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IKEA has made a name for itself globally, not just for its unique assortment of flat-pack and affordable furniture, but also through its clever and effective marketing strategies that distinguish the brand in the competitive furniture market. This blog delves deeper into how IKEA has built and strengthened its status as a global brand through a distinctive approach to product design, customer engagement, and sustainability. Moreover, we will explore how IKEA utilizes advanced neuromarketing techniques to create a unique and compelling shopping experience, attracting customers and motivating them to return.

A Look into the History of IKEA

In 1943, IKEA’s journey began in the forests of Småland, Sweden, where founder Ingvar Kamprad started selling goods by mail order from his parental home. This modest beginning laid the foundation for a company that would later transform furniture shopping worldwide. IKEA introduced the concept of flat-pack furniture in the 1950s, which was revolutionary as it offered logistic cost savings and simplified the furniture shopping process.

Strategic Store Locations

One of the less obvious but crucial aspects of IKEA’s global success is the strategic placement of its stores. IKEA often opts to position its large store locations on the outskirts of urban areas, far from city centers. This decision is firmly rooted in consumer psychology and plays into the behavior of shoppers.

When customers travel a significant distance to visit an IKEA store, their psychological investment in the purchase increases. This phenomenon, often called ‘psychological investment’, can lead to the ‘sunk cost effect’, where customers are inclined to buy more than planned because they have already undertaken the journey and invested their time. This extra effort makes customers feel that they need to ‘make their visit worthwhile’ by purchasing enough items to justify the trip.

The IKEA-effect

This sense of investment ties seamlessly into the so-called ‘IKEA effect’. This psychological effect describes how consumers place more value on products they have assembled themselves. Just as the journey to the store is a form of investment, so is assembling the furniture. By combining both aspects, IKEA merges psychological involvement with physical effort, resulting in a stronger connection to and appreciation for the products. Customers leave the store not only with new furniture but also with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

This thoughtful combination of psychological and practical strategies strengthens IKEA’s unique position in the retail industry. The company not only creates a customer journey that begins with the decision to drive to the store but also builds on the deep personal value that customers find in their direct involvement with the product. This makes the customer experience profound and memorable, further enhancing loyalty and appreciation for the IKEA brand.

Experiential Retail: More Than Just Shopping

The shopping experience at IKEA is unique. From the design of the store to the customer journey within, everything is meticulously planned to engage and inspire customers. IKEA stores are designed like a maze, with a natural route that takes customers through various departments where products are not only displayed but also demonstrated in realistic living, dining, and bedroom setups. This invites customers to see products in a home-like context, helping them envision how these items would fit into their own living spaces.

The Mere-Exposure Effect in Action

As customers walk through IKEA, they are repeatedly exposed to various products and styles. This is where the mere-exposure effect occurs, a psychological phenomenon where people develop a greater preference for things they encounter more frequently. By leading customers through different settings and product arrangements, IKEA unconsciously increases familiarity and preference for its products. The more a customer sees a particular product or style, the more it appeals to them.

The Effect of Physical Interaction Strengthens the Bond

In addition to visual exposure, IKEA also encourages physical interaction with the products. Customers are urged to touch furniture, sit on sofas, and open and close cabinet doors. This effect of physical interaction goes a step further than the mere-exposure effect. It makes customers not only familiar with the products but also starts to see them as part of their own lives. This physical interaction creates a personal connection with the product, increasing the likelihood that the customer will make a purchase.

By encouraging customers to actually touch and experience products, IKEA taps into a deeper layer of customer engagement. This not only increases the likelihood of purchases but also enhances the overall shopping experience, leaving customers with a more positive feeling about their visit.

The Power of Music

In the world of advertising, music is a powerful tool, and IKEA has masterfully applied this in their ‘Home’ campaign. By using the cheerful song ‘Home’ by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, IKEA applies a clever technique known as classical conditioning. Here, pleasant feelings, such as the feeling of being at home, are associated with the IKEA brand. This subtle yet effective strategy has a profound impact on the consumer experience. Listening to this song

IKEA ‘Home’ Reclame

Sustainability as a Core Value

Sustainability is at the forefront of IKEA’s priorities. The company works hard to reduce its environmental impact by using sustainably sourced materials and harnessing energy from the sun and wind. The new store opening on Oxford Street in the fall of 2024 is a testament to IKEA’s commitment to sustainability. This building will run entirely on renewable energy and aims for the highest sustainability certifications according to BREEAM standards.

Even before the store opens, the building stands out with its unique exterior. It is covered in a blue material reminiscent of the iconic IKEA bags. This design is not only fun and innovative but also piques people’s curiosity about the opening. Moreover, it demonstrates IKEA’s dedication to recycling and environmental friendliness, as the material used is entirely recycled. This clever move enhances IKEA’s image as an environmentally conscious brand and attracts people who value this.

IKEA marketing oxford
IKEA’s new store on Oxford Street in London

Innovation with Technology

The implementation of technology in the customer journey is another strong point of IKEA, which continuously seeks innovative ways to improve the shopping experience. The IKEA Place app, a powerful tool that utilizes augmented reality (AR) technology, is an excellent example of how IKEA uses technology to better serve customer needs. With this app, customers can virtually place furniture in their own living space, giving them a much better idea of how the products look and fit in their homes before making a purchase.

This use of AR technology significantly contributes to customer satisfaction by enabling customers to make informed choices. Moreover, it leads to a reduction in the number of returns, as customers are less likely to return products that have already been virtually tried and approved. This not only has a cost-saving effect for IKEA but is also beneficial for the environment by reducing transportation needs. This approach illustrates how IKEA combines technology and customer-centricity to provide a more sustainable and efficient shopping experience.

IKEA Place App

Consistent and Effective Communication

IKEA is an expert in communication and employs a style that is both friendly and informative. This is evident in everything they do, from their advertisements to the annual catalog. Their messages are always clear and effectively showcase how practical and affordable their products are. IKEA uses storytelling very effectively to demonstrate how their products fit into everyday life.

A prime example of this is the humorous ad “Experience the power of a bookbook,” which went viral by presenting the new IKEA catalog with a nod to Apple’s MacBook marketing style. The ad garnered a whopping 19 million views on YouTube. In this ad, IKEA playfully pokes fun at high-tech product launches while celebrating the charm and simplicity of a printed catalog. Through this type of storytelling, IKEA not only captures attention but also creates an emotional bond with the audience, making customers smile and feel connected to the brand.

Bookbook ad

Conclusion

IKEA’s marketing strategy illustrates how a brand can differentiate itself through a cohesive approach to innovation, customer engagement, sustainability, and strong communication. These elements work together to create a sustainable and beloved global brand that not only sells furniture but promotes a lifestyle. IKEA demonstrates that by staying true to its values and continuously innovating, a company can continue to grow and excel in a competitive market.

Are you interested in integrating psychological principles and IKEA’s smart marketing techniques into your marketing strategy to strengthen your brand and make a greater impact? Then contact us through our website and discover how we can help you take your brand to new heights!