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Buying Your Mattress Online vs. In-Store

Updated November 15, 2019

In recent years, the number of online mattress companies has grown exponentially. Eager entrepreneurs are disrupting an industry once dominated by a few brands and retailers, introducing new sleep technologies and customer service techniques.

This explosion of online mattress brands is benefiting consumers: Competition fuels innovation and drives prices down. And as experts in all mattress matters, we strive to help shoppers evaluate their options, separating the best brands from the also-rans.

When we talk to our readers, some of them still voice doubts about buying a mattress online. Many are intrigued by the convenience but wonder if buying online is somehow inferior to the in-person process. Shopping online seems easy, but could testing mattresses in a store help you find the perfect match?

In truth, there’s a case to be made for both buying online and in-store. If you’re wondering which method will work best for you, you’ve come to the right article. We’ll cover the various pros and cons associated with each method to help you decide which buying mode will suit your priorities.

Mattress Stores: A Traditional Shopping Experience

couple testing the firmness of mattress with their hands

There’s an excellent chance that you have a mattress store nearby: According to some estimates, there are roughly 9,000 nationwide. Moreover, there may be more than one clustered in close proximity. Owners know that customers intend to shop around, so they congregate in one area to capitalize on existing foot traffic.

For decades, families in search of a mattress had few alternatives: You’d head to the store and explore what they had in stock. Some traditionalists still swear by this approach, scoffing at the suggestion of shopping online instead.

But does shopping in person really provide a better consumer experience? Our list of pros and cons presents a more complicated picture.

Pro: In-person testing can make a difference.

When people decide to shop in stores, they often do so for one reason: They want to try before they buy. Mattress stores do let you lie down on their products; it’s actually an integral part of the sales process.

Experts agree that this sort of test can be helpful, but you’ll need to recline for some time to get any useful data. A brief rest won’t do the trick: You should spend at least 10 minutes on any mattress you’re considering to truly gauge its comfort. So shoo the salesperson away and settle in for a while, even if it feels a bit awkward.

Pro: Negotiation is possible.

Driving a tough bargain isn’t everyone’s forte, but if you’re a ruthless negotiator, you may find that mattress stores are a great arena for your skills.

Because you’re in a store with real managers making decisions, you can haggle like there’s no tomorrow. And in the face of new competition from online retailers, stores may be more willing than ever to work with you.

If you have the time and energy, you can even pit retailers against each other. Because mattress stores are often located in close proximity, you can take one establishment’s offer to the other and demand a better deal.

Pro: Sweet sales do happen.

Brick-and-mortar stores sometimes face pressure to purge inventory, especially if a new line of products is set to debut soon. Additionally, retailers frequently participate in national sales events dictated by corporate leadership. Capitalize on the right timing and you could walk away with a desirable deal.

Major sales happen fairly often, but they typically align with holidays like Memorial Day or Labor Day. Black Friday is another great time to score a deal. Springtime is another time when mattress stores offer deep discounts because new models usually show up in the summer. For a fuller description of sales timing, check out this article.

Pro: They may take your old mattress away.

No matter how you buy your new mattress, you’ll face the challenge of disposing of your old one. Recognizing this conundrum, some mattress stores provide a valuable perk.

Many mattress stores offer to haul away your old one when they deliver your new purchase. This could be a huge benefit, and most online retailers don’t offer an equivalent service. Not every mattress store is so kind, however, so make sure you ask in advance.

Con: Confusing inventory options prevent comparison shopping.

Identical mattresses are often labeled entirely differently from one store to the next. This gambit is an infuriating strategy to confuse consumers – and prevent comparison shopping and haggling. In some cases, manufacturers tweak materials or design slightly, slap on a new name, and jack up the price substantially.

Unfortunately, this tactic is widespread, and salespeople probably won’t be willing to clue you in on the ruse. If you shop in multiple stores, you may struggle to keep your options straight. To avoid getting overwhelmed, bring a pen and paper or take notes on your phone.

Con: Store conditions differ from your home experience.

As we noted earlier, many customers appreciate the chance to test mattresses in-store. Still, the conditions in any establishment won’t match your home environment, and this discrepancy can make your search more difficult.

