Case Study: Mattress Retailer Uses Targeting to Boost In-Store Sales

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At Innovative Mattress Solutions, a holding company with four retail brands spread across six states, online marketing director Brett Morris relies on display ads that work in tandem with his company’s print and television campaigns to promote holiday sales and in-store events. He uses geo-targeting to reach consumers living within a 15-mile radius of his company’s stores, and relies on different ad sets based on the demographics of the consumers he’s trying to hit.

For people who’ve never heard of Innovative Mattress Solutions before, can you give me an overview of the company?
IMS is a holding company for four retail brands: Mattress Warehouse, Sleep Outfitters, Mattress Unlimited and Mattress King. We’ve got about 150 retail locations. Nothing e-commerce at this point, so what we do online pretty much supports in-store promotions.

Is online marketing a challenge when your brand doesn’t have an e-commerce component?
The biggest challenge I face is the product we sell. It’s not something simple to promote online. People prefer to come in and lay down on a bed to determine what’s right, in terms of support and whatnot. It’s a product that a lot of people research a ton before they come into the store to buy. Our online experience is important in providing information before they come into the store to shop. So, it’s the industry vertical that’s most difficult for us, in terms of how we promote the product.

How do you determine the right mix of online and offline advertising?
We’ve got a full multimedia mix. We still depend quite a bit on print, just because historically that is what has driven the business. We’re starting to see a shift in terms of dollars that we spend between television, radio, print, and online. We have budgets for all of those, but the online budget has continued to grow and we’ve been able to shift a little bit. No. 1, it’s most cost effective [to advertise online] and the targeting is certainly a lot more intuitive, so the dollars that we’re spending are more efficient. That’s the shift that we’ve seen over the last year.

How are you targeting consumers? Are you looking at their location, age demographic, or something else?
It’s all of the above. That’s some of what we’ve been working with the folks at PaperG on. We’ve found from our own research that most of our customers are within a 15-minute or 15-mile radius of our store locations. So, we don’t put a whole lot of emphasis outside of that radius. We start with the geo-target, and then from within that we will dive down into certain behavioral metrics. We have an idea of who our customer is. Typically females are making these types of decisions. But what we have found is that, for example, if you have a Tempur-Pedic, which has a higher price point, then men tend to become involved in the buying decision. So, we will target different creative or different ad sets to different behavioral targets or different demographics. With certain demographics we’ll send a very heavy sale message. You know, a huge percent-off, dollar-off type of thing. But for the higher demographic that is most interested in the quality of sleep, we promote our blogs, our information, and our higher-end tickets. The targeting is really what drives the creative that goes out into the marketplace.

What was the strategy behind the campaign you recently ran with PaperG?
We started with PaperG right around Memorial Day of this year, right before our first major event of the year. The strategy with those guys was to spend — we spend a lot of our money online doing SEM [search engine marketing] and things like that to drive daily sales. The mattress industry is not unlike a lot of other furniture retail, where you have certain huge shopping days. The three-day weekends like Memorial Day and Labor Day, those are our Christmas. That’s the buying cycle for the industry. So, we’ve used display around those huge holidays to bring up our impression level to work in tandem with our print and television, and to reinforce messages. It’s an impression supplement specifically for a company that doesn’t do e-commerce. There is value in the impression base that we have out there.

How do you determine whether these types of online campaigns are effective? What metrics are you looking at?
We look at referral sources and things like that. Because [IMS doesn’t have] e-commerce sites at this point, the click-through rate can’t be my only metric. Impression level does play a factor in that. But what I can tell is I’m using the impression data, the clicks data, and anything I can pull to determine [the effectiveness]. I do a lot of creative testing, A/B testing, multi-variant type stuff to determine what was the most effective message in each vertical based on what we call “popularity metrics.” So, we get incremental research out of it that we use to drive our print advertising. It’s not an inadvertent research tool, but that’s essentially how we use it.

What about goals. What are you hoping to accomplish, besides just bringing more people into your stores?
We really want to get into re-targeting. We were able to do that in terms of being able to drive traffic into the stores. [PaperG’s] re-targeting platform gave us the ability once we got [visitors] onto the site to re-target them with a coupon that was specific to them. That would drive them back to our Facebook pages. We operate four different brands out of one office, but we segment [our Facebook pages] out by brand and use that to incrementally build our ‘likes’ and printed coupons, which we can track in-store in terms of redemptions. So, that was the first goal as we started the process with [PaperG] and it has carried on through.

Do you have anything big planned for Black Friday this year?
Yes, we do. We’ve found that Black Friday tends to be one of our bigger days. We’re obviously not electronics or a [vertical] that drives the industry on that particular day, but we’ve found that because [mattresses are] such a high-dollar purchase, that deep discounts on that day tend to drive a little traffic. It’s not usually people waking up at 5 a.m. to go look at a bed, but we might be the last stop of the day; at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, that last thing they want to get. So, we’ve got typical promotions out there, but also amped up a little bit to try and drive some traffic on that particular day.

What’s the next step in online marketing for a business like IMS?
For the industry as a whole, it’s an industry that lags behind the rest of retail in terms of innovation and how quick they are to adapt to technology. But what we’ve seen over the last year is a huge concentration on social from a lot of our vendors. Mobile is going to become the next big thing. We are still going to have an issue with showrooming, in terms of price competitiveness in the stores. I think the industry is finally starting to unveil itself with the opportunities that are out there now. I think we’re ahead of the curve in terms of what our competitors do, but definitely as a whole we’re probably moving a little slower than the rest of the world.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.