Eve is one of the survivors of the mattress wars of the middle of the previous decade, when developments in foam technology allowed quality mattresses to be delivered in a box, and the sector was springing up with Silicon Valley-like startups excited at the potential to disrupt a staid industry.
While many hundreds of thousands of new mattresses were sold in the intervening years, the market has thinned as several of the aspiring players have dropped out of the UK and Europe, including major rivals Leesa and Casper.
Now led by Cheryl Calverley, Eve has been focused on broadening itself into a ‘sleep wellness’ company as part of a total restructuring of the business
Calverley joined as chief marketing officer in 2018 and worked on the initial rebuilding process under her predecessor as CEO, but the former Unilever and AA marketing executive was given the top job in May this year.
Like a memory-foam mattress it is an almost ergonomic fit, as Calverley’s specialist area of marketing has always been a key battleground in the mattress wars, but she is dialling up the focus on the customer and how the company’s application of data, along with continued broadening and improvement of the product offering.
Eve’s Premium Hybrid mattress is the best mattress available in the UK, according to Which? tests.
“That is incredibly helpful as that’s a product that sells very strongly without a huge amount of marketing or promotion. It shows if you can get your product right they will sell themselves to some extent,” says Calverley.
“But half of what we sell is not mattresses,” the psychology graduate emphasises.
“That’s really important to us as the long-term growth of the business is reliant on being much more than a once-every-three-or-four-year purchase.”
This is where the marketing and customer data come in, as Eve’s positioning as a brand — not just a mattress company but a sleep wellness company — is hugely important.
“Our positioning is important as it’s what allows us to get more value out of every customer that we acquire.
“I would like us to be seen by customers as a sleep wellness business rather than just a mattress brand and therefore trusted by customers for a much wider range of things, beyond just mattresses.
“I also need to give my customer a great experience when they do buy that mattress so that it’s Eve they come back to down the line, when they want, or need other sleep products.”
The Eve product offering has been widened to include bed frames, pillows, duvets, sheets, mattress toppers, bedroom furniture and versions of most of the above for babies and children.
“Our challenge is to develop other best-in-class products in other areas of sleep wellness. We’re constantly thinking about what other products there are that we could develop to help sleep? In broad categories such as light, sound, scent, even.”
With people’s attention turned inward during the lockdown, on top of an existing awareness that people are not getting enough sleep, new trends have emerged where households have been spending more on their homes rather than on eating and drinking out.
As well as a springy top line, Eve’s recent trading update showed that the front-to-back restructuring has brought long-needed levels of efficiency behind the scenes, and led to the business being cashflow positive in the first half of the year despite the coronavirus.
Eve’s awakening fits in with the wider economic trend seen in 2020 of online businesses coming into their own.
As well as the logistical advantages of missing out the high street middle-man, customer data is almost equally important an advantage, Calverley says.
“Data is absolutely vital. This is the big area where I think you’ll find that direct-to-consumer businesses tend to be winning out over more traditional retailers. We have the customer data and the knowledge of what to do with that data much more in our DNA.
“My team is made up of people that have grown up in digital and e-commerce businesses and they instinctively understand the importance of getting hold of your customer data, building a digital relationship with your customers and over the long term monetising that relationship.”
Calverley says the business, only five years old, is maturing in front of her eyes, with each new hire, each new tech development and new product adding a “new layer of potential”.
“And we’re very much at the beginning of our journey.”