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ates was named president of Spring Air this past January. Since then, he has worked closely with the executive team and the licensee group to determine a clear path for the future of the company. While many manufacturers and retailers have struggled to understand the changing shop- ping habits of younger consumers, Bates is able to pull from his own experience when developing strategies that will actually con- nect with this growing segment.

“Millennials are put off by hard selling salespeople, which has been the mattress industry’s model for years,” Bates explains. “When I want to go shopping for a big-ticket item, 100 percent of my research is done on- line before I walk into that store. That means I already know what I’m getting, how I’m get- ting it and how much I’m paying for it.” This has changed the way most young people go about buying a bed. The retail salesperson is no longer the primary source of information, but rather a secondary con- sultant—someone who should be prepared to answer any lingering questions the customer wasn’t able to solve on their own online. As millennials’ shopping habits have shifted, so too have their expectations. “We look at an item for quality, for style and of course price,” he continues. “But we’re not just going to walk into a mattress store and, if a bed looks like a bed, buy it. We want some- thing better than that. We want something that tells a story, something that has innova- tion, something that draws us over to it.” This understanding of today’s consumers has helped shape Bates’ vision for Spring Air. The company recently set forth a new strate- gy for the years ahead: a three-pronged ap- proach that aims to meet a wide variety of bedding customers at every stage of their buying journey. The first step was to figure out how to en- hance that in-store customer experience. The team looked outside the bedding industry for inspiration, seeking out creative new ways to update its point-of-sale materials. This includes integrating more familiar compo- nents into its top-of-bed displays, ones that

consumers already engage with on a more regular basis. Every Spring Air mattress on the retail floor now features an information- al hangtag like the ones that are commonly found in clothing stores. “When a customer walks into a store, they can look at a Spring Air mattress and imme- diately grab the hangtag and start reading about the product,” Bates says. “It makes them feel more comfortable at point of sale, because they’re familiar with the idea. People buy clothing a lot more than they buy a mat- tress, so they already know to look there to get information about a product.” For some of Spring Air’s higher-end col- lections, this attention to detail extends be- yond the point of purchase to include more specialized packaging as well. Every Chat- tam & Wells mattress is delivered to the con- sumer wrapped, not in the traditional plastic, but in sumptuous fabric that they can keep. This builds upon the luxury elements of the collection, further enhancing the buying pro- cess and the consumer’s relationship to the Spring Air brand. But customer experience goes deeper than

just marketing and packaging. Spring Air has updated a number of its key collections with new, on-trend styling and upholstery-grade fabrics. “We’re changing the way we make a mattress,” Bates explains. “We’re using fab- rics that draw people over. It doesn’t look like a traditional mattress set because we’re go- ing outside our industry’s fabric gatherings.” For the second step of its new vision, Spring Air set out to solve two different is- sues: help customers fix their sleep problems and help retailers get customers in the door. As more and more consumers head online to research their mattress options, most people have already made up their mind long before they ever step into a retail space (if they even go to a physical store at all). In order to com- pete with the competitive ecommerce market, companies must engage with their custom- ers much earlier on in their decision-making process—which means effectively connecting with them online first. By taking a step back from the “traditional” sales strategy, Bates

developed a greater understanding of when and why people start their search for a mat- tress—and built a new digital strategy around reaching them from the very beginning. “Not only are we enhancing the product ex- perience on the floor, we’re looking to engage the consumer when they start their journey for a new mattress,” Bates explains. “Because when does anyone look for a new mattress? You don’t look for a new mattress if everything’s ok. You look when your hip hurts or your back hurts or your wife’s not sleeping. Consumers start their journey when they start looking on- line for solutions to these problems. So we’ve been using social media and blogging to reach out to these customers, field their questions and help them solve their sleep problems.” At

this stage in the customer journey, Spring Air isn’t selling anything. By providing valuable insights and information for free in- stead, the company is able to drive more po- tential customers to its website and into the “Spring Air World.” In order to do this most ef- fectively, Spring Air teamed up with TRIO—a full-service marketing communications firm that specializes in social media and web design. Together, the two companies have begun developing original content for blogs and popular social media platforms like Twit- ter, Facebook and Instagram. By leveraging a variety of different digital marketing methods, Spring Air is working to build stronger rela- tionships with consumers, fostering a greater sense of trust and familiarity with the brand. In addition to working with TRIO, Spring Air has also named Michael Giurleo as Director of E-Commerce, who will oversee all of the new web initiatives and social media services. “We’re not only going to be stepping up our interactions with consumers but also engag- ing with them in new, more meaningful ways,” Bates reveals. “Our objective is to build a base of Spring Air followers from the ground up. Ultimately, we plan to establish a constantly growing fan base that is not only familiar with who we are and what we represent, but also wants to buy Spring Air-branded beds.” Bates knows that in today’s marketplace, digital plays an essential part in driving sales 11

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