Just when you think it’s safe to say that print is dead (again), something pops up that reminds us that marketing today continues to integrate all kinds of approaches—and that ultimately—marketing is about more than the media being used.
Furniture giant IKEA is trying something new—and old. They are sending out a printed catalog, which is decidedly “old school.” But it definitely has a new twist to it. Customers can use a smart phone or tablet to scan select pages from their new catalog anywhere in their home and the piece of furniture “appears” in the exact place in their home they want to try it out. You can read more about the app and how it works in this fastcompany article, but essentially, buyers can “test-drive” furniture right where they want to place it in their homes.
But there’s more to what IKEA is doing than just “whizbangery.” This is about more than simply showing off a cool new tool. What is IKEA trying to do? What can we learn from IKEA’s catalog app?
The folks at IKEA are smart marketers. They know that in a competitive business such as furniture sales it takes more than fresh designs and hip looks to get people to buy. There are actually lots of places where people can buy cool, edgy, fun furniture. That’s not enough anymore. IKEA is taking things to the next level. They are improving the customer experience and encouraging engagement. They are giving them a buying experience that they can’t find anywhere else. And it’s one that actually meets a huge need.
After all, who hasn’t purchased a piece of furniture—only to get it home and find out that it just doesn’t look right when you get it in the house? What IKEA is doing is removing a major obstacle in buying—especially buying online. Is the app cool? Yeah! Does it look like it would be fun to try out? Heck, yeah! But what makes it significant is that it’s actually helpful. If using this app saves me an extra trip to the store (actually, two trips) I’d sure be willing to try it—and I’d be appreciative.
I’m guessing here, but I have a hunch that IKEA also knows that a lot of people still enjoy the tactile experience of going through a printed catalog. So what they may be doing is giving their customers the best of both worlds. They get the pleasant, familiar feel of an old-school catalog along with a big benefit that only new technology can deliver.
Regardless of whether they are appealing to old-school sensibilities or new marketing capabilities, one thing is clear: The experience is all about the customer.
The big question for IKEA, of course, is whether this new app actually improves sales. It will be interesting to see what kind of return they get on their investment and if they’re able to track how many customers actually use the app—and then make a purchase. But it’s obvious that they’re not doing this just so that they can crow about a new app. IKEA is solving a customer problem and at least trying to make the customer experience better.
You may not want (or need) to create a new app for your business. But what can you do to make the customer experience easier and more enjoyable for your clients?