The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed people’s daily lives, disrupted entire economies and societies, and provoked rapid change in virtually every industry. As a result, the past sixteen months or so have been characterized by rapid, large-scale change—a trend that’s incredibly visible in today’s mattress market.
Ample research suggests people’s lives have been altered down to the smallest details, including how we feel about sleep, how much time we spend sleeping, and the preferences we have for our sleep surfaces.
As consumer habits have changed, so too has the mattress industry. So we decided to put the market under a microscope to better understand the shifts taking place. Join us as we examine how the mattress industry has evolved, with special attention paid to the impact of Covid-19 and today’s mattress consumer trends.
A Brief History of the Mattress Industry
The mattress industry has a remarkably long history. Some estimates suggest mattresses have been bought and sold since as long ago as the 37th century BCE, when Persians invented goatskin waterbeds for royalty. Turns out humans have always needed a comfortable place to sleep.
Today’s mattress market is big business. The global mattress market is currently valued around $81 billion, while the US market value is approximately $17.3 billion.
For decades, shifts in the mattress industry occurred gradually. Early on, the modern market was ruled by only a handful of companies (think Serta, Sealy, and eventually Tempur-Pedic). These big brands all followed pretty much the same business model: Distribute mattresses to department and furniture stores, where they’d be sold by middlemen who’d collect some of the profits.
But in 2014, the industry underwent major change. Thanks largely to the emergence of the Casper brand, which helped pioneer the model of mattresses being sold online directly to consumers, the bed-in-a-box trend took off. In less than seven years, the number of new players in the mattress space has ballooned from approximately one dozen startups to more than 175 online mattress brands, including new heavy-hitters such as Leesa, Nectar, and Purple.
Not surprisingly, the bed-in-a-box trend has profoundly altered the mattress industry. Between 2016 and 2017, the number of online mattress sales skyrocketed by 60.6%. In 2018, a whopping 45% of mattress sales happened online. That number has grown in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the increasing popularity of bed-in-a-box mattresses shows no signs of slowing down.
In the following sections, we’ll take a closer look at other major trends transforming today’s mattress market.
The Impact of Covid-19 on the Mattress Industry
Over the past year and a half, the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically altered the fabric of our lives, economies, and societies. Virtually no industry has remained untouched, and the mattress market has undergone several transformations.Source: https://www.ibisworld.com/united-states/market-research-reports/mattress-manufacturing-industry/
Estimates suggest the bedding industry as a whole (which includes mattresses as well as mattress accessories) is experiencing a year-over-year sales increase of more than 30%. The mattress manufacturing industry’s revenue grew approximately 8.3% in 2020, and it’s expected to grow another 3.9% in 2021. These increases are strongly linked to Covid-19 and associated stay-at-home orders.
Once the pandemic hit, four out of 10 consumers reported that they would consider making larger household purchases—most likely because people were spending more time at home and noticing the aspects of their dwelling that they’d like to improve.
Another side effect of spending more time at home? People seemed to embrace sleep as a critical aspect of overall health. Back in 2016, 6% of respondents to consumer surveys reported getting enough sleep. That number rose to 13% during the height of the pandemic.
Sleep Disturbances During Covid-19
While some people have enjoyed more sleep during the pandemic, this certainly hasn’t been the case for everyone.
As people began paying more attention to their sleep habits, many folks identified several factors that were preventing them from sleeping well. Perhaps not surprisingly, stress took the number one spot—with 35% of survey respondents citing stress as the cause of their poor sleep quality.
Other factors pertain directly to consumers’ sleeping spaces and are more easily addressed through bedroom upgrades. Thirty percent of survey respondents struggled with a mattress that had them sleeping at an uncomfortable temperature, 19% identified uncomfortable pillows as a problem, and 14% cited an old mattress as the cause of their sleep woes.
Changes in Shopping Habits Due to Covid-19
With so many people prioritizing sleep and making home improvements during the pandemic, many folks have chosen to upgrade their sleep surface. But where they’re choosing to do so has changed significantly.
The majority of mattress consumers—approximately 69%—chose not to shop for a mattress at brick and mortar stores as a result of Covid-19. Mattress shoppers also migrated online for other reasons: 41% reported finding better prices online, while 25% cited a lack of time for shopping in person as the reason they sought out a bed-in-a-box mattress. The end result is that the percentage of mattress customers who shop at physical stores quickly plummeted from 57% to 36%.
