The IKEA experience is rooted in a belief

I am not much into indulging in the retail experience. I could care less about walking up and down aisles of loot, envisioning stuff I might want to have at home. Nope. I am the kind of guy that knows what I want to buy and strikes quickly on that impulse. No mess, no fuss. It’s an in and out shopping exploit.

Or I just go online.

Then there is IKEA. Sure, the company has had its share of bad press of late. (All of which could have been avoided by folks using the included strap and bolting to fix their dressers to the wall.) IKEA is an experience for me. Judging by my last venture there, it’s that way for most everyone who visits.

IKEA
IKEA has built its experience on its brand.

In the spirit of transparency, I should tell you that I worked on the IKEA brand many years ago. But I’m pleased to see that it has maintained a shopping experience so pleasant that it has become a destination for many.

IKEA’s parking lot is littered with moving vans and family cars with license plates from a multitude of states. Those same families file into the store cafe to fill up on a lunch or dinner – typically, beef or chicken meatballs – and follow that up with an hour or so jaunt through the store.

I have never been let down by IKEA, and neither have my family members. Just last week, I went with my son and his family. They came along looking for something fun to do, without any intention of buying. When we left, they spent just shy of $400 on goods for their home – and probably would have bought more if we had more room in the car.

IKEA functions according to an unwavering precept

At Stealing Share, we believe human behavior is driven by what we believe to be true about the world and ourselves. IKEA’s brand is rooted in the idea that a stylish home can be had by everyday people. So its stores showcase how that can be done.

It focuses on the little things: The maze-like design of the two-story structure, the kids’ playroom allowing parents to fully dive into the shopping experience and the offering of food and drink all contribute to its brand promise. It is a concierge service for those who normally can’t afford it. The belief is: “I believe I should be treated with respect for my lifestyle.”

While I only visit the store every year or so, when I go I always am expecting to buy something and to have a fun time doing it. I don’t know of any other retailer that holds such a place in my heart. What’s more, I don’t see that behavior of mine changing any time soon.

Home furnishing is rebounding, but not brand preference

Now that the economy is slowly rebounding in baby steps, you’re seeing industries starting to expand as consumers open their wallets. Among the industries seeing a rise in sales is the furniture market.

As reported by USA Today, home furnishings is expected to rise more than 16% when the second quarter earnings are reported industry wide.

The uptick is no doubt due to a slight economic turnaround and the fact that, during the economic downturn, consumers kept the old furniture they had and are now coming to the point where their furniture is aging. (It’s the same reason for surges in car sales.)

With the surge, all boats will rise, so to speak. So retailers are thinking they are winning because the win shows up in the bottom line.

But that can often be a false positive. Just because the market as a whole is doing better doesn’t mean your marketing approach is working. It just means the category benefits are being sought.

The next step, of course, is developing a meaningful message that is different and better than the competition. You want to create preference for you, not you and your competitors.

But home furnishings, like a lot of markets, have other things to consider, such as “When do consumers decide they need new furniture?” Think of it this way. Banks get new customers when those customers reach the point of failure with their current financial institution. The bank brands stealing the most market share are the ones talking to those people most likely to switch.

For the home furnishing market, the players in it do little to none of that. They talk mostly about deals, such as Rooms To Go’s financing plan for customers. There is nothing meaningful and direct that reaches those who are, for example, buying a new home, getting married or having a child.

The furniture market isn’t the only one that fails here. It’s always surprising that more advertisers don’t consider the decision tree more often. (As cringe-worthy as their spots are, attorneys are among the best at thinking about the decision tree.)

Now that the consumer is back, it’s now time for home furnishing retailers to take the next step and speak to those most likely to buy to increase individual preference for your brand, not for the category as a whole.