IKEA Makes Home Visits

Nov 19, 2012

People often consider IKEA a style leader. In actual fact, though, it is their customers’ style preferences that are used to guide their product offerings.

In the U.S., IKEA uses its website to find customers willing to host home visits, as they did in the Twin Cities, advertising, "We’d like to see how you truly live at home, so we can make sure the solutions we show in-store can really improve your life." The New Yorker adds that those who agree receive credit vouchers while telling their visitors "what frustrates customers about IKEA products."

New Jersey’s Star-Ledger describes the approach taken by Marty Doorley, communication and interior design manager at IKEA Home Furnishings, who "conceives IKEA displays" and uses consumers’ homes to "illustrate how challenges might be addressed." He and his team make some 40 visits each year, all pre-arranged for fact-finding purposes. They are not intended to solve the problems of customers visited, rather those of future customers to the store.

One reason for recent success in the U.K., according to The Guardian, was the 500+ home visits made in the past year. The article quotes Carole Reddish, acting manager for the UK and Ireland, who said that IKEA had redesigned its displays, in particular bedrooms, based on the changing lifestyles they observed. The company found that more children are returning to their parents’ homes following university and backpacking adventures because living on their own is not affordable. These customers are looking for a more "grown-up space." The article says that "families are staying together longer or moving back together. More people are taking care of their [elderly] parents." There are also adjustments to be made because of more cramped living conditions.

A multi-million pound investment in both stores and website resulted in an increase of 6.3 percent in like-for-like sales in the U.K. and Ireland for the year to August 31, its biggest increase in six years.

For what Mr. Doorley describes as families who often know what they want, but not know how to get there, IKEA is going straight to the horse’s mouth for advice.

What do you think about IKEA’s home visits? What can other retailers learn from the practice?

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8 Comments on "IKEA Makes Home Visits"

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Dr. Stephen Needel

Strikes me as basic ethnography — and how can this be anything but great for the retailer, assuming they can act on what they see?

Ken Lonyai

Steve Jobs had a famous reputation for knowing what customers wanted before they knew themselves (folklore notwithstanding). It makes for great legends and occasionally may work, but for most companies, the customer feedback loop is essential. IKEA’s home visits are a smart move for that reason. Rather than presuming to know everything about their customers, they are making observations and using that to influence future customer interactions. Not sexy, but potentially very effective if executed well by IKEA or other brands that climb down from high horses and observe and listen.

Max Goldberg

IKEA’s home visits fit the brand’s core story. IKEA is about stylish, affordable, practical furniture. Visiting consumers’ homes keeps IKEA in touch with their customers and allow their design team to create solutions, rather than design products in a vacuum.

Other retailers can learn from this practice, whether it’s visiting consumers’ homes or listening to consumers on company web and social media sites. Consumers can teach retailers a lot, the retailer just needs to listen.

David Dorf

How can you go wrong asking your customers what they need? What better way to get detailed feedback and witness trends then to visit homes?

Tom Redd

IKEA extending the talent of their people and their product by making visits makes sense in the right markets. Other retailers that work with the consumer in their personal space can gain if done in the right cities. One that might be a possible is PetSmart. So many of today’s young people have pets, especially dogs, but lack the time to properaly train them. @Home Trainer from PetSmart?

Warren Thayer

Market research at its best: listen to your customers, and act on what you learn. Easy to replicate, rarely done.

Martin Mehalchin

Spending a day in the life of your customers. More retailers ahould be doing this.

Mike Osorio
Mike Osorio
4 years 10 months ago

Not only is this a necessary activity for a retailer whose focus is to deliver constomer solutions they really need, it is an extraordinary PR activity. They are getting actionable data and reaping the benefit of consumer and industry perception of their efforts. Brilliant!


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