Developing an agile retail business: Mattress Online

Agile retail business

Modern Retail had the pleasure of speaking with Steve Adams, CEO of Mattress Online about the ways that they have adapted to become a forward-thinking and industry-leading mattress retailer.

Keep reading to learn more about Mattress Online’s inspirational approach to creating an agile retail business, as well as Steve’s top tips to grow customer loyalty and succeed at omnichannel retail.

1. Introduce us to Mattress Online and your agile, tech-focused business model

Mattress Online is headquartered in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, and we’re the largest independent mattress retailer in the UK. 

We have created an agile retail business by approaching everything we do like a tech start-up. We have created our own bespoke technical platform for both the front end and back end. This gives us an enormous amount of control and flexibility for the customer-facing e-commerce platform and stock, order management, distribution and CMS systems.

Being relatively lean, we work in agile two-week sprints across our development, content, and marketing teams focusing our projects on the 20% that delivers 80% of our results.

We are one of the most tech-focused businesses in a relatively traditional industry, but at heart, we are still retailers.

Last year, we processed 128,500 orders from 3.1 million web visitors. We’ve grown our team by 60% during the pandemic to 68 staff members and for the third consecutive year, Mattress Online has been named National Bed Federation Bed Retailer of the Year.

Mattress Online is now a £37.5 million-turnover business that’s rapidly growing. Our entire business is based on technology and as a business that’s now 18 years old, this has meant constantly evolving and adopting new tech and anticipating trends.

Steve from Mattress online wins award for agile retail business

2. How important is it to use technology in brick and mortar stores to provide an outstanding customer experience?

We are strategically investing in developing a bricks and mortar portfolio as well as our online offering. We’re aiming to acquire about 10 stores in the next five years and this is driven by the fact that there are still many consumers with the traditional mindset of wanting to lay on a mattress. 

I strongly feel there is a resurgence of local commerce, with communities supporting local businesses and moving away from out-of-town retail parks. 

Our strategy is to invest in acquiring good quality independent retailers and overlay our data and technology. We use the latest technology to offer an exceptional customer experience.

One example of our market-leading tech is seen in our delivery technology, which is seamless between our offline and online platforms. It is ahead of the game, with full tracking, a two-hour delivery window and a pre-call before delivery.

We proactively share learnings from online to our offline store, all our sales teams are proficient in our online offering, making them a natural extension of our store floor offering (an additional 400 SKU’s).

We incorporate online product reviews into the sales process on the shop floor and add our Reevoo scores to relevant products as well as rolling out digital displays with online product data and the ability to scroll reviews to act as the silent salesman.

We have amalgamated our online finance offerings to our offline customers, giving them the same payment benefits as our online customers.

One of our most successful integrations between offline and online is the seamless support from our in-store salesperson online, when one of our online customers telephones our call centre they have the opportunity to speak to a highly experienced salesperson based in one of our stores, not a faceless call centre reading from a script.

Mattress Online creates a welcoming environment, a first-class customer experience, and still delivers pricing and turnaround times to match. Our aim is to provide an environment, powered by technology, that’s less pressured and more comfortable than the typical formulaic national retail chains.

3. Top tips for retailers wanting to grow a loyal customer base

Growing a loyal customer base takes time and that’s hard when the life cycle for a mattress is typically seven years. 

But the key is to provide great customer service, expert advice, and a positive experience every step of the way. Give your customers the opportunity to communicate with you and listen to them, implementing their feedback when you can.

If you can also add exceptional choice and outstanding value for customers, then you’ve got the foundation for a very successful business.

4. Implementing sustainable packaging

We are already making good headway to be more sustainable with our packaging:

All of our plastic polythene mattress bags are made from 100% recycled content and are 100% recyclable.

To minimise the amount of plastic waste, we use thinner grades of our recyclable polythene on lighter mattresses. It’s a fine balance between transport protection and sustainability, but one we have been perfecting for years and will continue to do so.

We are also investigating the use of reusable hessian packaging (bags) to move away from plastic as much as possible.

5. Introduce the popular service that enables customers to recycle their old mattresses

We introduced a mattress collection and recycling service in 2015 and now 28% of all customers recycle with us. We pledge to recycle 40% of all mattresses by 2025.

We work in partnership with carefully selected mattress recycling organisations, who process each mattress at a dedicated recycling plant.

In total we’ve saved more than 100,000 mattresses going to landfill and in the last year alone (2020-21) we saved 40,000 mattresses from landfill.

We charge a small fee (£28) for mattress recycling to cover costs, but this is very competitive compared to local authorities who can charge up to £40 and we run our entire recycling initiative as a non-profit initiative.

In tandem with our recycling initiative, we promote sustainable products and support customers with informative content on how to reduce carbon footprint and make ethical choices.

We’re also proud that 20% of our mattresses are chemical-free, 13% of our mattresses include recycled materials and 23% of our mattresses are vegan-friendly.

As a responsible e-tailer we have a range of environmentally friendly products. Eco-consciousness can, and should, extend to the bedroom.

6. Winning Online Bed Retailer of the Year at the Bed Industry Awards

It is really useful to enter awards, particularly awards run by industry bodies who give external, third-party recognition of best practice. Organisations like the National Bed Federation promote good practice and advancement within the sector and it’s also a good opportunity to learn from others. 

Awards build trust and authority with customers and I also think winning awards can be good for the whole team’s morale. It’s important to recognise, and occasionally celebrate, how we all play a part in our award-winning business.

7. Advice for retailers wanting to balance a great online and ecommerce experience simultaneously

For me, the key here is understanding and listening to your customers. We carry out extensive consumer research to find out what do well, and more importantly where we need to improve.

Mattress Online has been a digital-first business from day one in 2003 and that’s also very important. We approach everything with a tech-first perspective. We’ve also invested heavily in digital technology and skills, keeping Conversion Rate Optimization, User Experience and Software Development in-house to maintain full control. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated online trends, Mattress Online continued to innovate, adapt, and stay ahead. My advice would be to try and keep ahead of the trends, hire the best people and don’t be afraid to innovate.

8. What is next for Mattress Online and how can our readers stay up to date?

We plan to acquire and then roll out several brick-and-mortar stores over the next five years meaning our great prices, excellent customer experience and quick turnaround times are available to all, regardless of whether you shop online or prefer to come and test a mattress personally.

As an agile retail business, Mattress Online will continue investing in technology and platforms to keep innovating and moving forward. 

We are working on a new website to improve our conversion rate, introduce cross-selling and up-selling, whilst keeping the basics working well and the tech stack SEO friendly with strategic rollouts to meet technical best practice such as Googles’ Core Web Vitals.

We’ve got strong plans for business growth and maintaining a digital advantage is the key to our success and future. You can keep up to date with us through our social channels and, of course, by reading Modern Retail!