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How IKEA Creates an Apple-Like Retail Experience

Posted by Christine B. Whittemore on August 13, 2012

This is a 4 minute read.

IKEA Retail ExperienceIn his book The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer LoyaltyCarmine Gallo refers to Apple's Five Steps of Service.

More specifically,

Approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome.

Probe politely to understand all the customer's needs.

Present a solution for the customer to take home today.

Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns.

End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.

[Source: Secrets From Apple's Genius Bar: Full Loyalty, No Negativity]

If you've been on the receiving end of Apple's legendary service, you have surely experienced how effective the five steps are.

What happens, though, in a retail environment where people aren't at the forefront of the experience? As in IKEA.

I regularly visit IKEA and did so this weekend with my daughter. We were looking to buy a desk for her. Other than two cashiers [one for the cafeteria, the other for checkout], we interacted with one person who helped locate via a computer system an item which had been moved to a new location in the warehouse, a strong person who helped us get one particularly heavy box onto a cart and another who helped us get the boxes into my car trunk.

Verbal exchanges were minimal. Employees weren't looking to build any relationships; they were simply doing their job as efficiently as possible.

Despite this non-Apple-like people experience, I consider that IKEA creates a retail experience as effective and conducive to loyalty as Apple does.

They do so through product, signage, relentless commitment to providing high quality home furnishings at tremendous value across languages and culture.

More specifically, 

Upon parking your car, you are immediately greeted via bold, friendly signage reminding you of the IKEA return policy, IKEA food options, products ideas... 

Upon entering the store, you can take a pencil, paper ruler and store guide to help keep track of products of interest. You can pick up a catalog and peruse it in the cafeteria as you eat your lunch before setting off to explore [you can park your kids while you shop or bring them along]. None of it is forced on you. However, it is politely available to help make the most of your visit.

A magical maze filled with completely accessorized vignettes invites you to explore and consider your needs - big and small. The solutions are plentiful, well thought out and exude hipness, coolness, practicality and warmth. Every product is available to take home that day, and options available to help deliver and/or assemble for you.

Can't pick up the box from the warehouse area? Someone magically appears! Need string to attach a box to your car? No worries, it's there ready for you.

As you leave, signage bids you a fond farewell!

IKEA has implemented the IKEA Family program which offers discounts, free coffee, deals of the month all communicated via regular emails - another way to nurture relationships with customers and invite them to return.

A few other observations:

  • The instructions IKEA provided for assembling my daughter's desk [we purchased 3 separate pieces] were outstanding! Interestingly, they included not a single word - all images - making them effective regardless of language preference.
  • The quality of the pieces - drawer mechanisms, screw attachments, etc. - was impressive.
  • The overall product was well thought-out. The hutch for the desk even includes a white board.
  • The end result looks fantastic!

I hand it to IKEA for creating a retail experience that is as effective as Apple's while taking a less people-intensive different approach.

Reactions?  Do you agree with my assessment?


PS: You might enjoy another article inspired by Carmine Gallo's Apple Experience: 3 Steps For Getting More Customers While Juggling.

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Topics: customer experience, customer loyalty

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