5 Smart Strategies for Making the Most of Online Mattress Shopping Reviews

Consumers making a big purchase, such as a new mattress, invite feedback from family and friends, but just as often they turn to the advice of strangers — in online reviews. Four out of five Americans use online reviews to make first-time buys, and nearly nine out of 10 trust those reviews as much as personal recommendations. But according to the Better Sleep Council, mattress shoppers should be careful about basing their next mattress purchase on internet opinions.

Before using online mattress reviews for their next purchase, consumers should consider a few of the BSC’s tips.

Tip #1: Remember, only you can decide which mattress is best for you

Mattress buying can take more than a week partly because there are so many variables when it comes to choosing a mattress. Online reviews can help you start whittling down some of your choices, while providing information on what other people liked and didn’t like about certain options. Keep in mind, these opinions are based on the reviewers’ preferences and may not match yours. One person’s idea of a soft mattress may be another person’s idea of a firm one. Online reviewers will likely be ranking and rating mattresses based on their own needs and wants. These reviews often don’t take into account other factors that may be important to you, like whether the mattress is hypoallergenic or if it comes with an extended warranty.

Tip #2: Take all reviews with a grain of salt

As noted above, nearly nine in 10 consumers trust online reviews as much as the personal recommendations from family and friends. What some shoppers do not know, however, is the pervasiveness of fake reviews. Roughly 20 to 30% of online reviews can be phony, according to Harvard Business Review and Bloomberg Businessweek, respectively. It can be difficult – sometimes nearly impossible – to tell fake reviews from real ones. That doesn’t mean shoppers should disregard online reviews entirely. But it helps to read them with caution, and use them as one source to consider when looking to buy, not the only one. In addition to reviews, shoppers can turn to the Better Sleep Council, which provides unbiased guidance that can help consumers understand their sleep needs, so they can choose the mattress that meets those individual needs as opposed to brand preferences.

Tip #3: Search for signs of brand allegiance

The job of a mattress reviewer is, well, a cushy gig. Some mattress manufacturers provide reviewers with complimentary products in exchange for write-ups (this is true in many other industries, too). Reviewers may even get paid when shoppers click on a hyperlink in the review that sends them to the mattress manufacturer’s website where they buy a bed. This is known as affiliate marketing and according to a recent Fast Company story, in 2016 in the U.S., affiliate marketing was around a $4.5 billion business!

The affiliate practice is not designed to be harmful, but it’s fair to say the practice incentivizes reviewers to write glowingly about their most profitable mattresses. The Federal Trade Commission attempts to protect consumers by mandating that reviewers be honest in their assessments, but it is difficult to enforce that regulation. The FTC also tries to help buyers by insisting reviewers disclose to readers their commission or affiliate arrangements, as well as mention any free merchandise they receive from manufacturers. Shoppers should look for the small print with reviewers who profit from buyers using their links.

But they should also know that not all reviewers comply with the FTC’s rules.

Tip #4: Look for more than signs in the stars

Many review sites focus on rating mattresses through a five-star system. While that model of grading is common, it is also somewhat flawed. Not all reviewers have the same standards for their stars. Some regularly give out three stars as a matter of habit; others give five stars unless an exceptional flaw gives them grounds for fewer. This approach is common among online reviews, not just those for mattresses. For example, researchers at Boston University found that 95% of experiences on Airbnb, the home-sharing site, received ratings of 4.5 to 5. Of course, not every apartment or home is perfect, nor is every mattress perfect for everybody. So buyers should consider the all-or-nothing nature of star ratings. It is important to also consider the motivation behind the reviewer, and both the positive and negative comments along with the star ratings.

Tip #5: Remember you’ll do your best research lying down

Buyers can read every online review and gaze at every 4.7-star rating, but no research truly substitutes for testing a mattress in person. Your online research can give you a starting place for understanding your options, but until you have a chance to lie on the bed, you won’t know if it’s the right fit for you. The Better Sleep Council, along with other venerable organizations such as Consumer Reports, recommends consumers take their time, 15 minutes, on each mattress they’re thinking about buying. This helps you decide whether the mattress that looked good online actually feels good to you.

To take the confusion out of mattress shopping, follow the Better Sleep Council’s S.L.E.E.P steps. Watch now!

Take the Confusion Out of Mattress Buying by starting with the Better Bed Quizzz. Take your own “self-inventory” and start your mattress shopping journey with a bang, not a bust.

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