Ikea Rocks with its Retail Customer Experience

In the current economy, consumers are holding on to their money more tightly and making hard choices about if, and where, to spend it. Having a great customer experience greatly increases the chances that a) customers will come back to shop there again and b) they will tell their friends and family about how great it was! Word of mouth is very powerful marketing; studies show that consumers trust friend recommendations more than information from vendors.

Ikea is one of those stores with a great shopping experience that evokes word of mouth. In addition to the fun one can have by sitting on all those couches or envisioning how that bedroom would look in your own house, Ikea does things to make a difference even to the smallest customers.

Ikea has a play area for the littlest ones, where they can romp while their parents are enjoying the shopping. However, Ikea actually encourages families to bring their children with them through the showroom experience, starting right from the entrance. At our local Ikea store, a staircase leads shoppers up to the showroom floor. I was very impressed when I noticed they had put in a hand rail at kid-level, just right for those youngsters to hold onto while navigating the steps (see photo). The sign on the hand rail says the following:

“We care about the little ones, too. Look for the hand rails mounted lower, specially for your children.”

This does two things for the customer. One, the rail itself helps the kiddos feel like grown-ups (look, Mom, I can reach the hand rail!). Two, it specifically tells customers that Ikea has thought about their experience in advance and has done something to make it better.

Understanding Customers

Whether your customers are consumers or businesses, having a solid understanding of them makes all the difference in the sales and marketing process. How do your customers shop your business? What would make it easier to buy from you? Craft your own customer buying experience around the answers to those questions, and you will find an increase in not only sales, but also in new customers as the word spreads that you are a fabulous place to meet their needs.

For more great insight into the retail customer experience, see the these smart blogs: Doug Fleener’s Retail Contrarian, CB Whittemore’s Flooring the Consumer, Stephanie Weaver’s Experienceology.

(Photo credit top: rmarmion; photo credit bottom: bcarroll)

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15 Responses

  1. Hi Becky,
    Thanks for the shout-out! I like the aspect of the Ikea experience you have pointed out. I also love their cafeteria. I don’t actually enjoy shopping there if I’m looking for a particular product, as the layout is designed to make you lost in the store. But as a place to wander and discover, it’s really fun! I’ll look for the handrail next time I visit the store.

    Stephanie Weaver

  2. Becky, thanks very much for including Flooring The Consumer as a resource!

    Funny that you mention IKEA. I came across several articles about them over the weekend. One referring to the opening of their first US based manufacturing facility to improve delivery to the US. The other about product presentation. Via their vignettes and product presentations, they do such a terrific job celebrating creativity and practicality.

    I hope you are well, and I think I saw a tweet suggesting you would be attending the MProfs event in Oct?? That would be very cool.

  3. Stephanie, glad to point you out. I also like their cafeteria; very reasonable, and yummy! I actually enjoy getting “lost” in Ikea; I just can’t go there too often, as my wallet comes back so much lighter. 😉

    CB, you are welcome! I love their vignettes and the way they present their products; I think it really helps to visualize how furnishings could look in a home.

    Yes, I will be at the MarketingProfs event in October as part of Rohit B’s panel. Are you coming?? I am looking forward to it!

  4. Becky…

    I like your approach to describing the essence of the IKEA customer experience. As you observed the people IKEA work on the small things to create remarkable customer experiences, but IKEA is also an intersting case study how to create customer experiences by focusing on delivering extraordinary high customer value.

    IKEA focuses not on “bigger, better, more” but actually one “cheaper, faster, easier” to create customer experiences. We tend to forget that this is also a feasible path for customer experience management.

    I have written about it here on my blog, maybe you have a comment on it: http://www.customer-experience-labs.com/2008/08/12/customer-experience-design-the-ritz-carlton-vs-ikea-philosophy/


  5. Tim Williams

    “Ikea is one of those stores with a great shopping experience that evokes word of mouth”


  6. I like Ikea’s approach to Customer Retail experience. I have kids and bring them to Ikea all the time. The fact that they go out of their way to be “kid-friendly” is important to me and my family. Ikea has a customer for life and I tell all my friends about them.

  7. I’ve been going to Ikea for many years now. I thoroughly enjoy the entire experience and friendly atmosphere. I feel like I accomplished something after I put together the furniture. I tell everyone about the positive experiences of shopping at Ikea.

  8. I can certainly testify to IKEA’s success in evoking word-of-mouth recommendations. No less than 3 of my friends have enthusiastically encouraged me to visit, praising their play area and the staff who will watch your kids while you shop! IKEA strikes me as a forward-thinking and customer-focused retailer.

  9. JP

    IKEA is definitely cutting edge in the customer experience area. I know they use mystery shopping as a tool to drive accountability for customer service and as a way to reward employees when they deliver a great experience – two critical factors in becoming a truly customer-centric organization.

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