March 26, 2008, 12:00 AM

Internet availability drives 1800mattress to open stores 24/7

The wide-open access of 1800mattress.com and shoppers’ desire to test products any hour of the day has prompted the retailer to operate four New York locations around the clock. National rollout of the concept could be in the works.

1800mattress.com has listened to its shoppers and followed the lead of its e-commerce shopping channel by opening four Manhattan-area stores 24/7. Bedding shoppers have indicated, via call center and online communications, that they want to try out the products before they buy. And many of those want to do so at off hours, says John O’Connell, executive vice president of sales and merchandising at 1800mattress.com, No. 252 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

“From data gathered on our web site and by phone we identified an opportunity to improve on the convenience factor and operate showrooms on a 24-hour basis,” O’Connell tells Internet Retailer. “We’d love to do it nationally, but so far we’ve segregated the concept to Manhattan, in the city that never sleeps.”

Much of the feedback from customers has come since the company implemented live chat on its e-commerce site last July. The retailer has analyzed online and telephone shopping data for years, but the live chat provided fresher insight. “With chat we can extract data directly from the customer in real-time,” O’Connell says. “Then we can take transcripts from those conversations and apply them to our business strategy.”

On average, about one-half of all shoppers want to lie on a mattress before they buy, says 1800mattress.

By opening some stores to shoppers around the clock, the company meets shoppers any time they are ready to buy. 1800mattress.com also delivers 24/7 in the Manhattan area as a further concession to shoppers’ wishes.

The company has deployed call center and live chat employees to each store in a move to keep on the same page when dealing with consumers, O’Connell says. As a bonus, staff filling those two roles and the store manager all have learned more about each other’s interaction with shoppers than they possibly could if working in separate locations. “There has been all kinds of cross-pollination. It’s huge for the consumer and for our staff,” he adds.

The 24/7 store concept has been in place only since March 6, so the results are not clear. But traffic is up in all three channels and phone activity has increased more than 100%, O’Connell says. And each channel is driving sales in another, with online sales often following customers’ in-store visits.

The company would like to take the full-time store sales option to all its 450 corporate and franchise stores and affiliate companies, but customer feedback from the New York testing ground will dictate further rollout, he adds.

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