IKEA ends 70-year catalog in response to evolving consumer behaviors
The move comes as a response to changing media consumption and consumer behaviors with online shopping. It's an indicator of how companies of all stripes should remain agile in the face of change... and how important it is to be able to let things go.
Much like their inexpensive put-it-together-yourself furniture and infamous Swedish meatballs, IKEA’s annual catalog has been a well-known signature piece that helped set the furniture giant apart from its competitors.
And, up until recently, the IKEA catalog has served as a bible of inspiration for billions of renters and homeowners all over the world for their next out-of-the-way hope-it’s-really-in-stock furnishing adventures. For example, remember when they recreated Monica's apartment from FRIENDS for one of their catalogue layouts? Iconic.
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“For both customers and co-workers, the IKEA Catalog is a publication that brings a lot of emotions, memories and joy. For 70 years it has been one of our most unique and iconic products, which has inspired billions of people across the world.”
The move comes as a response to changing media consumption and consumer behaviors with online shopping. The catalog was first printed in 1951, went digital in 2000, and has produced over 200 million copies a year, making it one of the world’s most popular catalogs.
The rise of mobile device use has made online shopping more convenient and has led to a surge in e-commerce sales. In 2019, U.S. online retail sales of physical goods amounted to 343.15 billion US dollars and are projected to reach close to $476.5 billion in 2024.
Last year, IKEA online retail sales increased by 45% worldwide, and IKEA.com had more than four billion visits. With a widespread shift to e-commerce, consumers have moved away from print and digital “print-like” experiences to other formats.
E-commerce trends are evolving
Konrad Grüss, managing director of Inter IKEA Systems B.V., says the IKEA team will experiment with different channels and formats to find new ways to market IKEA products.
"Turning the page with our beloved catalog is in fact a natural process since media consumption and customer behaviors have changed. In order to reach and interact with many people, we will keep inspiring with our home furnishing solutions in new ways."
IKEA continues to experiment with evolving ecommerce trends and has already explored a new format on it’s website, increasing the use of video, using augmented reality (AR), and delivering more personalized customer experiences with their IKEA mobile apps.
The IKEA Store App allows customers to see the latest in-store offers and promotions, view products and stock status, get access to store locations, hours, and directions, view a store plan map to navigate through the labyrinth showroom, and create shopping lists by scanning products in the showroom before heading down to the marketplace to pick up the products.
The IKEA Place App leverages augmented reality (AR) to help customers envision products in their own homes before placing a purchase.
What can we learn from IKEA’s discontinuation of their catalog?
IKEA’s shift away from its traditional print and digital catalog serves as a reminder about the continuously evolving customer experience. More simply, nothing stays the same forever.
We need to go out of our way to constantly understand the shifts in the behaviors of our ideal buyers. That way we can make more strategic, agile adjustments with our digital sales and marketing efforts… thus, in turn, making us more profitable.
By collecting and analyzing consumer data, we can leverage insights into what formats and trends work well with their audiences, and when (not if) they need to pivot.
What to look at to better understand consumer behaviors
For those in the e-commerce space, there is a large volume of data that can give you insights into the behavior of your consumers such as: devices used, traffic sources, engagement with multimedia and downloadable content, conversion points, abandonment, and so on.
Examining these factors will help you evaluate and pivot your company’s marketing initiatives as needed, whether or not you run an e-commerce website.
With an increase in mobile device use for online shopping and information consumption in general, it is important to examine the customer experience on mobile devices. So, ask yourself:
Is your website easy to use on a small-screen smartphone?
Are users given opportunities to sort and filter products or information to get to what they need quickly and efficiently?
Are there any usability issues creating friction during the buyer’s journey?
Would a dedicated app offer more personalized experiences?
These questions will help identify potential pain points and opportunities to test and adjust the mobile experience of your website or app to increase conversions and boost sales.
Channels and touchpoints
The customer journey is typically not a linear process and has increasingly become complex, spanning across multiple touchpoints and channels. A touchpoint is any interaction between a customer and brand, product, or service, whereas a channel is where the interaction takes place such as via mail, online through a website or application, physically, by phone call, and so on.
By taking a look at which channels and touchpoints lead to the most new and returning customers, you can identify where to continue investing time and money into, and where to pull back from, just as IKEA did with their catalog. You will also gain holistic insight into whether the customer experience is seamless between touchpoints and channels to uncover new opportunities for better transitions.
Not all companies’ audiences have the same online behaviors. What works well for one company may not work for yours regardless of how large and successful the company is. In order to understand and market to different consumer segments effectively, it is important to understand who your customer segments are, what their needs are, and which customers are the most valuable to your business.
Other customer factors to consider include: age, location, what content and how much content they consume before purchase, and who they trust.
Both quantitative and qualitative data will help paint the most accurate picture of your consumers. In addition to market data and website analytics, other areas to pull data from include: social media insights, email subscriptions, customer support data, and reviews.