Secret shopper study reveals what RSAs say
Staff Staff -- Furniture Today, May 31, 2013
CHANDLER, Ariz. - A secret mattress shopper study commissioned by Furniture/Today in Phoenix found that retail sales associates almost always talk about warranties but spend much less time on sleep and health issues.
The study, presented at Furniture/Today's Bedding Conference here, sparked considerable discussion at the conference.
Other key findings:
► Retail sales associates are zeroing in on comfort, support, durability and mattress construction types, but often fail to personalize the shopping experience by addressing better sleep and health issues.
► By an overwhelming margin, the sales associates are recommending memory foam beds to their customers as providing the best night's sleep.
► With the exception of mattress protectors and encasements, sleep accessories are only occasionally presented to customers by retail sales associates.
The study, which included 20 store visits to mattress specialty stores, furniture stores and department stores in March, offers several important insights into the retail mattress shopping experience and provides a useful snapshot of the product offerings in a major U.S. market, Furniture/Today officials said.
Furniture/Today worked with Shoppers Inc., based in Broken Arrow, Okla., to recruit women between the ages of 30 and 50 - bedding's target customers - for the secret shopper visits, which examined key issues as identified by Furniture/Today.
As the shoppers entered the store, 100% were greeted by a salesperson, and virtually all of the salespeople determined the product they were shopping for and the size of the mattress needed. But construction type preferences came up only 50% of the time, as did sleep issues. Health issues came up just 20% of the time.
Warranties were discussed by 95% of the retail sales associates, the survey found, a higher total than key issues like comfort and support (each discussed by 90% of the RSAs), durability (discussed by 84%) and construction types (discussed by 79%). In contrast, better sleep was discussed by only 20% of the RSAs, while brands and prices were each discussed by 10%.
A total of 85% of the RSAs recommended a specific construction type for getting the best night's sleep, if price was no object. Of those, 88% recommended a memory foam bed, while just 6% recommended an innerspring bed, a figure matched by airbeds. Why did the RSAs like memory foam bed so much? Asked to describe memory foam, 100% of the RSAs said it molds to the body and returns to its original shape, while 70% said it offers consistent support and 65% said it is durable and will last twice as long as other types of beds. But 20% of the RSAs said memory foam beds sleep hot.
The secret shopper visits turned up a lack of focus on sleep accessories. While 75% of the sales associates presented mattress protectors and encasements to their customers, just 30% presented adjustable bases. Pillows were also presented by 30% of the sales associates, with pillow protectors next on the list, presented by 15% of the RSAs. Comforters, mattress toppers and sheets were rarely presented, the study found.
The secret shoppers gave their retail sales associates high scores for many qualities, including being non-threatening, attentive, friendly, professional and helpful. But on the key standard of "connected/related to me," the sales associates got a score of only slightly above average.
The shoppers also said that almost all of the sales associates asked for the sale, and a majority offered financing and delivery options.
Overall, the shoppers were favorably impressed with the stores, with 90% giving them good or excellent scores. Among the most appealing aspects of the stores were good selection and variety of products, cited by 65% of the secret shoppers, and clean stores, cited by 40% of the shoppers.
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