Welcome to the community. I'm Stef Hamerlinck, founder and a brand strategist/designer. Feel free to ask me anything! 

Ikea's customer based strategy in India.

Ikea's customer based strategy in India.

Ikea's customer based strategy in India.

I'm really fascinated by Ikea's move into India and how they used customer research to create a new strategy: "If we build it, they will come". Ikea furniture will be assembled by a team of people so Indian people at home do not have to do this anymore. Why? Ikea's research indicated that Indian people are not well acquainted with the concept of self-assembly furniture.


I really like the customer driven approach. At the same time I have this feeling that it's somehow eating away at Ikea's brand purpose: "selling affordable furniture that people assembled themselves" (quote)

I wonder: Is this 'hollowing out' the Brand? Or is self-assembly not really at the heart of Ikea's brand? Or is the plan to actually in time fade out the assembly team once people are picking up this new habit of self assembly?

It's clear that Ikea wants to go big on India and that it's a really important move for them. That's why there research was extensive:

"The Swedish retailer spent years studying India to understand what makes its residents tick.

It set up a makeshift IKEA store near New Delhi and watched how invited families interacted with its products. Its employees have been on more than 1,000 home visits to figure out how Indians eat, sleep, relax and entertain. In preparation for its Hyderabad opening, IKEA flew 75 Indian employees to Sheffield last year to help open a store in the English city. It also opened a pop-up shop in a Hyderabad mall to start introducing its products to potential customers.

Many things in the 400,000-square-foot Hyderabad store will be the result of that research. Dining-room furniture will have a prominent role after home visits showed the dining table is “not only a place to eat but to discuss,” Mr. Maeztu said." (source)

This kind of research driven strategy opens up some really interesting questions for me. For example:

  • How far do we go in 'projecting' behaviour such as 'Indian customers' will not buy in to the self-assembly service of Ikea?
  • How do we measure this and do we keep out the obvious answer that anyone would give you if you ask them: would you like to asssemble your furniture?
  • How much does assembly as a value proposition weigh in against the 'low-cost' furniture aspect? And how do you measure those things?

It's a conversation I've been having lately about customer research in general; what do we measure when doing customer research and how does it inform strategy decisions? As we know there is the tendency in 'innovative' products or 'lean workflows' to not do to much customer validation in the ideation phase, because we do not yet 'have the need' for this new product (remember the alleged quote by Henry Ford: "If i had asked customer what they wanted, they would have said, a faster horse"). The only way to really test is to build it and try it with customers.

In that way you could say customer research is more about uncovering the pains and gains and deciding what to do on top of that. In that way you could say Ikea is now testing a new feature and can evaluate the impact once actual customers will start flooding in their stores. In that way you could say Ikea is doing a 'lean' approach. My guess is Indian people will eventually buy into the full Ikea brand and start assembling themselves, but who knows, right?

I'm really curious about your thoughts on customer research and how it informs brand strategy? Let's talk!

LTB S2 006 Hernán Braberman - 3D branding

LTB S2 006 Hernán Braberman - 3D branding