Freddy Johansson IKEA

Text: Peter Wiklund

IKEA gets closer to the consumer

For four weeks last winter, IKEA had two stores in Stockholm City. The kitchen store is still there, while the bedroom store only functioned as a pop-up concept. A concept we’re bound to see more of from this furniture giant.

All over the world, IKEA has recently supplemented its traditional department stores with smaller shop concepts located centrally in various big cities. IKEA Kitchen opened in Stockholm City in autumn 2017.

– It’s primarily about accommodating the changing purchasing behaviour of our customers. Even though I’m cautious about generalising, it’s clear that more and more people value proximity in their shopping. Accessibility and simplicity are keywords in this context, says Freddy Johansson, Strategic Initiative Leader, IKEA Stockholm.

The store was placed in the Mood neighbourhood because, as Freddy Johansson explains, they deemed the area around Regeringsgatan to be attractive, but wanted to avoid they most “touristy” streets for a kitchen store.

– The goal was to end up in a quieter area still breathing of commerce. We had a good dialogue with AMF Fastigheter and they were able to offer us suitable premises.

The pop-up store lives on

Initially, the idea was for the approximately 400 square metre store to be a pop-up concept and close after six months. But during the autumn, it turned out there was good reason to leave it open.

– We have learned a great deal since the opening and we try to be perceptive, constantly refining the concept. Recently, we also expanded the space in order to help more customers in their journey towards the dream kitchen, and it feels quite natural to me that the store will continue to develop, says Freddy Johansson.

He notes that Sweden is the most mature IKEA market of the Group and that one of the major challenges here is to find ways to meet entirely new customers.

– In this respect, the store had an even greater effect than we anticipated. It was obvious that there were many – more than I would have thought – who were expressly pleasantly surprised by what we had to offer. It was quite fascinating to be on site and hear the customers’ reactions when they saw, for example, the range of appliances or when they got to feel the different materials of the countertops.

Trying out new concepts

The positive experience from the kitchen store enticed them to try out new concepts, which, so far, has resulted in IKEA Bedroom, just a stone’s throw away from the kitchen store. This, however, became a pop-up store as planned, open for four weeks around the end of February 2019.

– We got a confidence boost when we saw the effect of the kitchen store, and realised that it was a good way to meet the needs of many consumers. The bedroom store can probably be described more as a marketing effort to reach out with our ideas about a good night’s sleep. And we quickly received confirmation of being on the right path. One of three customers made it clear that they would not have visited IKEA had we not had the store in Stockholm City. We also met customers who didn’t even know that IKEA sells beds, says Freddy Johansson.

Store events

They also organised a number of events in the temporary bedroom store, at which both internal and external experts talked about various topics regarding sleep and bedrooms. They had, for example, a doctor of naprapathy, who talked about bed choices, as well as a psychologist who focused on stress and sleep.

– There was great interest in getting advice on and guidance in everything from sleep to how you plan your closet system. We have this type of events in our department stores, targeting IKEA Family members, but they occur quite infrequently. Perhaps this is something we’ll start in the kitchen store going forward, as accessibility is an important aspect in this context as well.

Synergy between channels

Freddy Johansson does not want to comment on the extent to which the central stores affect sales in other channels, but he is convinced that it’s not a matter of cannibalisation.

– In that respect, we agree with the industry as a whole – that the synergy between different channels is the road ahead. Our physical stores are crucial to our growth online, while our online business is crucial for making our physical stores attractive. There are, of course, some smoke screens in terms of what really yields what, and we do need to get better at clearing these smoke screens and creating a clear line of sight, he says.

New central IKEA concepts in big cities can be expected in the future, both in Sweden and in other countries, he continues.

– The need for getting close to the consumer is not likely to diminish. Here in Stockholm, we will start by evaluating the bedroom store to determine our next step, but I can already reveal that we’ve learned a lot just by listening to our bedroom customers over these four weeks, says Freddy.

Learn more about IKEA’s experiences and plans at the NCSC Annual Conference on June 3 in Stockholm. Freddy Johansson, Strategic Initiative Leader, IKEA Stockholm, and Mattias Johansson, Country Sales Manager, IKEA Sweden will be speaking on the topic of ”With our customers in focus – IKEA in the heart of Stockholm”.

Sign up now!