22 June 2024, 12:39
By Furniture News Sept 06, 2018

Science lessons from Mammoth's John Tuton

What does the customer want? For retailers, suppliers and manufacturers, that’s the million-dollar question – and, thanks to modern technology’s ability to harvest and analyse consumer data in increasingly sophisticated ways, the answer is clearer than ever. Paul Farley speaks to Mammoth’s founder John Tuton about the potential – and pitfalls – of personalisation in marketing …

Some 52.4% of the world’s population will be accessing the internet by 2020, and there will be 2.9 billion social media users, estimates online database Statista. Countless interactions means countless opportunities to capture, compare and interrogate user data, and better understand people’s behaviour, desires and frustrations.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal may have laid bare Facebook’s privacy protocols, but it hasn’t stopped the vast majority of UK users (around half of the population) from logging onto the social network each day and sharing information about themselves – explicitly or inadvertently. 

And that type of information is extremely valuable to the marketing companies which specialise in helping businesses target their advertising more effectively.

Just ask John Tuton, who founded the Mammoth comfort and mattress brand 10 years ago after suffering a rugby injury which left him immobile and unable to sit or sleep properly. Drawing on his healthcare background, John went on to develop his own mattress and cushion filling – Medical Grade Foam – which responds instantly to body shape and regulates temperature so users don’t get too hot or cold..

Today, Mammoth’s mattress, bedding and seating products are sold through more than 500 stockists in the UK, while the brand utilises its sports and health industry affiliations – with the likes of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), English Rugby Players’ Association and Tottenham Hotspur FC – to communicate its models’ capabilities when it comes to comfort, wellbeing, aiding recovery and helping ease aches and pains.

John’s approach to marketing has long been ahead of the curve, but his recent foray into marketing personalisation has revealed new directions for the brand which even he didn’t expect to encounter.

“All businesses are having to be more savvy about where their customers come from,” says John. “At Mammoth, we’ve developed a sophisticated system to really drill down and get to know our audience.”

Traditionally, he remarks, the furniture industry has tended to categorise customers by age group, and target its offer accordingly – yet the behaviour of today’s consumer is much more complex than it was once believed to be, and it has become increasingly apparent that it’s impossible to accurately identify what they want based on that metric alone.

“There are some pretty cool silver surfers out there,” says John, by way of example. “They’re internet-savvy tech-adopters, they’re fashionable, they drive a hard bargain … in short, they’re behaving very similarly to what we’ve come to expect from younger audiences.”

Mammoth’s answer is to evaluate customers based on a host of socio-demographic characteristics – such as gender, education level, income, technology adoption timeframes, favoured newspapers and location – as well as age. Doing so has enabled it to segregate its audience into six key groups (cohorts), each of which is then split into five or six sub-groups. 

“Traditional buying behaviours are changing fast,” says John, “so we’ve had to combine our own expertise with established metrics to get a clearer picture of our audience.”

It’s a far deeper framework than John ever intended to create – at the outset, he’d only wanted to identify two or three key cohorts on which to focus Mammoth’s marketing activities. But taking this path has also enabled Mammoth to plug into the latest outbound marketing systems – “they understand our language, and vice versa”, says John.

Yes, John admits, age remains an important metric. Younger audiences tend to be much more price-sensitive, he says – a £1000 mattress (Mammoth’s existing lines start at a retail price of around £800) is generally not available to a 20- or 30-something with a marked lack of disposable income, or even the desire to spend that much.

But our established notions of age groups shouldn’t define how a business presents its offer. “The average age of our customers is 57,” says John, “but, taken in isolation, that doesn’t tell us much. People in their 30s and 40s still account for a third of our customer base, while our sales actually peak with an audience in their 60s. It’s what’s behind that ‘57’ that’s important.”

Indeed, the analysis is so detailed that Mammoth is even able to identify audiences on a retailer-by-retailer basis. “Take Furniture Village – while their Mammoth customer is still in their 50s, they are, on average, five years younger than our norm, and the retail price they purchase at is +15- 20% higher,” says John.

“We’re taking a much more intelligent approach to marketing, and we can only do so through data analysis. I’m excited by the possibilities – these capabilities are going to allow us to work much more closely with our key manufacturing and sales partners as well as our stockists, and to speak much more directly to their customers.”

It’s all about delivering a simpler message, explains John, but through a far more targeted approach – tailoring the theme, call to action, message format and language to each specific cohort, depending on their specific drivers.

“We might target one recipient with a message around back pain, in which we’d lead with our association with the CSP,” he says. “Or we’d decide to push the ‘attainable luxury’ message, and talk about the products’ sophisticated foam interiors and tailored finishing to sit, sleep and/or relax better, in terms of both style and comfort.”

Despite the growing trend towards personalisation in marketing, John acknowledges that, in our industry, at least, it has its limitations, so customer research should always be informed by sector-specific experience – and the initial findings should only serve as a guide.

“Personalisation caps out on certain elements,” he says, “and that’s generally when people haven’t got the time to make a choice. Some mattress buyers just want to know if something got a good review, and if they can get it quickly. 

“This is no better demonstrated than by the bed-in-a-box – it’s a no-brainer. To most of us, offering choice and a degree of individualisation is important – but the fact that these brands have stripped so much out of the marketplace shows that plenty of customers just don’t have the time to really consider – and, generally, don’t care as much about – what they’re buying. They care more about their time.

“As a trade we have some strong thoughts about what people want – but many people aren’t sure. Somebody’s ‘firm’ mattress is another’s ‘regular’ – and do the majority of people really care how many pocket springs are in a mattress?”

Yet there’s an even greater number of consumers out there who do like to choose exactly what’s right for them, and, to many of them, Mammoth’s message of scientifically-guaranteed sleep is already coming across loud and clear.

“Thanks to our data analysis, we’re finding that there’s a big appetite for the Mammoth brand name and technological DNA, across all age demographics,” says John, who reveals the development of a new pricing architecture across the company’s entire range. 

After all, just as shopping on an iPad is no longer solely the domain of the younger generations, it’s not just the elderly that experience back pain or have difficulties achieving good-quality sleep. 

“We want to expand the Mammoth brand to make it more easily attainable for health-considered customers of all ages, and especially to those whose value sensitivity is higher,” says John, who describes the new, lower-priced line as “semi-skimmed, not full-fat” Mammoth.

“It will hopefully broaden our distribution,” he continues, “but the focus is more on helping our established customers appeal to younger cohorts by having a product offer that’s relevant to them – particularly those first-generation mattress buyers, in their 20s and 30s. 

“At the same time, our established models will be taken up a notch – more in terms of value and the ‘good stuff’ than price – giving our core customers more of what they love. They will benefit from more fillings, and a more luxurious finish.

“In all, it’s going to enable our retailers to create customer loyalty that can cross-fertilise through the generations, in the form of in-family referrals between grandparent, parent, child, and vice versa. As ecommerce uptake grows and customer loyalty generally declines, this kind of approach will become essential to the sustainability of a retail business, and the brands they represent.”

According to John, the new pricing and model architecture is “super consumer friendly”, will be easy to understand and communicate, while opening new doors for stockists – and it’s all come about thanks to the data.

“We’re continually having to develop more commercial propositions for our retail partners,” he concludes, “and the combination of new technology and new thinking we’re engaging is allowing us to do exactly that.”

What does the customer want? The answer’s out there – for those asking the right questions.

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