How mattress reviews can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep – OZY

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""Mattress Reviews"" – Google News

Because you can’t trust mattress reviews at face value.

When faced with hundreds of search results for “cheap mattresses”, you probably won’t pick one that is described as “lumpy,” “uncomfortable,” or “chemical smelling”.

The throw-away phrases found in online reviews have become hugely influential as the trend to buy online increases. The due diligence once carried out in a store can now be outsourced to other customers: In 2015, the UK competition and market regulator estimated that consumer spending in 2015 was potentially influenced by reviews. One type of company that has capitalized on the power of referrals is the mattress-in-a-box seller. These online-only startups have proliferated since the first, Casper, which was founded in the US in 2014, and there are now at least six brands competing in the UK

In a connected world, companies vying for the attention of their customers need to build a good reputation – ideally a good one. But social media has turned traditional marketing on its head, allowing more subtle forms of advertising, including paid reviews, to tarnish the waters between consumer favorites and paid praise. Buyers take note: what seems impartial at first glance may not be.

It is difficult for customers to get an objective overview.

Benjamin Quiroga-Rivera, co-founder, mattress startup Emma

Mattress startups offer very similar things: a narrow selection of mattresses priced at around $ 600 that come to your door with a 100-night free trial. But where the market is limited, like the UK, marketing costs escalate in a “race for revenue,” says Joseph Barron, analyst at Berenberg, as these companies strive to generate brand awareness and repeat customers (how often do you buy? A mattress? ). For some, including Simba and Eve, the rising costs of advertising come with significant losses. In the midst of “challenging” trading conditions, the two companies recently canceled a proposed merger.

An unexpected result of this marketing offensive was the emergence of a home industry of mattress reviews websites. These websites, which can appear high in Google search results, are considered useful tools for discerning consumers. What is often less clear, however, is that many are paid to drive sales. They run promotions and take a share of every sale that is made when a customer reads a review and clicks through to buy the product. While discount coupons are easy to spot, buyers have to work harder to find the disclaimer pages that describe how affiliate relationships work.

It is “difficult for customers to get an objective overview,” says Benjamin Quiroga-Rivera, co-founder of the mattress startup Emma, ​​which has paid and unpaid affiliate partners.

When a reviewer has been given a product for free and there is an incentive to sell it, says Michal Szlas, CEO of mattress startup Otty, “What’s the chance they’ll think it’s awful?” Affiliate sites often have “Best for “rankings (light sleep; durability; sex), but negative comments are hard to find. The lowest score on the mattress nerd’s review page appears to be 4.4 out of 5. The mattress nerd didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The demand for reviews is growing, according to US reviews site Tuck Sleep, which has more than doubled its typing staff to around 25 this year and is still hiring. Unlike many websites, Tuck’s reviews include “downsides” such as “customer service issues,” says co-founder Bill Fish. Even more controversial was that Casper co-financed the takeover of the review websites Sleepopolis, Slumber Sage and Mattress Clarity in 2017. Casper declined to comment, but Logan Block, Sleepopolis content director, says Casper has no editorial contributions.

Affiliate relationships with “almost every company whose products are reviewed on Sleepopolis” help the site “maintain our personal integrity and reduce financial bias,” the site reads in fine print. An identically worded disclaimer (apart from the company name) can be found on other review sites, including those promoting podcasts, hemp oil, and CBD. That caveat, however, does little to alleviate concerns that reviewers have few incentives to post unfavorable comments.

Mattress startups have also made the world of so-called online influencers their own in order to generate clicks. An influencer is “someone you don’t know if you don’t follow him”, whose posts appear “as authentic as possible,” says 24-year-old Harry Hugo, co-founder of the influencer agency Goat. Search Twitter for mattress brands and you will find a large number of exuberant tweets about restful nights and back pain healed from nondescript accounts – accompanied by links where potential customers can part with their money.

According to the bed-in-a-box brand Leesa, lesser-known people or micro-influencers are the most valuable and earn a commission of 10 to 12 percent. How honest reviewers and influencers are in their ratings is “up to them,” says a Leesa spokesperson, as long as they disclose the paid relationship. The money involved is considerable: goat campaigns start at $ 50,000, with influencers paying up to tens of thousands of dollars per post. Goat’s talents are not required to disclose their relationships with the company, they just include #advertising in posts.

Bed-in-a-box startups say influencers and affiliate relationships are less important to driving sales than Facebook and Google ads. Leesa says affiliate partners account for 15-20 percent of UK sales, but startup Nectar says its “strong affiliate networks” were “key” to its growth.

Casper says its affiliate programs are “an important part” of its strategy, but it has “limited” influencer marketing; Ottys Szlas says paid reviewers are part of a “wrong world” – but fears the company will be “left behind” if he doesn’t hug them. The company “ramped up” affiliate marketing this year, he says.

Once you know what to look for, affiliate marketing and influencers are relatively easy to spot. Buyers should be confident that there are still independent, impartial appraisers around. Grumpy customers still want to post scathing comments if they think they have been scammed. But affiliate marketing is a business like any other – and websites that turned product review into business should be considered with a pinch of salt.

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from Camila Hodgson

OZY works with the UK Financial Times to bring you world-class analysis and functionality. © The Financial Times Limited 2020.

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