The me-too strategy in the online trade

Disquiet in the mattress market through Emma, Eve and Bruno

At the ‘Pioneers of Lifestyle’ (POL) conference the day after Tendence closed its doors, young start-ups such as kautsch.com sofa mail-order company met traditional manufacturers such as Werkhaus and Lattoflex. Together, they discussed questions about the future of the lifestyle business: how do millennials shop? With what strategy can a digital business enjoy long-term success? What will the bricks-and-mortar trade look like in 2050?

With social-media campaigns, the support of influencers and targeted online marketing, key players of the internet economy achieve big sales in a short time with little seed capital. Numerous start-ups adopt a ‘me-too’ strategy. In 2014, speaker Artjem Weissbeck, co-founder of the Kapten&Son fashion-accessories brand, launched an impressive success story with a variation on the already popular minimalistic watches. Today, the biggest team of the company’s 70 employees is responsible for marketing. According to the ‘Gründerszene’ digital platform, no less than six of them focus exclusively on Instagram.

A classic company story: Lattoflex
Start-ups are regarded as cool employers and driving forces for innovation. However, Lattoflex CEO Boris Thomas believes that business success is also possible without table football and a follower base. The key: a good idea. It was in a small workshop in the North German town of Bremervörde in 1935 that his grandfather invented the world’s first slatted bed frame for a friend with backache. Today, Lattoflex is a key player in a sector facing the hype of the online mattress trade. Accordingly, they did not have to wait long for the first imitators to appear following the company’s great success in selling the standardised ‘Casper’ mattress in the USA via the internet.

In 2017, there were 25 online mattress retailers in Germany. Last year, many of them disappeared from the market. For example, the Berlin-based Muun start-up became insolvent while Britain’s Eve brand withdrew from many European markets. The question remains why investors are still willing to finance new start-ups in the same area of business with identical products – especially since, on average, consumers only buy a new mattress every seven years.

Established retailers must stay alert
This does not mean that established retailers can rest on their laurels and hope that the market will settle down again soon. Mattress start-ups are still taking market shares away from renowned manufacturers. Indeed, the celebrated Dunlopillo company was taken over by Bettzeit following insolvency in 2016. With the dormando.de online shop and Emma mattresses, the owner-run Bettzeit Group ranks among one of Germany’s fastest growing suppliers of mattresses and sleep systems, which is now also represented in the B2B segment with Dunlopillo.

What Boris Thomas saw is the great potential of the online channel for reaching new customer target groups and, no less importantly, for attracting them to the shops of local retailers. As the recent success of young competitors shows, tradition and experience are no longer sufficient in a time when even bulky and advice-intensive products, such as mattresses and sofas, are ordered on the internet.

The subject of ‘sleep’ at Heimtextil
Heimtextil 2019 put the spotlight on the lifestyle subject of ‘healthy sleep’ for the first time in a special forum for exchanging ideas and networking. Next year, around 800 exhibitors from the bed, bedding and bed linen segments will be making presentations in Halls 10, 11 and 12. In the ‘smart bedding’ product group, major players show innovative products ranging from sleep systems, as well as mattresses, bedding, functional materials and smart sleep technologies, to innovative machines and tools for textile processing. The ‘Sleep! The Future Forum’ lecture area is devoted completely to knowledge transfer, the exchange of ideas and experiences and networking – with contributions by internationally recognised experts, famous sleep coaches and renowned scientists from established institutes, such as the Berlin Charité, the Fraunhofer Institute and the German Society for Sleep Research (DGSM). The five top themes include apps and smart digital innovations, the hotel bed of the future, fresh trends and ideas for colour, light and room design.

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