Selective Customer-Centricity – Is Ikea Shooting Itself in the Foot?

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Many in the group have commented about “what’s customer-centric for one segment might not be for another.” Perhaps the most commonly cited example is Ryan Air, which helps the knapsack crowd get around dirt cheap while utterly offending many suitcase carriers. Recently, I’ve run into another example, but the seller advantages aren’t as clear cut.

Recently, my wife and I sold our house of many years and moved into an urban condo. While I wouldn’t stick even our college-aged son with Ikea furniture, they do offer good deals on “safe” items including bookshelves and cabinet/drawer pulls. So I went in there, which I’m generally loathe to do. And once again I discovered that Ikea does not want my business.

First, Ikea is overdue for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) penalties. While I’m still erect, hip and back arthritis can make walking long distances difficult. That can make shopping at Ikea very painful, because once you enter the store, they make you walk in bewildering loops past every piece of merchandise on display before you can find an exit – and the only way out is past the registers (unless you turn back early and retrace your steps). The day I went to buy drawer and cabinet hardware I hurt like hell before uncomfortably standing forever in a seemingly interminable checkout line, especially because I had to walk another mile to find a clerk who could find the online catalog items we’d selected. Of course, I could have stayed in my La-Z-Boy if they’d take orders over the web, but that doesn’t bring you face-to-face with every damn item they sell. No accommodations whatsoever for an aging Boomer, never mind someone disabled.

But then came bookcase shopping. First, walk the entire circular route to see items to make sure they’re right. Then, keep walking to the furniture warehouse, where they expect you to load your own cart (but only after walking another mile at the direction of three different clerks to find one). And then one unit is 80 pounds, and Ikea expects you to bring your own help, if you need it, to lift it onto the cart. They will pull the items and deliver them for a hefty charge. But if you want to get them into your car, so your ripped son can unload them, you’re outta luck. After two shoulder surgeries, I ain’t messin’ with 80 pounds. Next to impossible for anyone older, never mind someone actually disabled.

But hey, I’m just an ordinary aging boomer. And there’s the proverbial 78 million pound elephant (the Boomer generation) walking across the time line towards or past the day when they can no longer comfortably handle a shopping experience designed for younger, sounder of body generations. I do believe Ikea is shooting itself in the foot. What about you?

2 COMMENTS

  1. I seriously doubt that IKEA is targeting you or me, because for a variety of reasons we (Baby Boomers) don’t like IKEA’s shopping experience or products. Clearly we’re not the market IKEA is targeting.

    And yet, from time to time we want to buy some of the goods IKEA is selling. I recently bought a storage cabinet and wasn’t thrilled with the labyrinth and other aspects of the buying experience. So I won’t be back anytime soon.

    But IKEA’s approach is working great for their target market. I think if they tried satisfy another segment it would dilute their brand promise.

    However, they could open another store and create a very different experience. I’m just not sure it would produce enough sales to be worth it. Even if the experience was changed (for us), the products are still not what I’m looking for at this stage of my life.

  2. I completely agree with Bob. The only thing that I would like to add is that IKEA needs to remember that people do get old and preferences change. So, it needs to continuously re-invent itself and its relevance to the market segment that they want to address.

    Having said that, I also think that they could change some aspects of their stores based on the feedback here. I am sure that even the hip customers that they target would like not to be kept waiting in long ques. Long ques at check out counters is a big deterrent for a lot of people. IKEA need not change their entire experience (and hence dilute their brand). All they need to do is to introduce a convenience fee (they can name it however they want to) or previlage check-out for regular customers (based on their purchase patterns with IKEA) for customers who would like not to wait in long ques.

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