My Amazing Race through IKEA

IKEA Home furnishings“We only have about 30 minutes to find this thing and get back on the road before rush hour starts. Do you think we can do it?” I asked my husband skeptically as we entered the IKEA store.
The IKEA in-store shopping experience is pretty darn brilliant.  But it wasn’t meant to be an in-and-out shopping experience.

What is this IKEA thing you speak of?

Designed for do-it-your-selfers, browsers, impulse shoppers, college students, foodies and even little kids, this store is filled to the brim with modern, Eurotrendy interior design elements, accents and furniture–all at bargain prices.

Unlike a traditional store the products are not available on the floor.  Instead, many items are kept in a self-service warehouse within the store.

Shoppers write the item(s) of their dreams on a shopping list. If it’s available in the warehouse, you can also write down which aisle and bin the item is in.  Collect the item from the warehouse and then head to the checkout stands where you have one more opportunity (or one more challenge depending on your perspective) to make some impulse purchases.

Going to IKEA is like going on a treasure hunt

IKEA Showroom Map

So there we were, my husband and I.  Standing in the lobby of the IKEA store.  We looked like a team from The Amazing Race who had just reached a Road Block.  I can hear host Phil Keoghan on the voice over now:

“Using only this store map, teams must locate and purchase this toddler table and two matching chairs in less than 30 minutes.  While it may be relatively easy to find the table and chairs in the showroom, finding their way to warehouse without getting distracted by the other shiny objects in the store could be difficult.”

And we were off.  We successfully located the table and chairs we had seen online.  We definitely wanted them.  We were confident we were Team #1.

Using the min-golf pencil I frantically wrote down the item numbers, aisle numbers and bin numbers on the IKEA shopping list. Done!

I looked up and my husband was missing.

I spotted him among the impulse purchases.  Staring intently he said, “We should get this kid tunnel too.”

“Okay, fine.  She’ll love it.  Let’s go!”

We studied the treasure map for a few minutes.  We scanned the area for the short cut signs pointing to the self-service area.  We took off speed walking and at last made it to the self-service area.  We grabbed a shopping cart and broke into a like jog as I called out the aisle number and my husband sprinted ahead with the cart.

The anticipation was building, we might get in and out of IKEA in under 30 minutes!

And there it was!!!   The table!!!

And…wait, what’s this?

No chairs?

What do you mean no chairs!?!?!

What do you mean, “Out of Stock”?!?!?!

Looking around the aisle at the adjoining displays, we could see other children’s furniture, but not our second choice table and chair set.

“I don’t see the other set we looked at.  Do you want to order it?”  I said dejectedly.

“Well I don’t want to come all the way back up here when it comes in,” my husband replied.  The store is an hour from our house.  I agreed.

“Do you want to get the tunnel?” I asked.

“Nah,” he said equally bummed.

Improving the In-Store IKEA Shopping Experience

To IKEA’s credit, navigating the store has become easier over the years.  I was surprised we did so well.

I still remember one trip I took with my parents when I was in high school.  We were so frustrated because we wanted to get to the warehouse area without seeing the rest of the store.  The short cut signs could not be located easily. We came close to giving up but we had traveled over an hour to get there.  Going home empty-handed was not an option.

But IKEA may be able to improve the out-of-stock experience.

Imagine if the floor model indicated the item was out-of-stock in the self service warehouse.  Imagine if an anticipated restock date was included along with the out-of-stock information.

Now the shopper has the power to make an informed decision:

  1. Order it right then and there and bypass the warehouse.
  2. Come back at a later date.
  3. Pick out a different furniture set all together.

Today shoppers are more informed and educated prior to finalizing purchasing decisions.  When a customer is so close to closing the deal, the in-store experience cannot fail them because it’s far to easy to move on to the next store.

Which is exactly what we did.

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