Five Lessons Every Small Business Can Learn from…IKEA

Swedish big-box home furnishing store, IKEA, has tailored its customer shopping experience in a way that would make M.C. Escher proud. Its goal, like yours, is to drive up volume and drive down costs. Here are some things you’ll learn if you take a trip to your local IKEA store.

Brand Recognition
You can’t miss the big blue building with the giant yellow letters. For those who have never been inside an IKEA store, or who have been living at the bottom of a volcano in Iceland for the last two decades, the big blue building is an attention-grabber. Once you’ve been to the giant superstore, the link between “big blue building” and “well-designed, reasonably-priced furniture” is indelible. It’s like white script on a red background, or an apple with a bite taken out of it. When you know what it is, you can’t ever un-know it. The lettering is unambiguous. When you drive up, you can’t mistake the name of the store. They don’t try to be sneaky or cunning. It’s IKEA. Big block letters proclaiming that you have arrived in the land of “shipping the kids off to college at last,” or “I just moved out of my parents’ place and I need a bunch of stuff without breaking the bank.” 

Memorable Products
IKEA. It’s Swedish for “more space.” Okay, that’s a lie, it’s the initials of IKEA founder and designer, Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd. But when your name is a Scrabble player’s worst nightmare, using your initials is a pretty smart move.

The furniture in the store has names like LEKSVIG, SMADAL, EXPEDIT, and EKTORP — and they stick in the brain, even if it’s only for the way they sound. They make you pay attention to them because you have to read them a couple of times to make sure you read them right, and that’s usually enough repetition for them to imprint themselves on your consciousness. 

You Only See What They Want You to See
Try going round your local IKEA “backwards” and you’ll get an idea of what it’s like to be a salmon in the spring, or a lab-rat in a maze. See, the stores have a path. You go in and you are guided through the warehouse in a way that doesn’t allow you much, if any, freedom to wander. And it’s not some European need to make you get in line driving that decision — it’s marketing. You get to see the model rooms from exactly the vantage point IKEA wants you to see them from, lit and set in a way that best shows them off. As you go around, you make notes of the locations of the pieces you like, and at the end of your browsing, you come to long rows of shelves, stocked with flat boxes of the things you want to buy. Just wheel your cart to the appropriate location, load it up, and go check out.
This method works on your website, too — provide a path for your online visitors to follow from when they land on your front page to when they check out, because keeping them on your site is the key to making sales. 

One Size Fits Everything
IKEA wants you to buy its stuff, and you get a bag that conveys that message perfectly. There’s almost nothing in the store you can’t fit into it. Like everything else in the store, its design is a thing of simple beauty. A big bag with big loopy handles that allow you to wear it on your shoulder, your hands will always be free to pick up more stuff and load up your bag like it’s a rented mule. While your hands might hurt carrying a gallon of milk and a box of kitty litter in a basket at your local megamart, IKEA’s plan of having you literally shoulder your burden puts the weight where you barely feel it.

Price and Affordability
The real beauty of IKEA is its pricing. Nothing seems like it’s too expensive for what you get, and it’s this appearance of a fair price and “good enough” quality that makes IKEA furniture the choice of a great many people college graduates moving into their own place. Hooking in each new generation of newly employed grads provides IKEA with a pipeline of enthusiastic evangelists. Sure, as their income increases they might move onto more expensive furniture retailers for their increasingly large and expensive homes — but the den, the home theater room, the basement, the guest room … IKEA provides solutions for these rarely-used or high wear and tear rooms that represent great value. And if it’s a few more dollars than you have in your pocket right now, IKEA offers its own store credit card. With industry comparable interest rates, and a special reduction of your personal rate if you spend over $1000, no annual fee, and a host of other benefits, the IKEA Credit Card makes it easy, maybe too easy, to furnish a room, an apartment, or a house. 
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