A store’s temperature, for example, can influence the way a mattress feels: If your home is warmer or cooler, the degree of support may seem different. Moreover, mattress stores can be rife with distractions, from screaming children to bright lights and chatty sales staff. It can be tough to compare mattresses accurately with so many factors in flux.

Con: Salespeople can be pushy.

Sales professionals are trained to close deals, and those who work at mattress stores are certainly no exception. From subtle pressure to outright manipulation, sales staff can make you feel obligated to buy. Even if you do, they’ll attempt the accessory upsell, suggesting sleep products you may not necessarily need.

Some shoppers are relatively unphased by such tactics. Others politely ask salespeople to leave them alone. But if you’re the type for whom these interactions are uncomfortable, you might not enjoy the in-store shopping experience. Because mattresses are such important purchases, you can’t allow yourself to be talked into one you don’t enjoy.

Buying a Mattress Online: Offering More Than the Stores?

couple sitting in bed together

As we’ve already mentioned, there are so many online mattress brands out there that it’s difficult to generalize about the benefits of their products. That said, the overall experience of online mattress shopping has several distinct advantages.

We’re not just talking about the convenience of browsing from your couch (though that’s certainly a sweet perk). In addition to saving you the hassle of a trip to the store, online mattress shopping can actually make your search more successful.

Pro: You can research on your own terms and timeline.

For those who value deliberation, shopping online allows you to gather information and make a reasoned decision. In contrast to mattress stores, there’s no insistent salesperson hovering around you and no pressure to make a purchase in a single visit.

So take your time when buying online: Read reviews, compare trials and warranties, and get into the details. As mattress experts, we certainly know how many factors you’ll need to consider. By moving toward a purchase at your own pace, you’ll avoid rushing into a purchase you later regret.

Pro: Delivery is easy.

Most online mattress brands deliver by mail, fitting the entire mattress into a simple package. When you open it up, the mattress quickly expands to its true dimensions.

This shipping process can be surprisingly swift, taking just a couple of days in some cases. Moreover, the mattress company often foots the bill, shipping for free to most U.S. addresses.

With this delivery method, you won’t need to be home when the mattress arrives. Conversely, mattress stores typically have specific delivery schedules, meaning you’ll need to be present when the truck shows up. If you work during the day, scheduling could be tricky.

Pro: Free trials are a true test.

Forget trying out a mattress for a few minutes: Give yours a try for a few weeks or months before making up your mind. Many online mattress companies offer customers extended trial periods, allowing you to sleep on their mattresses for as long as 100 days. That’s an experiment few stores will be willing to allow.

In these arrangements, the company usually accepts returns and offers full refunds. You may have to pay for some transportation costs, however, and the mattress can’t be damaged in any way during the trial. Still, if you find a mattress appealing online but worry you won’t like it when it arrives, a lengthy trial is a wonderful insurance policy on your purchase.

Con: Your options can be overwhelming.

If you agonize over everything you buy online, digital mattress shopping may feel particularly intense. With dozens of brands and models deserving of your consideration, you can spend hours comparing options. In some ways, this is a great problem to have: Better to have many attractive possibilities than none at all. Still, analysis paralysis is a real risk.

If you feel that shopping for a mattress online could be overwhelming, we can certainly help. Our recommendations and reviews can narrow your search down to a few outstanding contenders.

Con: Logistical issues can come up.

While online shopping is convenient in some key respects, there are potential drawbacks to be aware of as well. In contrast to mattress stores, you’re unlikely to get an online brand to take away your old mattress. Likewise, some companies don’t offer expedited shipping options. If you need a mattress tomorrow, a store could arrange speedier delivery (for a fee, of course).

However You Buy, Get Expert Guidance

As our discussion thus far makes clear, neither mode of mattress shopping is unequivocally superior to the other. Rather, each option presents specific advantages, which may or may not meet your needs.

Indeed, we hope this article helps you evaluate the potential benefits of both shopping methods in light of your preferences. Ultimately, either route will enable you to find an excellent mattress – provided that you know what you’re looking.

That’s where we can help, offering insights related to all aspects of the mattress shopping experience. Our expert articles provide important context, while our honest product reviews can help hone your search. Whether you’re shopping in-store or online, our content will let you buy with confidence.