Recently the Swedish Furniture giant IKEA opened its Bangalore store spread over 12 acres at Nagasandra in Bangalore. There was such an overwhelming response that people had to wait for three hours to get an entry. IKEA, a Swedish MNC is a $47Bn company with 458 stores in 50 countries with 225,000 staff.
The business model of IKEA is to make affordable and contemporary furniture on a global scale. The pain points in the existing furniture market were:
- Traditionally packed furniture was prone to damage during transit.
- The cost of transportation was high.
IKEA developed a flat packaging mechanism. The flat boxes reduced storage space and thus the transport cost. Its target segment were the price sensitive customers.
With DIY ( do-it-yourself) kits, IKEA helped the customers to assemble their own furniture, eliminated the intermediaries like wholesalers, retailer and thus involved the end customer directly in the value chain. It also decided to manufacture standardized products keeping in the cultural context.
The company takes care in understanding the customer needs. E.g. ‘Kurs’ was a small bedside table with a drawer. The product did not succeed in the US even though it had a major success in the European market. The market intelligence revealed that shallow drawers with plastic slides was one of the major deterrents. IKEA reworked the design with deep drawers and non-plastic slides. After 4 years it was a top selling product in the US.
Along with the furniture kits, the customers are provided with tape measures, shopping list, pencil and a writing pad. Pick up vans and mini trucks are also arranged for the last mile connectivity.
What does Ikea do to attract customers?
- The company has built large stores where you can leave your kids for play activities.
- The stores are lit through electricity 24/7 without access to sunlight, a trick borrowed from Casinos; the clocks are either fake or do not tell the right time. – you lose your sense of time and unknowingly buy more.
- The stores are designed in such a way that you only follow one direction you walk from one end to the other.
- It puts arrows on the floor to complement the maze layout of the stores. – you need not think where to go next – just follow the arrows.
- Impulse Buying: Placing bedsheets next to the beds, pillows next to the sofa persuades the customer in impulse buying. The customer says, “let me buy it now else I have to come once again. “
- 30% shoppers go there to eat. In 2017 IKEA made $2.24 Bn on selling food.
- Most of the stores are located outside the city limits. Apart from getting large parcels of land at economical prices for constructing large stores, the customers also tend to think that they need to make their trip worth it. The commitment to buy make them justify the time and petrol spent. This is a cognitive bias called as sunk cost fallacy.
- After waiting in a long queue, a customer buys a table, goes home, assembles it; puts it on facebook showing the efforts he has taken thus giving free publicity to Ikea. Incidentally Michael Norton of Harvard Business School, Daniel Mochon of Yale and Dan Ariely of Duke University have identified a cognitive bias called as Ikea effect where consumers place a disproportionately high value on the product they have partially created. In an experiment conducted in 2011, a group of participants were asked to assemble the Ikea furniture whereas others were shown the pre-built version of the same furniture. The subjects from group 1 ( assembled by self) rated the price 63% higher than the group2 ( readymade)
Some of the reasons people who do self-assembly are:
- They feel competent
- Display the evidence that they are competent.
- A perception of saving money and thus being a smart shopper.
As a seller, you can learn how Ikea has changed the paradigm of customers from recipients of value to co-creators of value. As a buyer, beware of the traps!