Founded in the 1940s, IKEA is a global furniture brand inspired by the egalitarian society of its Swedish heritage. Despite currently being owned by a Dutch foundation, IKEA still flies the colors of Sverige in the yellow and blue of its logo, and appears to the public to be forever Swedish.
Successful in its mission to provide inexpensive, well-designed furniture to the masses, IKEA "partners with the customer" by offering assembly-required products (an "opportunity" that is approached with varying enthusiasm).
But how does IKEA, a long-standing offline brand, fare online?
IKEA.com allows users to choose a site in their native language. Certain national pages (the US, Canada, France, Italy and Spain, for starters) are built with a similar blueprint, but use different imagery. Other national sites only provide minimal information and functionality for store locator, store hours and directions (arguably a good start for servicing consumers online).
The US home page is every bit as colorful and functional as IKEA furniture, with a strong focus on promotional content. Grabbing center page are a product pull-down menu, a grand opening announcement, and a lead to the virtual catalog. Below the feature section, the remainder of real estate is divided into banners that link to various promotion and content areas.
One banner leads to an interactive feature called the kitchen-planning tool, where users can drag and drop virtual kitchen pieces into a layout, view the objects in 3-D, try different colors, and obtain a price quote. Another banner connects the user to a mini-site dedicated to IKEA's new promotion. Consisting of three components, Unböring.com contains an outline of the Unböring philosophy, the Unböring community (message boards and the like) and access to IKEA's latest television commercials. The "sale" promotion banner would be more helpful if it actually led to a list of items on sale; instead it only leads to the announcement of a sale.
Site navigation options appear prominently atop each page, providing on-demand access to an IKEA Near You (store locator), Customer Service and About IKEA areas. While browsing the site, users can access product information in two ways, by using the product pull-down menu or by clicking on a Products A to Z link. Both options are on opposing sides of the home page, but relocate right next to each other on the top of the product pages, essentially providing the same function.
Product pages show individual items, listing details like color and price information. When a product is clicked on, an enlarged photo appears with specs and dimensions. One great feature about IKEA.com, particularly with the US site blueprint, is that price information is included -- albeit with a "prices may vary" disclaimer.
IKEA does offer e-commerce but the option to purchase isn't implemented directly on the product pages. To order items online, the user must first navigate through the customer service section and complete an online order form. The virtual catalog feature is literally that: a scan of each print catalog page. Visitors can choose to view any catalog produced that year. A cool detail of this feature is an arrow icon that appears, allowing the visitor to turn the page or click on certain sections for more detail.
Not only is the look and feel of IKEA represented well online, information about many facets of the business are easily accessible to users, further perpetuating the "self-serve" credo. Standout features like the kitchen-planning tool and the virtual catalog demonstrate an aim to please a loyal customer base by providing options to easily obtain product information and make purchasing decisions.
IKEA's e-commerce practice could be better developed, but overall the site meets the challenge of providing comprehensive information on a wide scope of product offerings without sacrificing a drop of brand consistency.