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Why launching an e-commerce site isn’t a guaranteed path to success

Why launching an e-commerce site isn’t a guaranteed path to success

In 2017, the word on the street was clear: “Get online and sell mattresses.” For a family-owned business like ours, which boasts nine stores in western New York and a factory specializing in contract quilting and private-label manufacturing, this advice seemed like the next logical step in our journey. 

We followed the advice, invested in machinery and partnered with a marketing agency. Dreams of selling thousands of mattresses monthly floated before our eyes.  

Prior to our digital leap, industry friends warned us of companies sinking over $100,000 into website development alone. But building a website was just scratching the surface; visibility was the real challenge. 

While the industry buzz made it seem as though an e-commerce site was a goldmine waiting to be unearthed, they often skipped over the challenge of visibility. Just because a store exists does not mean customers will stroll in. Similarly, having a website does not guarantee visitors.  

So we went all in. There was that quirky video reminiscent of the Dollar Shave Club. Influencers? We had them — from Yankee stars to Buffalo Bills players, U.S. Women’s soccer team members to American Idol celebrities. We even ventured into NASCAR sponsorships.  Money flowed into our efforts to gain visibility. 

However, the reality was starkly different. We underestimated the fierce competition and the nuances of selling mattresses online. After a two-year collaboration with a marketing firm and less-than-expected results, we took a step back. We ceased our expensive advertising campaigns. We did not falter, thanks to our grounded values and prudent budgeting. 

Fast forward to our present, and DLX Mattress stands wiser. Our initial strategy, influenced by the approach of our former marketing firm, lacked a nuanced understanding of our industry. While influencers might drive fashion sales, mattresses are a different ballgame. One doesn’t buy mattresses like they buy a T-shirt. Mattresses are not an impulse buy — they are a significant investment that needs a different sales approach. 

Our new strategy involves focusing on customers who are actively looking for mattresses. Instead of spending on broad campaigns, we are zoning in on specific keywords that show a  genuine interest in purchasing mattresses. 

We discovered that visibility goes beyond having an expensive website, clever videos and pouring money into ads. It’s about targeting individuals actively seeking a mattress, rather than trying to reach everyone or persuading people that they need a new mattress. We’ve come to understand that selling mattresses online demands more than just visibility. It is an amalgamation of an optimized shopping experience, professional imagery, SEO, an efficient ad strategy and a brand that resonates with the right audience.

Speaking of branding, our 2017 attempt steered us away from our roots. Now, DLX Mattress is back to its core — crafting mattresses cherished by generations in Upstate New York. The results are promising, and we’re optimistic about what the future holds. 

To those contemplating an online mattress venture, here are some lessons from our journey: 

1. Incorporate free shipping: Ensure it’s built into the product cost. Believe us — shipping costs can surprise you! 

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2. Plan for returns: The online return rate hovers around 20%. Be prepared and set aside funds explicitly for this purpose. 

3. Patience is key: Expect a timeline of six to 12 months to gain traction. With an oversaturated online market, persistence is crucial. 

4. Spend wisely and efficiently: Your marketing tactics will depend on where you are in your online selling journey. While brands like Casper might have a different approach,  most of us should prioritize efficiency. Avoid being seduced by flashy marketing agencies that lack experience in the mattress industry or have operated on massive budgets like those of Nectar or Purple. 

5. Budget prudently: It’s vital to budget judiciously. Ensure you have adequate funds allocated, and be prepared to spend without seeing an immediate return for at least six to 12 months. 

While the online mattress market poses challenges, it offers immense potential for those willing to adapt, learn and invest wisely. At DLX Mattress, our journey has been filled with lessons, and we’re grateful for the growth it has brought us.

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