This past week I took a trip to Ikea. For those of you who’ve never been, it’s an absolutely astounding facility. Daycare for your kids, sprawling parking lot, a warehouse of display items (adjacent to) a warehouse of display items for sale, (next to) a warehouse of items displayed in the first warehouse… Ikea is a modern marvel. You can learn a lot about great customer service and marketing by spending a little while at Ikea. You can also learn some pitfalls of opening such an enormous warehouse as well. Here are a few things I noticed during my trip:
1) Presentation matters. If you’re going to Ikea, you’re going for a shopping experience. Though there are easily thousands of products available, Ikea presents each in a clean and uniform manner exactly where you expect it. Unlike a supermarket, where items may be laid out irrespective of their surroundings, the atmosphere at Ikea is extremely important. Looking for a coffee table? You expect to find it in the living room section, complemented by a sofa and a TV stand. Your nightstand can be found in the bedroom next to a matching dresser. Also important, as with any retail store is cleanliness. For the thousands of products available, you’ll rarely find clutter or a mess. The store is kept up in a nearly immaculate fashion.
2) Keeping a customer’s attention is great… up to a point. Ikea is an experience that engulfs you. It’s like an amusement park at its best, or an airport at its worst; there’s no escaping it, and if you want anything from a bed sleigh to lunch, you’re buying it there. In some ways, it’s paradise: you can purchase pretty much anything and everything you see in the store. However, after a couple hours, you’ll feel like you’ve been there for days and you’ll do anything to find your way out. It’s like a casino – no clocks, no easy path to the exit and you just keep hemorrhaging money.
3) Pictures help avoid confusion. The beauty of Ikea’s building instructions is that they’re picture-oriented. Whether you’re from Sweden or Asia, it’s easy to comprehend the directions given for furniture construction. On occasion, pictures can certainly be ambiguous, so concise wording is helpful on occasion. However, nine times out of ten, pictures are the perfect way to demonstrate an example.
Some people hate Ikea. Some people despise putting together their own furniture. But it’s impossible to argue with Ikea’s success and ability to create a uniform experience for shopping for utilitarian furniture. Whether you love it or hate it, make sure you learn from it.