Saturday, January 12, 2008

Consumer driven sales Ikea style

An article in today's Financial Times connected the new consumer driven internet with a big blue and yellow Swedish furniture store. As the thing that connected them was alleged to be web 2.0 and the new world of consumer driven marketing, and as that is the core of my work, and as I despise the Ikea sales model, this note was inevitable.

Ikea is great at marketing. The vision that they sell is one that the FT suggested was like the consumer driven web because they provide a user-defined flexibility and customisation that is very different from the old model of the store. They make the buyer do the work in order to provide a richer more flexible more tailored shopping experience.

But the reality is not so great. Ikea does make customers do much of the "sales" work, that much is true, but they actually sell very narrowly defined visions. They are encouraging particular designs, colour schemes and combinations - as the show rooms that line the tortuous paths through the store will demonstrate to anyone. The store is the antithesis of Google, it is deliberately slow and awkward to find a specific product quickly. Even the catalogues promote particular cohesive styles - selected sofas, shelves, rugs etc together form a specific "dream" to which specific target groups will aspire - they do not give quick answers to consumer questions.

I'd suggest that small niche suppliers (or even Argos) are closer to the pure web 2.0 business model and are much closer to the Peppers ideals for consumer driven marketing. The new world was supposed to provide more choice, more vision, more speed and more convenience than the old world. Ikea makes decisions easy for those who lack imagination while complicating the sale for those who lack time.

But the Ikea marketing sells the dream not the reality. I hate it. But it is genius.


v!sh said...

I hate Ikea – the experience in painful and the merchandise is pathetic

R N B said...

The merchandise is not bad, but the shopping experience is horrifically slow and rigidly structured, everything that new world marketing should not be. So of course I share your sentiment.