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Shopping Made Personal - How We Translated IKEA's Offline Experience Into the Concept of a Seamless Online App

A trip to IKEA is like going through all the future homes you want to have (but probably won’t, because let’s be honest - no one can keep their space that tidy and artfully arranged). It’s scenography, all the more convincing for its theatricality. You go through these tiny rooms that represent people’s lives and it’s easy to imagine yourself living there, smiling, enjoying time spent with your close ones. Why is this only true for the offline experience?

IKEA's Offline Experience Continues to Attract and Delight Customers

IKEA introduced a new quality standard of presenting products. It’s artful, tasteful and interactive. The moment you see (and sit on, or bounce on) something you like, you can have it. It feels yours as soon as you’ve laid your eyes on it. Getting your new sofa to your home and installing it is no hassle. Then you can spend the evening testing it with a good book and hot cocoa.

More importantly, IKEA’s staff will help you figure out exactly what you need. These people are experts in their field, happy to share their knowledge to help you build your perfect interior. The experience created in IKEA’s offline shops is almost flawless, and it’s thanks to their dedicated team.

The second factor that makes walking through IKEA’s beautiful maze so magical is product proximity. When you shop for a bed, you want to lay down on the mattress and see how it feels. Maybe you don’t need it to make an informed choice, but the ability to just sink down onto the bed, among pillows and covers, helps you imagine this product as an integral part of your home. This element, this embedded human touch, is crucial.

IKEA Assist Bot.gif

What Works Offline Doesn’t Exist Online

According to CEO Peter Agnefjaell, online sales are expected to account for 10% of total sales by 2020. That’s a lot of money, seeing as even now online retail exceeds 1 billion euros for IKEA (hovering at about 3% of total sales). But when you visit IKEA’s online shop, your experience is very different. First of all, you’re alone with a huge catalog of products. You search using filters that are rarely intuitive. Also, you are presented with so many options that it’s extremely difficult to make any decision.

Products are shown on photos, but they don’t inspire an emotional response in you, because they don’t visually belong to a complete interior like they do in the brick-and-mortar store. There’s no theater, no make-believe and no imagination, just a flat screen. The magical, theatre-like experience is gone, and what’s left is mundane scrolling through endless index pages. The best way to actually shop is to go through the online catalog, make a list, then go to an offline store and see whether the products you’ve chosen are actually what you want to buy. Only then can you truly convince yourself to buy them.

Even if you’re perfectly happy to purchase something online (maybe you’ve already seen the product or own a similar one and know what to expect), you might be in for a surprise. IKEA is not yet perfect at blending the online and offline experiences in a satisfying way. Some customers complain that the whole process is “a weird mix between e-commerce and brochure/reference guide where you can buy a small selection of products and pay an incredibly high delivery fee”.

How to Make the IKEA Online Experience Better

There is a way to change the IKEA online store for the better - and it’s not too complicated. In fact, there are three main things to be accomplished here:

  1. Personalisation and humanisation of the shopping process by giving the system of tags and filters a human face.
  2. A shift from showing isolated products to whole interior arrangements, just like in an offline store - presenting products in an attractive, inspiring context.
  3. The addition of social media presence - introducing Instagram hashtags to inspire buyers by showing them how particular items look in real people’s homes.

Point 1 is all about fun: building an AssistBot that will be easy to talk to and good at solving the buyers’ problems (i.e. at at finding the right products for them). It’ll know the catalog better than any human assistant, thanks to it’s access to IKEA’s product database, and it’ll know which products are available to be ordered online. It’ll guide buyers through the process instead of leaving them to find their own way in the sea of tags, categories and collections.

As already mentioned, IKEA’s strength lies in triggering the imagination of its customers. Interactive, physical arrangements are an amazing tool and there’s no reason not to bring the experience online. That’s where sample interiors created by IKEA and real people’s interior designs shared on Instagram come in. A home is a social space, created by people for people. By bringing this factor into the buying process, IKEA could completely change the experience their online customers are getting.

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That’s it! Seemingly simple, but actually the whole process will require a lot of work. As IKEA’s business is based on experiencing beautiful interiors, delighting the customer is a must. And what better way to do it than take the most important elements of the top-notch offline experience and bring it to online customers?

Want to see the whole IKEA redesign concept by Netguru? Take a look at our Behance presentation.

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