What the Innerspring Mattress Segment Can Teach You About Sales


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These days, virtually everyone in the market for a mattress is familiar with the innerspring variety, which consists of steel coils encased in layers of cushioning material. People bounced on these mattresses as kids, and they save up to buy them as adults. For nearly a century, this simple design has reigned supreme in the mattress industry.

In more recent decades, the innerspring began to face competition for the first time in the form of latex, memory foam, air bed, and waterbed mattresses. Yet the innerspring continues to out-sell all of its competitors.

Very few products have dominated their industry for 90-some years, which means the innerspring mattress makes a perfect case study for anyone looking to learn timeless lessons about sales. Here are five takeaways from the innerspring mattress’ impressive reign.

Being “the first ever” sells…

Before the innerspring mattress came onto the scene in 1871, the only existing options available to the sleeping public consisted of fabric stuffed with cotton, feathers, or hair. These materials frequently suffered from infections of bacteria, bugs, and/or mildew—which meant that consumers were primed for improvements. They got just that in innerspring mattresses, and the industry boomed throughout the early 1900s.

Innerspring sales took a hit during the Great Depression, but they surged once again after World War II. The late 1940s and 1950s saw the rise of numerous innerspring patents and the formation of big-name mattress brands. These brands capitalized not only on innerspring mattress’ superiority to earlier mattress varieties but also on the idea that the innerspring mattress’ firmness set it apart as a healthier product. This idea—that a firmer mattress is “better”—continues to dominate many consumer attitudes today. Because they got there first, innerspring mattress makers were able to establish the narrative for what makes for a high-quality mattress.

…But it’s not enough to rest on your laurels.

The original innerspring mattress was a bedding product in a class all its own, and it enjoyed massive popularity as a result. But some businesses rested on these laurels for too long. Last year, Consumer Reports found that in spite of the fact that more Americans own an innerspring mattress than any other type of mattress, owners of traditional innersprings are the least likely to feel completely satisfied with their mattress. When you consider that the basic innerspring design hasn’t changed much in over 100 years, this is probably not surprising. How do you sell something as “better” when it isn’t much improved relative to itself?

Confusing customers will ultimately backfire.

One of the reasons consumers may be dissatisfied with the purchase of an innerspring mattress is that the industry can be a confusing place. It can be difficult to comparison shop, because different brands sometimes go by different names at different stores — and because so many factors influence the overall quality of a given mattress. A lack of standardization also makes it tough to determine which option is best.

This helps explain why e-commerce mattress startups have been enjoying success: They’re often bringing increased transparency to an industry where consumers sometimes lack a lot of information. The success of these startups suggests people are more willing to pay for a product when it’s sold transparently and with clarifying information front and center.

Innovation is key.

Though it may have taken a long time, the innerspring mattress industry is starting to catch on to the need for innovation. Modern consumers desire customizability, and mattress manufacturers are heeding this demand. From a variety of firmness levels and mattress toppers to layered coils, hybrid mattresses (which combine innerspring with memory foam or latex), and pocket coils (in which coils are inserted into the mattress individually instead of in one interconnected sheet, thereby maximizing comfort and minimizing motion transfer), innerspring mattresses are boasting more customization options than ever before. This is a major reason why the innerspring is steadily gaining back the market share it once lost to the likes of latex and memory foam.

Price competition always matters.

Greater transparency, product improvements, and customizable offerings have all helped the innerspring continue to dominate the mattress industry. But if these options came at a an astronomical price, this success would likely not be as great. Innersprings have been and continue to be among the most affordable options when it comes to purchasing a new mattress. What’s more, they tend to be low-maintenance, last for a long time, and are easy to obtain either in-person or online, all of which enhances their cost-effectiveness. This price competition has helped ensure that innersprings aren’t going anywhere.

One more takeaway? People are more inclined to purchase products with which they’re already familiar. Because innersprings were the ground floor of mattress innovation, people from all walks of life have been utilizing innerspring mattresses for generations. And that means anyone looking to sell something other than an innerspring mattress may face an uphill climb — though certainly not an impossible one.

Daniel Scalco
Dan Scalco is the founder and director of growth at Digitalux, a digital marketing agency located in Hoboken, New Jersey. Throughout his career, he has helped hundreds of businesses save time, increase leads, and maximize sales.


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