Walk through the revolving doors, and enter upon a labyrinth, never ending with only one way out. This labyrinth, goes by many names and seems to have rooted itself throughout history. King Minos’s labyrinth, the Queen of Heart’s hedge maze or even the final challenge in a Tri-Wizard Cup. Though it may go by many different names, there is only one official one, Ikea.
Ok no really, I may have exaggerated that just a bit. But frankly, when have you ever been to Ikea and either got lost, took a wrong turn (even with arrows on the ground) or send I’ll just pop in and out and end up being there for hours. My favourite has to be though, “Oh, I only need 1 item” but you end up walking out with at least 5. But if you don’t think that Ikea is so large that you could say, hypothetically shoot a tv show in it without anyone knowing, oh wait, thats already been done. Ikea Heights as its called, is a comedic melodrama shot at the Ikea store in Burbank, California. And if you are ever so inclined, all seven episodes of this web series can be found here.
With 338 stores worldwide, 776 million store visits and a turnover of 27.5 billion euro, they must be doing something right. The World’s largest furniture retailer, Ikea was founded in 1943 by then, 17-year-old Ingvar Kamprad and sells ready-to-assemble furniture along with appliances and home accessories. But to become the world’s largest furniture retailer, Ikea must be doing something right? Last thursday, on a whim, my friend and I decided to go have dinner at Ikea. Though we did manage to get in and out of there in under 1.5 hrs (a feat by anyone’s standards) it got me thinking as to whether there was any ‘science’ behind the way Ikea operates.
The strategy that Ikea implores is that similar to an out-of-town retail park, where the objective is to keep customers inside for as long as they can, according to Alan Penn, director of the Virtual Reality Centre for the Built Environment at University College London. He says that ‘In Ikea’s case, you have to follow a set path past what is effectively their catalogue in physical form, with furniture placed in different settings which is meant to show you how adaptable it is… ….by the time you get to the warehouse where you can actually buy the stool or whatever’s caught your eye, you’re so impressed by how cheap it is that you end up getting it.’
By confusing individuals with their floorplan, someone would rather throw an item into their trolley, hence the impulse by, as you wouldn’t be able to go back to it later.
But what makes Ikea so effective? The first place one would start would be their price points. When creating the different furnishings, Ikea comes up with the price tag first. The designer of the item is told the cost and it must be the designer’s job to meet that goal, from everything to sourcing of raw materials to delivery of the final product. Speaking of delivery, the furniture comes to Ikea flat-packed which makes it much cheaper to transport. By expecting some of work to be done by the customer, Ikea can keep their prices low.
Large as each store may be, Ikea still seems to try to do its part to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable. Besides the simple concept of paying for a paper or recycled bag, recycling bins are found in the store where customers can drop off used batteries, light bulbs and even the plastic packaging the store uses. Even on a larger scale, the company tries to be more sustainable. For example, their store in Stoughton, Massachusetts, is certified green with the 37,000 square foot roof of the store covered in plants which helps regulate the store’s temperature while absorbing rainwater. Another long-term goal of Ikea is to have all their stores using renewable energy through solar and wind power wherever possible, a feat that by 2006, already covered 25% of their stores.
Besides being sustainable, Ikea does its part to help the community. In September 2005, Ikea Social Initiative was formed where the company’s social involvement would be managed on a global scale. Through the social initiative, Ikea has become UNICEFs largest corporate partner, with commitments exceeding 180 million dollars. This is by Ikea contributing €1 from every soft toy sold during holiday seasons, providing soft toys to children affected by disaster and donating a Sunnan solar-powered lamp for every one purchased in store. Along with that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to produce flat-pack refugee shelters. These shelters, that can be set up within just four hours, are being set up in in Ethiopia and on the borders of Syria, with 26 already in Ethiopia, 12 at the Iraqi border for Syrian refugees and 12 in Lebanon, also for Syrians. Each house, which can house five people, have a cost of approximately $8000 a piece. However, one of the main advantages of the shelters is their durability to climates found in those locations, and have also been guaranteed to last three years and may likely remain standing for longer.
Though it may not be an exact science, Ikea seems to have figured out a way to stay ahead. Multiple forms of guerilla marketing, whether it be an x-rated website that redirects you to Ikea beds, or even a comedic melodrama along with decreasing their carbon footprint and doing their part to help humanity, Ikea’s marketing methods seems to be keeping them on track.
– Written by Rakshet Sachdev
Find more of my in-cohesive ramblings on twitter @rakshet