Creative experiential meets digital – ideas sparked by Ikea

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I love Ikea, and find it inspirational for many reasons – not least, the futuristic thinking of Ikea’s founder.

After establishing the company in 1943, 17 year old Ingvar Kamprad changed from door to door salesman (on a bicycle), to van courier driver, to mail order fulfiller, to manufacturer to advertising extraordinaire – successfully progressing through more business models in the first 10 years than most businesses ever survive.

Two things I love about Ikea are the catalogue (which came out in 1951) and the showroom that mirrors real homes, which in 1953 had to be one of the first experiential marketing… erm… retail experiences ever experienced.

Ikea Tempe experiential - Miss3 experiences the wedding reception

Ikea Tempe experiential - Miss3 experiences the wedding reception

After some negative word of mouth was spread about Ikea in a pricewar, the furniture showroom saved the day (and increased Ikea’s brand reputation) by encouraging customers to touch and see the furniture to ensure its quality before placing a mail order. This was a brilliant idea because when a consumer interacts with and has a positive “moment” with an object, nueral pathways are opened and connections made that can never be replicated by a non-interactive medium like a print ad or TVC.

Foxtel told me that Ingvar opened the first Ikea in-store restaurant in 1960 after noticing that all his shoppers disappeared around lunchtime. He figured that providing affordable and homecooked-esque meals would extend the shopper’s hours in-store and therefore increase revenue and loyalty through customer experience (CX). Smart guy, and way before his time.

When Ikea Tempe opened, shoppers had the opportunity to be photographed in the same room setting that graces the Ikea catalogue front page – a new front cover featuring the shopper was instantly printed, attached to a catalogue and Presto! the customer feels like part of the Ikea story and takes the catalogue home to spark many a Bjursta and Hemnes themed conversation with visiting friends and family.

I like to imagine how much harder an iconic catalogue (and brand itself) like Ikea could work by taking the purchaser interaction experience that one step further, using a little digital integration. No other brand would be better placed to begin a 100% buy-from-print-and-deliver-to-door offering using their catalogue and a mobile purchasing app.

But even better, Ikea could arrange a sponsorship with a hotel group or restaurant chain and fit out all spaces with furniture and storage solutions for the ultimate try-and-buy instant purchasing CX. And they could provide an augmented reality app to show how that bunk will look in your child’s bedroom.

I see a lot of potential for experiential retail merging with digital in 2012 – it’s obvious that’s the way retail is heading. Soon all of our worldly possessions will have an identifiable feature (be it unique shape, logo, barcode… QR code… *sigh*) uploaded into image recognition databases (IR) and everything we see everywhere we go will be immediately purchasable at the swipe and touch of a finger.

I’ve heard of surf shops in Sydney that now only have “dress up clothes” in-store, a single item in each size for the customer to try on. When a customer chooses something, the item is shipped directly to the customer’s home from a warehouse, for free.

Shops don’t even need to have tangible goods on sale – augmented reality (AR) handbag shopping is already possible in Australia, judging by the one my work team played with at a creative agency last month. Imagine renting a Louis Vuitton handbag for date night next Friday – a bargain at only $100 for 24 hours, delivered to your door and collected the next day. Possibly a precursor to a big birthday present purchase, because every woman would want to duplicate the wonderful experience of a glorious looking handbag in its natural environment – but how can you justifiably make such a big purchase without trying it first?

I’m especially happy with these options from an environmental perspective. Consider the fuel & electricity used (wasted) on delivering merchandise to outlets all over the country, and the cost of lighting & heating & securing barely used storerooms or overfull (but consumer devoid) floor spaces, for example. Stocktake would be a breeze and I’m guessing there’d be a lot less wastage in production – if something isn’t selling, the line could be axed before full production begins.

Not everyone loves shopping the way it’s currently done – but when you mix in an easy home delivery experience with the contactless instant purchasing afforded by NFC chips, shopping will become a completely different (& much more enjoyable) experience, done everywhere at any time. Maybe Ikea wouldn’t need Manland after all.

Teenagers will no longer have to suffer from the debilitating effects of FOMO (fear of missing out). If you like your mate’s Nikes you just scan the logo & enter your pin into your mobile – and Bam! wear them to school on Monday.

Not sure what wine to order or which hors d’ouevres to serve for your dinner party? Imagine Coles and Dan Murphy’s partnering to give patrons a full restaurant tasting experience, matching foods with wines until you’ve made up your mind – and then delivering your chosen recipe ingredients to your door at the correct time on the right day, with complementary cooking instructionals available in their iPad app of course.

I dream of the day when you can “bump” a restaurant menu with your NFC chip embedded phone to make all of the food options you don’t like, disappear instantly. The meals you do enjoy could have a scannable symbol that adds the recipe to your meal plan for next week, and adds the ingredients to your food shopping list (with your shopping then automatically paid by contactless technology [no more fumbling with coins and credit cards] and delivered directly to your kitchen).

First world problems solv-ered.

The best thing about all these ideas is that they can be done right now, at a fraction of the expense most companies are wasting on old school marketing.

Plus these digital experiential options throw in customer insight research data for free, meaning that companies can focus manpower and budget on more important things like ending child labour, reducing environmental footprints, practicing ethical business, appreciating and rewarding staff, providing customers with the service and goods they paid for and expect – all things Ikea is setting a good example in.

The only other thing Ikea really needs is regular dance flash mobs in-store, purely to brighten shopper’s lives 🙂


2 thoughts on “Creative experiential meets digital – ideas sparked by Ikea

  1. AR is going to revolutionize CX in the near future for sure. I have heard that one can goto certain eye wear online store where when one uploads the picture, they can see how the glass appears on them. Do you know of any online retail store that are doing it now, I would love to check them out. Loved this article!

    1. That sounds awesome, if i find out about an optometrist doing it i’ll let you know – it’d be a good use for webcams & online shopping (i already buy contacts online, why not glasses?)
      Thanks for commenting 🙂

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