Today I present another written interview with Moe Kittaneh. Moe is the president and co-founder of One Mall Group, a rapidly growing online retail collective which includes mattress retailer Amerisleep. Kittaneh specializes in building businesses from the ground up, employee leadership, and innovative financial management. A passionate self-starter and lifetime entrepreneur, he has managerial experience in a range of industries and also enjoys boxing and traveling when not busy in the office. We focused this interview one of his flagship eCommerce store’s Amerisleep.
Check out the interview:
1. What got you interested in starting in online retail? What made you decide to sell mattresses?
The company that became One Mall Group started as a physical retail mattress store. Previously, I had quite a bit of selling experience through channels like eBay so we decided to try and expand sales of our mattresses and accessories over the internet as a natural evolution of growth. Eventually, this led to us starting a couple of websites, of which Amerisleep.com and Astrabeds.com have proven most successful.
My brother and I saw a big opportunity emerging in the mid-priced specialty mattress market (foam and air as opposed to traditional springs). We worked with manufacturers to develop our own lines that could meet or exceed the comfort and quality of major brands at prices more attractive to average consumers. While not as exciting as some other sectors of retail, mattresses do have good margins and if you have an impressive product, you can make life-long customers. Plus, everyone needs a place to sleep!
2. What are some of the ways you differentiate your products vs. other companies who offer similar types of products? Has this been challenging?
The mattress industry is extremely competitive, and very saturated. As anyone who has recently bought a bed knows, the market is dominated by a few companies with long-standing brands who spend millions in advertising. Differentiation is key to success in this environment, and your product really has to offer a better value and/or better quality to get noticed. Knowing this from the start, we developed our products in a way that would stand out and leveraged the internet to spread the word.
We made sure to use only quality materials, and to offer transparency about our products that is often lacking with major brands. Many of our customers have found us by searching for healthier mattress options, as our Amerisleep line uses plant-based memory foam and Astrabeds uses all-natural latex. These types of products are often difficult to find in local showrooms, so many people turn to the internet. We also target the largely-ignored mid-price sectors of memory foam and latex mattresses while many companies focus exclusively on cheap or luxury lines.
3. How have you gone about promoting Amerisleep online in terms of bringing new potential customers to the site? Social Media, SEO, or Paid Advertising? What is working for you today?
Our marketing mix has had to be very flexible over the years as consumer habits and Google’s algorithms are constantly changing. We use all of the above, as each has unique benefits and I don’t believe you should put all of your marketing eggs in one basket.
- Social Media is crucial for engagement and customer retention. People want to ask questions, see what others are saying, and share experiences before committing to a big purchase like a mattress. It also a good way to spread the news about sales or new products.
- SEO is essential for getting noticed in the first place. Many customers hadn’t heard of Amerisleep before buying but found us searching for general terms and keywords. However, this is probably the most tricky part of online marketing in today’s search environment.
- Paid Advertising helps bring our brands to the attention of people that might be searching general keywords or other brands. In print and on websites, paid ads can also help us reach customers that aren’t actively searching right now but may be in the future.
Right now, we use each of these three foundations for marketing. We also have success with inbound strategies like content marketing and by reaching out to our customers asking them to share their videos or reviews online with others.
4. What types of tools and systems are you using with your online site that have helped you increase productivity and sales?
We’ve seen the greatest increases in sales by making our website as simple and user-friendly as possible. Everything is easily accessible from the navigation and product pages have crisp, clear images and tabs for detailed information. Most of our websites run on the Magento platform, which we’ve found to be the most flexible and adaptive for needs. Some of the “all-in-one” solutions have very limited customization, whereas Magento is easier to work with and highly customizable. The open-source nature of the platform also means there are many add-ons and plugins ready to use.
Other tools we use include EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), which fluidly transfers customer orders to our manufacturing plant. Since we use a lean manufacturing model, this helps us get orders shipped to customers sooner and reduces the chance of human error. We also use a task management application for productivity which makes tracking projects for multiple websites and managing teams so much easier.
5. What are your future plans for 2014 and beyond?
This spring, we are working on opening our first Amerisleep showroom, integrating many of the principles from our online shopping experience. My goal is to make this the modern, technologically advanced answer to the classic uncomfortable mattress store. I will also be working on product improvement and expansion for our Astrabeds latex line.
You can check out Moe’s site at http://www.moekittaneh.com
You can also check out this other interview with Moe here.