The Customer Journey of IKEA
As the UK team is heading to Gothenburg, we are doing a mini-series on Swedish Design. What better company to start with than IKEA? One of the most prolific design companies not only in Sweden, but in the world. There’s a cultural phenomena named after them, called The IKEA Effect – the idea that we have a cognitive bias that says we attach greater value to things we build ourselves. So, as a UX company, we thought why not add to this, and break down the customer journey and experience that is IKEA, with added input from our team of UX experts here at UX Connections.
When you enter the store you will dive straight into the showrooms. This might feel overwhelming, as there is inspiration everywhere you look. All of a sudden, you forget what you came for and have so many ideas of how you can redecorate your entire house instead. IKEA has ‘an attention to detail and it’s easy to imagine yourself in these rooms’, as pointed out by Ali (UX Consultant). That’s exactly what is supposed to happen, you see how just one piece of furniture can completely change a whole room, in so many different ways. It’s a convincing way of marketing their products. It’s important that it doesn’t get confusing or congested, which is something IKEA has succeeded with, according to Sirine (UX Consultant). The showrooms is also the start of an ‘almost never ending path’ as explained by Gemma (UX Consultant), a journey that for some people can feel claustrophobic and stressful, while for others it can be a way to relax and get a break from the outside world.
After walking through the multitude of showrooms, you arrive at the IKEA restaurant where you will find a selection of food for everyone. Most famous are the Swedish meatballs, which has almost become a phenomenon of their own. IKEA makes the food simple and affordable, which probably is the reason why many stop there for a break. Because of this, many families can make going to IKEA a whole day trip, spending hours inside the store, picking up more items than intended. If you don’t have to leave the store, this gives them more time to convince you to buy their products!
When you feel re-energised from all the Swedish food you’ve eaten, it is time to take on the marketplace, which is always overloaded with products. IKEA has designed it in a clever way, separating it into sections of a house, and making it so the customers must follow the path the whole way through, which makes it impossible to only see the products you were originally looking for. They do have shortcuts, as Gemma points out, but ‘they aren’t always easy to find’, and could be made clearer. Ali adds to this, saying that as IKEA targets the bigger products, it is difficult and takes a long time to find the smaller products that you are actually looking for. Gemma also mentions another UX improvement, that ‘IKEA could implement signs in the ceilings, so when you walk along the path you can easily get an overview of the room and understand what section you are in’.
Once you’re done picking up all of the home furnishings you’ve realised you most-definitely need (even though you only came in for that rug), you find yourself at the warehouse. This is where they stock all of their brown-boxed, build-it-yourself furniture. This is arguably what IKEA is best known for, and therefore it is always stocked to the brim. After noting down the different codes you’ll need whilst making your way through the store, it’s now time to find your desired item. All you do is check the aisle and position, and make sure it has the same name on the box as it did when you saw it built up in the showroom! This is a fairly straightforward process, making it easy to find what you are looking for. Once you have everything you need, it’s a clear line to the finish, where you’ll realise just how much you’ve spent!
The checkout is an experience of its own. There everyone stands: queuing up to buy a desk, a chair, a bed, and maybe some fake plants. There is no store quite like it. If you’ve managed to restrain yourself and only picked up a few items, you can use the self checkout and skip the lengthy queues. Finally, you pick up your giant blue bags before you pack your house-worth of furniture away ready for the drive home. Because it’s boxed and flat, you can fit quite a few pieces into the boot of your car, making it easily transportable – you can take it home yourself rather than having to plan for a delivery man to bring it to you.
Once you finally make it home, you step into the last level of the IKEA game: the building stage. Usually, this is done a few days (if not weeks) after the trip, as you summon the courage to spend a full weekend fitting all the pieces together without pulling your hair out. You lay everything out on the floor, purposely skipping the step that tells you to check you have all the pieces you’ll need just because you like to take risks. When you then open the instruction manual and start to follow along with the images, Gemma mentions that ‘their instruction manuals only have drawings so you don’t need a long booklet with a multitude of languages, nor lengthy, hard-to-understand text’. Plus, if you do ultimately regret not checking that you have all the separate parts you need, ‘you can very easily buy independent pieces to fix this mistake’. Of course though, the emotional rollercoaster that is building IKEA furniture is certainly what has made it the cultural phenomenon that it is today – we can all understand that what should take a few hours will ultimately take at least a day for most of us.
It is clear that a trip to IKEA has become a very well-known, well-understood customer experience, one that includes browsing, shopping, playing, eating, sitting and drinking – all in a furniture shop. It has created its own cultural phenomenon that raises particular emotions in all of us, that come with not just visiting IKEA, but building the flat-pack furniture. It is designed in such a specific way that we don’t even realise we’re playing into the designer’s dream – buying more than we need, but enjoying it anyway. The ‘user experience’ of IKEA is one that is so different from any other furniture shop, but looking at the customer journey alone, that’s exactly why it’s become such a popular and successful global business.
Maisie Carroll and Elin Forsslund, Writer
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