Putting IKEA’s Digital Strategy Together (With No Leftover Pieces)

A resilient digital marketing presence has quickly become the holy grail of both young and established brands alike. While many continue their search for digital marketing success, some brands have already explored and found answers to those eternal questions…Where are my customers online? What captivates their attention? How do I engage them?

With sales expected to pass $36 billion in 2015, IKEA is casting its familiar blue and yellow shadow over its competitors. This popular furniture retailer has customized its marketing efforts for a new generation through a cohesive and forward-thinking digital strategy.

These four key practices have equipped IKEA to become the next digital authority.

Audience is Key

First-hand discovery has been the springboard for IKEA’s branding and digital strategy. In a recent interview with Contently, IKEA communications manager Christine Scoma Whitehawk explains, “we start with the customer, and try to see what’s important to them.” While many marketers find second-hand information sufficient, IKEA takes its mission to be the ‘life improvement store’ seriously and sends design experts directly into the homes of customers.

For instance, IKEA’s 2015 Life at Home Reports took a look at morning routines in eight different cities around the world — London, Mumbai, New York, Shanghai, and others — comparing the similarities and differences of their products’ use around their customers’ lifestyle. Research ranged from how quickly one gets out of bed to the amount of time spent catching up on social media, news, or work in the morning.

Conducting research to understand your audience is powerful. It can lead to insights that second-hand data is unlikely to reveal, and boost your potential for revenue increasing strategies.

Captivate with Content

A recent study lists audience relevance, compelling storytelling, and content that triggers a response or action as the top three ingredients that result in content success. With over 95 videos and 450,000 views, IKEA Home Tour is one example of how IKEA is using these elements to develop effective online content. This YouTube series is one of several on IKEA’s USA page, showing the IKEA Home Tour Squad in the homes of families and individuals, helping design hard-to-furnish spaces and inspiring new ways to use their 95,000+ products.

One of IKEA’s core content competencies is creating original ways to merge customer experiences with their products online and offline. Experiential initiatives include allowing customers to rent out IKEA showrooms through Airbnb, and releasing 100 cats in an IKEA store at night to film them as they roamed. Though these marketing efforts require an initial time and resource investment, the ROI is apparent; at the five-year mark, the cat video not only continues to receive fan comments, its loyal following now has a Facebook page, YouTube channel and countless parodies dedicated to the frisky felines. Great content proliferates and offers the opportunity for cyclical and renewed engagement with customers.

Connect Across Platforms

Technology advancement now allows customers even more ways to shop, whether it be from a desktop or a mobile device, by telephone or in a bricks and mortar store. The imperative to activate content across platforms and social outlets, creating an integrated omni-channel shopping experience, has become paramount.

Yes, IKEA does activate its content on a variety of social channels, but the most notable example of IKEA’s efforts to blend channels is through their 2015 product catalog. What began as a print catalog (that reproduced 217 million copies in 2014) has now been enhanced by IKEA’s mobile app and a downloadable version. With the app, the process of visualizing furniture in your home is a reality: it allows you to swipe through a variety of home furnishings; virtually selecting and sizing the sofa you would like to see placed in your living room. Take a picture, bookmark the product for reference, share it with a friend, or just explore the various app product catalogs; this new interactive media allows users to have yet another way to shop for their favorite IKEA products.

Furthermore, downloading the online catalog allows shoppers to experience additional content through augmented reality. While clicking through the downloadable catalog, certain pages reveal videos and additional content for customers to better imagine how those particular products can fit in their home.

Yet even though IKEA has gone digital with its catalog, it also manages to promote the paper catalog in an entertaining way. IKEA recently released a humorous guide and video for using the paper catalog (termed the Bookbook), touting features like “eternal battery life” and “instant page loads.”

Omni-channel and augmented approaches to marketing will continue to play an increasingly influential role as consumers continue to rely on a variety of platforms for research and purchase.

Create a Forward Thinking Atmosphere

The final key to IKEA’s digital marketing success lies in how they are embracing the connection between technology and product. They offer, for instance, furniture that wirelessly charges your phone. With almost two billion people now living and dying by their smartphone, IKEA ensures you will no longer need to fiddle with your charger, or experience the aggravation of realizing your phone wasn’t plugged in correctly. IKEA furniture buyers can purchase products with pre-installed wireless charging or even retrofit current IKEA furniture with the DIY wireless installation packet. This digital departure shows that IKEA has not only the skills and creativity to succeed online, but also the deliberate mindset that keeps the brand at the forefront of digital ingenuity and marketing innovation.

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Maybe there is no holy grail of digital connection. Instead, let’s consider it a mindset; a daily routine of curiosity and entrepreneurship as we attempt to digitally reach and connect to our audience. As IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad says, “Nobody can guarantee a company or a concept of eternal life, but no one can accuse me of not having tried to.”

Written by Skylar Mearing