Posted by: Chris | July 25, 2007

My Vacation-to IKEA. (Part II)

Obviously, I was pretty impressed at my inaugural trip to IKEA last weekend. But at as a marketer (wannabe), I couldn’t help but be a tad critical. Granted, there was not much to complain about, but here are a few things that I felt IKEA could beef up on.

1. Failsafes- This is such an essential part of marketing and operations, and while the store did have many failsafes in place (directional signage, maps, etc.), I did notice two areas that could have been better. The first was the elevator/restaurant area. The store allows a customer to exit the elevator on the second floor and proceed directly to the restaurant (as my wife and I did). However, it would seem that, according to IKEA’s plan, the restaurant should be the last spot a customer reaches. I say this based on the fact that the blue arrows on the floor ultimately lead to the restaurant. None lead away from the restaurant. The implication is that once a person reaches the restaurant, he is finished. If this is the way IKEA wants it, they should not allow customers to access the restaurant first, or they should have clear signage that indicates that beginning one’s IKEA trek at the restaurant is indeed, backwards.

I also felt that their products could easily institute “construction” failsafes. In light of the fact that a person must combine items from several different, individual boxes to construct a single desk, bookshelf, table, etc., IKEA’s suppliers could lessen confusion by drilling dowel holes, cam holes, etc. slightly non-symmetrically. By doing so, a customer has no question as to where a particular screw, dowel, cam, etc. belongs-it simply wouldn’t work any other way. (Sorry to be vague-trying to save words.) And while I understand and respect the fact that the instructions are free of any textual instruction in order to accommodate a customer base of varied native languages (and those who do not read at all), such vague instruction should be accompanied by fewer ways to screw up.

2. Full Product-Line Online Avalilability

If the Piano Superstore can ship me a 5 ft. 2 in. baby grand piano, you should be able to ship me a set of bookshelves in a box.

3. In-Store Inventory

One of the most disappointing things my wife and I noticed at IKEA was the amount of “oversold” stock that was still on display. Tempting your customers, only to dash their hopes of purchasing that low-profile circular bed that just can’t be found anywhere else really hurts loyalty. (Not that we were wanting to buy one of these-but someone out there was, I’m sure!) This could be IKEA’s weakest link. You know you’re popular, you know it’s summertime and sales will be higher than usual. You need to prepare. This is a basic management problem that can be easily remedied. (But please don’t recruit new managers from the Tulsa SuperTarget-they seem to have the same problem.)

4. Let Me Take Coffee into the Showroom

Come on IKEA, you guys are resourceful and creative. Get those product engineers working on a thermal “sippee cup” for adults so that I can enjoy some “Swedish” coffee as I explore your store.

It is with hesitation that I post these criticisms, as my overall experience at IKEA was unparalleled. Even from a marketing viewpoint, the store easily trumped the smalltown, family-owned shops I’m more accustomed to, and the products are far superior to the disposable furniture lines one can buy from Wal-Mart or Target. If you haven’t already, please be sure to read my previous post about IKEA’s Jekyll. We’ll be going back for sure. (I think I’ll get another two days next summer.)

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