As mattress buyers flocked to online brands, Covid-19 brought about several shifts in consumer desires.
Per Better Sleep Council (BSC) research, demand for soft mattresses significantly increased relative to the demand for firmer beds. Compared to 2016, people buying beds in the time of Covid-19 were 7% more likely to prefer a softer mattress. Meanwhile, consumers under stay-at-home orders have proven more than twice as likely to want a very soft mattress.
Other trends brought about by Covid-19? Consumers have shown an increased desire for King-size beds, with people under stay-at-home orders being 56% more likely to buy this size. Consumers have also proven more likely to invest in mattress accessories, such as pillows and sheets, since the onset of Covid-19.
Changes in Consumer Preferences Over Time
As noted above, the Covid-19 pandemic has directly impacted mattress shoppers’ habits and preferences, with more people searching for soft and King-size beds than prior to the pandemic. But these aren’t the only consumer preferences that have changed over time. Here’s a closer look at some of the general consumer trends going on in the mattress industry, with stats from BSC research.
A whopping 83% of today’s mattress shoppers value comfort and support as the most important features in a mattress. Other priorities include:
- Size and thickness (with 57% of respondents ranking these factors as essential)
- Materials and construction (favored by 56% of shoppers)
- Reputation (prioritized by 40% of shoppers)
- Brand (important to 17% of consumers)
- Technology (with 16% of respondents valuing this factor)
The Best Features for Comfort and Support
When it comes to comfort and support, mattress consumers are seeking a variety of features to help them feel good during the night. Here’s a quick rundown.
- 43% of consumers favor back support
- 33% of consumers seek out a firm mattress
- 26% of consumers believe a pillow-top mattress will offer the right blend of comfort and support
- 20% of consumers prefer a soft mattress
- 20% of consumers look for a mattress that contours the body
- 14% of consumers prioritize motion isolation
The Best Mattress Type
When it comes to mattress types, today’s consumers exhibit strong preferences. Approximately 34% of consumers believe pillow-top mattresses to be the best mattress type. Hybrid and foam mattresses also get high marks, with 22% of consumers viewing each of these constructions (respectively) as the best mattress type.
The Best Foam Type
Today’s mattress consumers also have strong feelings about foam. Sixty-six percent view memory foam as the best foam type, but other types of foam are gaining in popularity. Gel foam is now favored by 31% of consumers, while 20% prefer latex foam.
Additional Consumer Trends
Here are a couple more notable trends among modern mattress consumers.
- More consumers are seeking out adjustable foundations. Today, 17% of mattress owners have an adjustable base, up nearly double from 9% in 2016.
- Three in 10 consumers make a point of hunting for mattresses that are made in the USA.
Mattress Buying Habits by Age Group
In many cases, the mattress buying habits of today’s consumers are characterized by generational divides. The starkest differences exist between millennials and boomers. Let’s take a look at mattress buying habits by age group.
Millennials and Younger
Per International Sleep Council Association (ISPA) research, millennials tend to initiate their search for a new mattress based on one or more of the following “purchase triggers”:
- Wanting to upgrade to a better mattress
- A current mattress that’s too old
- A current mattress that doesn’t support a good night’s sleep (An estimated 43% of millennials believe a good night’s sleep is the most important factor for wellbeing)
- Waking up with a sore back
- A current mattress that’s sagging
As they begin their mattress search, millennials usually conduct their research online through web searches and by reading user reviews. They generally prioritize information on size, price, mattress type, and mattress qualities. Once they’ve zeroed in on some decent options, millennials tend to closely consider one or two mattresses before they buy.
As they select a mattress for purchase, millennials and younger generations exhibit some strong consumer preferences.
- In general, millennials are most likely to prioritize price and mattress size over other factors.
- Almost half (46%) of consumers aged 18 to 35 prefer a soft mattress.
- Millennials are more likely than boomers to purchase a King or Cali King mattress (33% of millennials prefer these mattress sizes, compared to 21% of boomers).
- Approximately 40% of millennials prefer to purchase a mattress in a box that will be delivered straight to their home.
