What IKEA Can Teach Us About Online Branding

I love IKEA. No, I'm not a big fan of the Swedish meatballs, and I don't particularly care for putting furniture together. But the store is way cool. I wish there was one closer to where I live, but getting there is a day trip. When I lived in Los Angeles, we'd go to the Burbank location and spend a Sunday afternoon there. It's like a giant furniture theme park. Aside from furniture shopping, IKEA can also teach us a thing or two about online branding …

IKEA started out in a small village in Sweden in 1943, when a 17-year-old entrepreneur began selling flower seeds, Christmas tree decorations and pencils to the locals. It was not until 1953 that the first showroom opened in Almhult, Sweden; but by 1956 IKEA was designing its own self-assembly furniture for which it is now famous. Today, IKEA has over 300 stores in 37 countries.

But what's that got to do with online branding? Here are a few lessons we can learn from the furniture retailer:

1. Create an experience

Going to IKEA is not like going to Sears or Walmart. A trip to IKEA is more like an event. It just feels different. It's an experience. Starbucks does the same with coffee, Apple does it with their retail stores and just about everything they produce. How can you make your products or services more of an experience for your customers? What can you do to be more memorable and unique?

2. Arrange the environment

IKEA also does a great job creating an environment conducive to buying. The stores are set up so that you pretty much follow a designated route. There's an intentional path you're expected to take. Only casinos have a more "strategic" layout than IKEA. Are you making it easy for your customers to buy from you? Is there a "path" for your clients to follow?

3. Imagine the possibilities

Share a vision of what can be. IKEA's showrooms are arranged so that you can envision how great their furniture would look in your home. Of course, if you buy a couch, you'll want to add those cool lamps they've got in the same display. How do you show your customers the possibilities? Are you selling features or benefits? (Focus on benefits!)

4. Demonstrate the outcome

Along the same lines, IKEA's "rooms" are set up and displayed as a vision of the end result. The products are shown in the context of a vision of what could be: "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if our living room looked like this?" Is what most customers are thinking as they meander through the elaborate displays. I guess that's why it's called a showroom!

Take a cue from IKEA and consider how you can enhance your "brand experience" in your business. And next time you visit the giant furniture retailer, take note of how they integrate their unique branding in everything they do.

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