solution would we be if we didn’t provide a tool that consumers can take with them while they’re actually out shopping?! The GoodBed Mobile app will focus on helping consumers to evaluate beds and choose the best one for them. Most consumers tell us that when they’re laying on a bed, they don’t know what they should be thinking about, or how to tell whether it’s a good fit for them. This app will give them a better way to compare and evaluate the beds as they try them, and to remember what they like and don’t like about each one.
Note that this is NOT a “showrooming” app. This app is simply about helping consumers choose the right bed for them.
Consumers that want to shop with the benefit of the GoodBed Mobile app will be directed to participating retailers, where the app will be most useful. For participating retailers, an even bigger benefit will be the increased ratings they collect on their products — as products are rated by more consumers, they will stand out more on GoodBed, which in turn attracts more and more consumers to the stores that carry them.
The GoodBed Quiz is a new tool that will help people find beds available in their area that match their personal mattress criteria. Ultimately, we expect that many consumers will use the GoodBed Quiz as a starting point for their mattress search. After providing their criteria, we’ll help mattress shoppers discover brands that may be of interest to them, as well as specific models they should be considering. From there, consumers will be able to compare these choices, do further research on them, and keep track of the products they like best by adding them to their Saved List. Then, we’ll let them know what store(s) they should visit in order to go try their Saved Beds in person.
For consumers, this tool will help them narrow the increasingly large and complex universe of available mattress choices. For participating manufacturers and retailers, this will provide a great way to drive increased visibility, interest, and purchase intent amongst active mattress shoppers. Even moreso, the GoodBed Quiz enables us to deliver more personalized information, which is especially important in the mattress category, since every person’s mattress needs are unique.
When coupled with GoodBed Mobile, the Quiz provides us with additional metrics related to our ability to connect people with products and stores that they like, as well as the opportunity to collect more consumer feedback.
Although we’ve always allowed consumers to share feedback about specific products and stores, we’ll now be making this much easier to do. Consumers will be able to share their feedback by simply answering a few multiple choice questions. Of course, those people that would like to add some words of their own will still be able to do so, but this will no longer be required. We expect this streamlined process will yield participation from a much broader group of consumers, and the standardized format of these ratings will allow us to glean many useful insights from this data.
In connection with this new short review form, we’ll also be initiating a new outreach program to our users. Simply put, we’ll be asking our users to do one small thing in return for getting our help in finding the right bed: pay it forward. All this means is that we’ll send out an email in 60 days asking a few multiple-choice questions about which bed you bought and how you like it. We believe this simple request will allow us to collect valuable feedback from people that otherwise would not have thought to come back and review their bed.
At GoodBed, our whole reason for being is to solve problems for you. More specifically, this means: 1) giving consumers confidence in choosing the right mattress for them, and 2) giving mattress companies a better way to attract new customers.
We’re sharing this roadmap with you in the hopes of engaging you in our vision. We want you to know what things we’re focused on, and what to expect from us in the future. By the same token, we hope you’ll offer us your input and support along the way. Together, we can make mattress shopping (and mattress advertising) so much better!!
Please reach out to us — either in the comments or otherwise — to let us hear your comments, questions, compliments or concerns!
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As we all become more conscious of our impact on the environment, it’s only natural that our attention should ultimately turn to the disposal of our mattresses. Mattresses are huge bulky objects comprised of foam, fiber and springs. And in most cases, the materials in your mattress aren’t going to biodegrade anytime soon while sitting in a landfill.
Fortunately, the mattress industry itself has started to focus on this issue. Rather than have regulations imposed state by state, ISPA (the nation’s largest mattress industry association) is now working with a state senator in California to spearhead a mattress recycling initiative that could conceivably be copied by many other states. Given California’s trend-setting track record with adopting progressive regulations and leading changes in consumer behavior, this seems like a very smart move by the industry — history shows that in matters like this, where California goes the rest of the nation will ultimately follow.
Another smart move by the industry has been to work with key industry players to build support for their initiative. As one example, leading California-based mattress retailer Sleep Train has already expressed their support for the efforts underway here in their home state.
The cost of inaction by the mattress industry would undoubtedly be high — first to companies that make and sell mattresses, but ultimately to consumers as well. Early evidence already shows that without a clear blueprint to follow, state-level mattress recycling regulations will happen, and are likely to vary widely from state to state. This would force mattress manufacturers and retailers to adapt their practices on a state by state basis — a very costly prospect. And as with all things, a significant portion of this added cost is sure to be passed along to the end consumers. As such, the alternative of a well thought-out plan that originates in one of our most progressive states seems like a win for all parties.
In light of these circumstances, we urge consumers and businesses to get behind the effort being led by CA state senator Lou Correa to put together a thoughtful approach to mattress recycling. With the success of this effort, we look forward to seeing vastly increased adoption of mattress recycling practices, both here in California as well as more broadly across the U.S.
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Happy New Year from all of us at GoodBed! With the dawn of a new year, it feels like a good time for some public reflection — both on where we’ve come from and where we’re going.
2012 was a record year for GoodBed. Here’s a look at some brief highlights from the past 12 months:
- Audience growth — 1.2 million mattress shoppers reached (the #1 research destination for mattress shoppers)
- Mattress community growth — hundreds of mattress businesses have now ‘claimed‘ their GoodBed profiles, including 80% of the top 15 bedding manufacturers
- GoodBed 101 — launched series of simple tips to help business owners maximize their claimed GoodBed profile
- Simplified profile admin for manufacturers — adding / removing dealers, editing product tags, adding new models
- Simplified profile admin for retailers — bulk store uploads, updating available brands & models
- Self-service display advertising — easy process, low minimum order size, guaranteed placement
- Site redesign — improved navigation, more premium look & feel
- New review summaries — rating breakdowns based on most common praise & complaints
- More product & store data — significantly improved coverage of what products are sold in what stores
- Mattress Expert Q&A — answers now being provided by over 30 active mattress experts
What a year! And of course, there were many more things that didn’t make this list!
That said, while we are certainly very proud of what we’ve accomplished to-date, we are by no means satisfied with where we are. In the context of our ultimate goals for how we can help both consumers and mattress businesses, there is still much to be done.
In our next post, we’ll provide some insight into where we are headed this coming year. We believe that 2013 is poised to be a truly break-through year for GoodBed, and look forward to sharing our vision with you!
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Get ready for a raft of new product introductions in your local mattress stores. The mattress industry is overflowing with new brands, new product lines, and new features. At the industry’s recent trade show in Las Vegas, virtually every mattress producer showroom was packed with retailers, and most had a variety of new product innovations to show off. Of all the furniture industry markets I have attended in the past few years, this was certainly one of the most exciting and high-energy.
To provide our readers a sense for what the market was like, and what to expect in your local mattress stores in the coming year, I wanted to share this great video from the folks at Sleep Savvy, a leading trade magazine published by the International Sleep Products Association (ISPA). If you like the BeeGees, you may even want to watch it more than once!