Adopting digital & tech has been a paradigm shift in the way we do business: Vishal Sharma

Sleepwell, India’s leading mattress brand from Sheela Foam, has always focused on the importance of sleep and how a sound sleep of 8 hours can help one stay healthy. In fact, a comfortable, hygienic and sound sleep has never been more important than it is today during the pandemic times. According to the Royal Philips report, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indian adults experienced new sleep challenges like difficulty falling asleep (37%), difficulty staying asleep (27%), and waking up during the night (39%). It also highlighted the importance of digital health technologies which revealed that 60% of the Indians said that they have used or are willing to use telehealth for sleep-related concerns.

With more people staying and working from home, Sleepwell rolled out a category leading consumer experience with Sleepwell@Home. During the pandemic, the company also launched comforting products such as Cocoon Mattress, a first-of-its-kind Mattress in a Box (MIAB) offering that allows consumers to choose the comfort feel of the mattress on their side of the bed. They also rolled out campaigns for their audiences on digital media platforms to engage with them and to know about the current trends that cater to their needs, through which they highlighted the importance of staying safe and healthy during the pandemic with Sleepwell.

In our ‘MARKETING MINDS’ section this week, Vishal Sharma, Head of Marketing, Sleepwell, speaks about the journey of Sleepwell, communication & marketing strategies during the pandemic times, tackling the pandemic disruption, the trends witnessed during the lockdown, the growing focus on health and sleep and a lot more.

Fifty years is a great milestone for any brand. How has the journey been for the brand Sleepwell so far and what are some of the trends you have noticed in the category especially in the last 10 years?

Sleepwell has done extremely well for itself as it has been a pioneer in organising the industry. Being the first-mover into branded retailing, Sleepwell has brought in various new concept-based products, forayed into new categories other than Mattress, like Branded Furniture Cushioning, Home Comfort / Furnishing products. The brand has even adapted rapidly to the fast-changing environment by finding new ways of reaching out to consumers through the digital medium or at-home services, etc.

In new emerging trends, customers have been getting highly aware of the need for good sleep and products that promote their health, and therefore, customers are willing to pay a premium for quality products, and brands which meet their aspirational lifestyles. Lastly, customers started adopting digital means to discover, research, compare and then buy from any convenient channel that suits them.

Healthy India is one of the key propositions that you have been talking about through your campaigns? How has it worked for the brand and how did you engage with your audiences?

Even before COVID-19 struck, we were one of the few brands in India talking about Health & Hygiene, introducing our proprietary Neem Fresche technology in our products. The technology works towards providing a germ-free surface in our products that prevents allergies, infections, and respiratory problems. COVID-19, of course, sharply brought the focus back on health in every customer’s mind and we were ready for it. We started off with providing a sanitised “Safe Zone” environment in our retail stores, moving on to physical retail, where a customer can reach us online, our team will visit their home to cater to their safety needs. We also started various digital campaigns for educating the customer on the importance of good sleep for good health. Customers have appreciated our initiatives, which shows that we could recover our business quickly. The customers’ appreciation on our social media handles also shows higher customer satisfaction scores relative to the industry.

How has the role of celebrities like Vidyut Jammwal, Malaika Arora and Suresh Raina helped you in your digital campaigns? What has been the outcome and effectiveness of the campaigns?

We ushered in the New Year with the campaign – ‘Wish you a Healthy New Year’ – highlighting the health-promoting aspects of our product using our patented Neem Fresche Technology. We felt that after the fatigue of the first wave, people had realised the importance of health and we wanted to contribute towards introducing a positive change in people’s lives. So, we took the help of real-life health Influencers to push this message through their positive word of mouth. It gave us a big fillip as people have started coming out and asking about these Neem Fresche treated products both on our social media handles and in our stores.

The mattresses category has been growing with several new brands entering. What has been the product differentiation that your brand has been offering to delight the customers continuously?

Several new brands have entered the category and we see it as a positive step to the industry getting more organised and innovative. Our brand and product differentiation comes from the several firsts we have got to the industry, such as:

  1. Deep understanding and insight garnered from catering to Indian consumers for the past five decades.
  2. We use these insights to make and bring just the right Product and Offering to the consumer as per their changing lifestyles.
  3. We introduced innovative concepts like focus on health through Neem Fresche treated products, introduced India’s 1st customisable mattress – Cocoon, At-Home-Trial and Buying process, etc., which keeps us ahead of our competition.

Digital and Technology have played an important role in the last two years. How much technology have you embraced to push your products and boost the sales performance?

We have pivoted completely from being physical-first to being digital-first in the last 12-18 months. That meant overhauling our processes, team strengths, bringing in digitisation in the way we reach out to consumers, in the way we even service our consumers. We have seen the immense benefit of it also being able to quickly get our business back on its feet from the crisis, being able to cater to the pent-up demand and then being able to move our business forward reflecting in our monthly boost in sales numbers. In short, adopting digital and technology has been nothing short of a paradigm shift in the way we as an organisation and the industry used to do business.

The festive season is approaching and there is an optimistic outlook as cases are dipping and are under control. How do you plan to leverage the festive season? What’s going to be the overall marketing and communication strategy for Sleepwell to make during gains this festive season?

We have made rapid strides in digitising our customer outreach. We also have been able to build a hybrid physical channel to cater to our customers. We have moved to a strategy of conducting quick prototyping and pilots of customer initiatives, services, new products, category launches and even our campaigns with A/B testing. The learning from them is then quickly incorporated in the plan for scale up and larger roll out. We are ready with an exciting consumer offer, launch and scale up of our Omni-Channel initiative, roll out of an exciting new category all of which will largely ride on Digital for reach and narrative building on a national level, supported by offline media coverage and retail branding for micro market coverage.

The pandemic crisis has been a setback to several businesses. How did you personally and as a leader cope with the situation?

As a leader, the daily calls with the management, voicing teams’ concerns and getting them addressed, daily calls with teams to help them out on a personal level is something that helped. When dealing with a crisis of unknown and unmeasurable proportions, I realised the best way to cope up and move forward is to first realise that you are not alone in this crisis, everybody is facing the same challenges, then tackle daily issues in small steps and keep moving forward while keeping the big picture in mind. Also, I learned to grow more patient with team members and give everybody some space to get a handle on the crisis and if all kept moving forward, all would emerge stronger from this.

What is the message that you want to give your consumers when it comes to getting a good sleep?

My message to consumers for getting a good sleep is – good sleep is a very important key part of achieving an overall state of wellness. People have paid attention so far to good nutrition and regular exercise, but good sleep is the third vector which completes the wellness triangle in your life. The pandemic has taught us the valuable lesson of the importance of achieving an overall state of wellness in our lives and consumers need to trust brands like Sleepwell with their years of customer insights to deliver the right products and services for your ever changing and emerging lifestyle needs.

(Edited and Additional Inputs by Shanta Saikia.)


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