Why you shop until you drop at Ikea.

Photo by Fred Anyona on Unsplash

This guy thought he is going to Ikea to buy a lowkey coffee table and a tv stand. 3 and a half hours later our guy walks out of the store with a boatload of half-decent things he does not need.

What happened there? Why did he spend more time and money than planned?

Ikea is like the Apple of home furnishing. Famous for its maze-like shopping malls, Swedish meatballs, and do-it-yourself furniture, made 42 Billion dollars via in-store sales in 2018. Beating its biggest competitor, Bed bath & beyond by 30B dollars and a couple of hundred miles.

Apparently, they invested less in advertising and more in figuring out how to keep you entertained for 3 hours (on average) and it is working for the giant.

Let's see how they do it. This might give you some ideas about how to keep your visitors for longer than 3 and a half minutes.

Built like a maze

A grocery store near my home displays the most frequently bought items at the very end. So if you need milk and bread, you’ll have to walk through expensive self-care products and delicious dark chocolates. The more people see it, the higher the chances of buying.

Ikea, however, has taken this to another level. Their stores are made like mazes which allow the pleasure of discovery and while you are having that, you get to look at fancy things you do not need till the next year.

Appealing to the narcissists and all of us.

You love mirrors and they are everywhere in Ikea. Vanities, floor length, fucking wall-mounted making you look tall, bigger, hotter, and all that.

A neuroscientist explained that whenever you look at a mirror, you see the most gorgeous human being looking right back at you. One might say that Nah I won’t fall for this flattery and that’s what I would like to think too, but humans you know?

Less nagging, more shopping.

You can shamelessly leave your kids at the daycare inside Ikea to have a nagging-free shopping session. Perfect world?

Moreover, just like in a casino, you’ll find no windows and sunshine in Ikea. They take out every indication of time so you’ll lose all sense of it and you do.

An oasis in the desert.

Retail is the worst environment for the human brain because you’re processing, deciding, thinking about, and against buying that 400-dollar bed. Shit’s tiring.

In the midst of all this drama and in the center of the store, Ikea offers you meatballs, to help you recharge your batteries and provide sustenance to keep going and “shop” more.

The Ikea effect.

A Harvard Business Study revealed that you’re more likely to value a product you put together yourself.

This backed-by-science strategy worked well for Ikea since you feel involved in the making. Secondly, Ikea does not have to deliver trucks full of deliveries, instead say hello to little packed boxes.

Now if you’re lazy and we all are and you don’t wanna do it and you’ve got some extra cash lying around, you can always hire task rabbit to assemble it for you. (Just another way Ikea gets you to spend more)

Cute flip-flops, fancy candlesticks, and cinnamon buns.

Here is a fucked up fact. 20% of our buying decisions are based on our needs while 80% are on emotions.

Ikea targets our emotions with things like cool flip-flops, fancy candlesticks, and things you didn’t know you wanted before you laid eyes on them.

Just around the exit, when you’re happy/unhappy/confused about the cart full of items you’ve bought, Ikea offers sweet cinnamon buns since sugar would help lower the stress of an extra 1000 dollars you just spent.

Going Climate Positive

You wouldn’t take an 8-hour bus ride and stand in the July sun for hours to hear Martin Luther speak if you just liked the guy.

You’d go there if he believed in what you believe in. If he said the same things that you’ve been saying to your friends, lovers, and colleagues.

9/10 people carry a desire to take care of the environment. When a brand fulfills your spoken or unspoken desires, you go from satisfied to emotionally connected customers or fans. Someone at Harvard business review said it.

Ikea is going climate positive and customers love that. Their big 2030 plan includes phasing out single-use plastic, tapping into ways to use less water, planting more trees than all American citizens, and what not. Hey, I’d love to think that they are doing it for the sake of doing it and not marketing but I am a marketer and you’re pretty smart yourself.

Product aesthetics + Human psychology.

If apple made a closet, It would probably look like an Ikea closet — just not as expensive.

The idea behind Ikea was to make good-looking furniture with a cheap price tag on it so a lot of people can afford that.

However, its biggest competitor Bed bath and beyond makes good-looking cheap products too. But, they are like Ikea’s little baby brother. I would argue that the reason Ikea is so successful is that they’ve invested the same amount of time in figuring out how humans work as they have spent in product aesthetics.

Goodbye note.

The next time you revamp your website, think of the ways to make a visitor browse more. Write copy that sounds human, make it interactive so people can play around with it, or upload explainer videos like dropbox.

The next time you go to Ikea however, stick to your coffee table and a TV stand. Invest the extra dough in dodge coin or Ethereum, buy a course from Coursera that helps you move forward, or pay for a piano.




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Nouman A.

Nouman A.

I write about the marketing strategies that made brands millions