- Hypoallergenic mattresses are becoming increasingly popular among younger people, with 32% of people in this age group seeking out a hypoallergenic bed.
Millennials are more likely than boomers to enjoy the process of shopping for a mattress. In fact, they’re twice as likely to find the shopping process easy and five times more likely than boomers to report that the mattress shopping process was fun.
It won’t be that long before young consumers restart the search for a new mattress. On average, people between 18 and 35 years old replace their mattress after a mere 5.7 years.
It takes boomers a while to initiate the search for a new mattress. On average, people aged 56+ wait to replace a mattress until after they’ve had it for 12.3 years.
What inspires boomers to strike out on the quest for a new bed? Health-related challenges are the primary purchase trigger for this age group, with 36% of boomers purchasing a new bed in the hopes that it will help them manage health issues.
Once they’re ready to buy a new mattress, most boomers (70%) head to a brick and mortar store. Approximately 43% of boomers shop by themselves. They tend to get their information at physical stores, and they prioritize information about price, size, and mattress type as well as free delivery.
When it comes to mattress types, the majority of boomers (64%) prefer a pillow-top or innerspring bed. Boomers generally prefer firmer beds; only 7% of consumers aged 56 and older prefer a softer mattress.
If they identify a mattress they like, 22% of boomers are likely to make the purchase without exploring other options. (Only 11% of millennials will purchase the first mattress they like.) Once they’ve committed to a mattress, boomers are more likely than millennials to be satisfied with their purchase.
We’d be remiss if we forgot the Forgotten Generation. Gen Xer mattress shoppers aren’t as heavily researched as millennials and boomers, but there are some notable stats about how this generation approaches mattress shopping.
- Much like boomers, Gen X mattress shoppers generally prefer to shop at brick and mortar stores
- 58% of Gen X consumers prefer a pillow-top or innerspring mattress
- 74% of Gen X consumers reject foam mattresses on account of their age
- 87% of Gen X mattress consumers prefer a King- or Queen-size mattress
- A mere 22% of Gen X consumers prefer a soft mattress
- 26% of Gen X sleepers use a device or app to track their sleep, compared to 49% of millennials and 12% of boomers
Mattress Industry Growth and the Future
Thanks to increasing awareness about the importance of sleep, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic and other factors, the mattress industry has been booming. And all signs suggest the market won’t slow down any time soon.
The global mattress industry is projected to grow by $13 billion over the next five years. While the Covid-19 pandemic played a major role in market spikes over the past year or so, the pandemic isn’t the only factor leading to mattress market growth. Per IBISWorld research, this growth is also attributable to increasing disposable income rates per capita, construction activity, and industry exports.
As the mattress industry grows, consumer trends are expected to take several forms.
- Mattress shoppers (especially younger people) will increasingly prefer to do their shopping online.
- Brick and mortar mattress stores won’t become obsolete, but consumers will be more likely to conduct research online before heading to a physical store.
- Consumers’ expectations around mattress pricing have not changed much since 2016, which suggests they may be resistant to significant price increases.
- Mattress shoppers will increasingly purchase new beds due to factors including mattress deterioration, health and comfort, and the desire to improve their mattress in some way (for example, by upgrading to a larger bed).
Final Thoughts: Mattress Industry Trends
The mattress industry has come a long way since its origins in the 37th century BCE. After a century or so of being dominated by just a few big brands, there are now 175 online mattress brands alone.
The prevalence of online mattress companies reflects one of the biggest ongoing trends in the mattress industry: Mattress shoppers are increasingly researching and purchasing mattresses online. This trend has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As people increasingly prioritize a good night’s sleep, they’re developing particular preferences around mattress type, firmness, and so on. In some cases, these preferences break down along generational lines.
The mattress industry is booming, and it shows no signs of slowing down. As the industry grows in the U.S. and abroad, no doubt shifting consumer preferences will continue to play a major role in shaping the mattress market.
Andrew is a Charlotte, NC native who learned the importance of a good night’s sleep in college after too many late nights in the library. Today, he helps connect Mattress Clarity’s array of resources with people looking to get a better night’s sleep. He enjoys researching the links between sleep and health, nutrition, and exercise as well as finding practical ways for people to improve their sleep quality.