As the new chief marketing officer and senior VP-marketing and customer experience at Mattress Firm, the largest mattress seller in the country, Sicily Dickenson is tasked with attracting potential customers to the Houston-based chain's 3,600 stores. She's also battling it out with a host of new industry disruptors, like Casper and Leesa, which sell bed-in-a-box foam wares. To modernize the 31-year-old retailer, Ms. Dickenson plans to reinvigorate the Mattress Firm shopping experience and will tap a new brand agency to do it.
Ad Age: What's first on your agenda?
Sicily Dickenson: I'll be trying to understand the wants and needs of consumer shopping expectations. Better sleep is becoming more and more of interest to consumers. We spend nearly a third of our life asleep, and performance—whether you're an athlete, a business person, or a teacher—is related to how you're sleeping. We're trying to connect Mattress Firm to that. We're working on a brand strategy that pulls all the great attributes that we already have and looks for the white space that no one is owning in the category.
Ad Age: Many new e-commerce brands say they're shaking up the traditional mattress buying experience. Why has that experience had such a bad rap and how can you overcome it?
Ms. Dickenson: There's no real emotional connection to any of the retailers in our space right now. We suffer from this perception that going into a mattress store is going to be like a used car experience—it's a category issue. We're finding through secret shopping research that once you're inside those doors, that doesn't happen. So, we're looking at what's prolonging that perception—how does the store look, what's the store environment? There are a lot of pre-existing barriers to getting people in the stores that we have to deal with upfront.
Ad Age: How do you plan to modernize Mattress Firm to compete with the new brands, but still keep your loyal base?
Ms. Dickenson: It's an easy way to go to market, to say we're cutting out the middleman and giving you a better deal in our space, but that's not even true. The idea of a bed in a box, a foam mattress, is not a new idea. They just put a great wrapper and communication strategy around it. The product is something we've had for a long time at a lower cost. There's some really interesting things right now that we have in sleep technology, more cooling technology and more bells and whistles. [Competitors] have simplified it and you're getting a product that's a little less feature-rich. The other thing they did, where we have weakness and where we'll focus, is making selection super easy to figure out. The amount of technology out there—how do we make that easy for the consumer to digest? How can we bring more of a personalized approach but keep it simple?
Ad Age: What agencies does Mattress Firm work with?
Ms. Dickenson: We will be announcing very shortly a new partner in the brand category. Another partner from an agency perspective is someone [we'll tap] to help with in-store experience.
Ad Age: Mattress Firm just started working with Havas New York on its Dream Bed foam mattress. What kind of marketing can we expect to see around that?
Ms. Dickenson: Dream Bed has been around for a year, but we've been using it as a test bed to find out how we want to play in that space. We wanted to test and understand what in the experience people are most attracted to when buying a bed in a box. We want to create this hybrid approach where you have convenient retail locations where you can touch and feel the product, but also have the convenience of ordering online. Within the next three months we plan to go more broadly with that and that's why we brought Havas in to create that overarching experience.