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Ashley aims to change mattress shopping experience

Ashley’s Kendra MaggertAshley’s Kendra Maggert holds a tablet computer that consumers can use to help them shop the ZZZ’s by Ashley sleep stores.
ARCADIA, Wis. - The entrance to the new ZZZ's by Ashley sleep stores doesn't resemble a traditional mattress store, and that's no accident. Ashley is aiming to break new ground in the mattress shopping experience.
     These stores look different, smell different and act different, providing a high-tech retail experience through the use of tablet computers offered to each shopper for use throughout the store.
     Consumers who enter the store will be greeted by a fresh, clean scent and a circular lobby whose walls are stocked with sleep accessories. No mattresses are in the entrance area - a big departure from most sleep shops.
     Consumers are greeted and can place their bags and coats in a locker, then slip into a pair of comfy slippers - a touch female consumers say they appreciate. The shoppers can lock the locker and take the key with them while they browse the store.
     Each customer will be given the choice of shopping with the aid of a hand-held tablet computer - with a strap for the hand on the back - or a retail sales associate.
     The tablet, which features proprietary Ashley software, enables consumers to find mattresses that meet their body types and sleeping styles. Consumers type in information about themselves and the tablet recommends specific mattresses they should check out. The tablet has a digital image showing all of the beds in the stores and notes which beds are recommended.
     The tablets also show consumers how all of the mattresses in the store are rated by consumers who purchased them. The ratings will range from one to five stars. Consumers who click on the ratings can read testimonials from consumers who purchased the beds. The ratings will be updated as additional feedback is received.
     Ashley's research found that consumers are extremely interested in consumer ratings on key products they purchase. Officials said most mattresses don't carry consumer ratings, which are easily found on many other major consumer purchases.
     Before consumers leave the circular entrance area, they will be invited to pick the pillow that fits their sleeping style. The options include a dual-sided memory foam pillow, a traditional gel pillow, a Tempur Cloud pillow, a latex contour pillow, a memory foam contour pillow and a gel contour pillow.
     Consumers can place the pillow of their choice in a protective bag with a carry strap, making it easy for them to carry the pillow throughout the store and use it on various beds. The shoppers can take that bag with them when they leave the store. They can also take the slippers.
     The stores emphasize the benefits of better sleep. The in-store music lineup includes regular insertions of better sleep tips, and tips are also displayed throughout the store on wall placards. For example, Sleep Tip No. 65 says: "Eat earlier. Finish eating at least two to three hours before bedtime."
     The images in the store are clean and airy, and "resonate with the sense of a good night's sleep," the company said.
     "They're not cold or antiseptic. Rather, they are clean, uncluttered, simple and inviting. The graphics communicate the energy to start a new day."
     This emphasis on the power of a good night's sleep is another key differentiator in the stores; most sleep shops tout low prices and don't promote better sleep, Ashley said. Sheer curtains help provide a sense of privacy in the store. The beds in the store are arranged by construction: Innerspring, hybrid, latex, gel and memory foam. Construction features are emphasized in each room, and on the tablets that shoppers carry with them.
     Promotional beds are not floored. Instead, they displayed standing on their sides.

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