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Seneca Brandi

Seneca Brandi

Akendi Alumnus

The Customer Experience of IKEA

I’ve always admired IKEA as a business. Their marketing and branding is always appealing, and they manage to sell over 12,000 single-brand home furnishing products in one location without overwhelming the millions of customers that visit their stores each year.


This is a true testament to a brilliant and meticulously planned Customer Experience. That being said, I hate shopping, and avoid it at all costs. So when my wife recently asked (told) me to join her on a trip to Ikea I begrudgingly accepted.


Instead of mindlessly following her around the store for 2 hours, I decided to play a little game. While I was walking through the store I went on a scavenger hunt looking for indications of what makes the Ikea customer experience so positive.

We visited the Ikea store in Ottawa, Canada…. But in reality I could have gone to any of their 345 stores worldwide. The beauty of the Ikea experience lies in consistency. Customers never face the burden of having to re-learn the layout of a store each time they visit a new location.


Upon entering the store, I was greeted by this pleasant gentleman, ready and willing to help me find a product. This kiosk accommodates a very common use case: customers who have already researched a product, know exactly what they want, and are coming to the store to see the product in person and make a purchase.


Next I was presented with a map of the store. Although each department is well marked on the map I believe there is a single takeaway message from this sign:

“We’re taking you on a journey through Ikea, there’s only one route, relax and enjoy the ride.”


The wayfinding throughout the store was excellent, and I give bonus points for the interesting navigational arrows projected by light bulbs on the floor.


By the halfway point of our expedition I was getting a little tired and cantankerous. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as I walked around the corner there was the Ikea restaurant, representing a strategically placed break from shopping and a badly needed jolt to my blood sugar levels. Even if Ikea doesn’t make any money on these surprisingly low priced meals, the positive impact that food has on customers likely pays dividends.


Ikea is famous for presenting their products in a real world context, designing elaborate showrooms to showcase products. However, I found it interesting that they also organize their products within a more traditional information architecture, perhaps appealing to a separate subset of customers.


Awareness that customers will often be shopping with children definitely contributes to the positive experience.


The classic Ikea measuring tape and note taking stationery, available free of charge, to accommodate users who may have forgotten these essential furniture-shopping tools.


As we approached the end of our journey, we were enveloped with the sweet smell of hundred upon hundreds of scented candles. I’m not sure if this is part of a planned experience, but I definitely enjoyed it.

As we carted around the warehouse, picking up the various articles for purchase, I was again impressed by the layout of the room. Large oversized aisles and carts that can rotate and swivel in any direction made pick up easy (grocery stores take note!)


We made our purchase and as we were getting ready to leave, my wife exclaimed that she needed to make a return. Recalling my last product return experience at Pizza Hut, I was full of dread…


…But to my surprise the experience was divine! Fast service, and a comfortable waiting area eliminated waiting in line completely.

Finally, as if to place the cherry on top of their experience cake, they made sure to end my visit on a positive note providing frozen yogurt at the exit for a very reasonable price of $1.


Clearly the Ikea shopping experience is a well-planned endeavour. And while I only focused on the positives in my scavenger hunt it was probably because they weren’t hard to find.

Bravo Ikea, on creating a truly intentional experience.

Seneca Brandi

Seneca Brandi

Akendi Alumnus


It is hard not to think of 30 Rock when talking about couples and IKEA…the place that brings out the worse in our personalities. Though I think if you begin with a literal “go with the (store) flow” policy the way you did, you will be in a much better mind set to take in new inspirations and ideas. Now if only those ideas are in stock.

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Akendi is a human experience design firm, leveraging equal parts experience research and creative design excellence. We provide strategic insights and analysis about customer and user behaviour and combine this knowledge with inspired design. The results enable organizations to improve effectiveness, engage users and provide remarkable customer experiences to their audiences.