A Tale of E-tail (2)

[November 17, 2009]

In some ways, digital space resembles an eco-system. Like life in the real world, digital creatures occupy different ecological niches and exhibit a wide variety of survival strategies. Some, like Kay Jewelers, discussed in my previous post, survive by providing just the facts and a bit of product education.

Others, like the Swedish furniture retailer, IKEA, use a sophisticated mix of facts, education, atmosphere and style to lure consumers into buying the whole package—IKEA’s make-life-more-graceful-for-less promotional subtext.

IKEA’s concept has a breadth and depth you can experience on every page, from the clear product directory, to the accessible new products display, to the special offers page, each including navigation to contextually sensitive next steps.

Even at this level, the site reflects the clean design and effortless functionality of the IKEA product line. In light of this, the absence of an umbrella headline on the home page is a minor misstep—but one that costs the site a key point of orientation for consumers.

Most effective are the pages devoted to individual rooms. “Living room,” for example, includes a slide show of photos, each displaying a different room treatment. Hotspots on each photo lead users to an education window and from there to detail pages of featured items.

With 10 living rooms, 18 bedrooms and 21 kitchens, the site recreates the in-store experience, while offering what no lengthy browse on foot can match. Visitors may also select from an image gallery, and quickly review an individual slide. Or they may view the featured products in a separate gallery with links to specific product pages that speed ordering and price comparison.

Accompanying each slideshow is a left navigation full of shopping advice, including “Ideas & Inspiration,” “Choose Your Style,” and “Guides & planners.” Meanwhile, a secondary index of product lines adds to the experience with whimsical headlines, including:

• Lets small budgets have fun
• Loves books as much as you do
• Clean lines for a calm bedroom

IKEA’s customer focus pays off even on product pages, where consumers can compile printable shopping lists. As I see it, only the slightly creepy “Ask Anna” feature—a rather patronizing recreation of the perky receptionist stereotype—strikes a false note.

Taken together, these elements help IKEA convey its underlying message. Without bluster, the site promotes IKEA products as the practical, affordable and stylish solution to home decorating.

Through thoughtful display, organization and guidance, IKEA spins a brand narrative of practicality, usability and light, uncluttered looks—all in the service of making everyday life more livable. Like the product line itself, ikea.com grows out of a single creative concept. It’s a rare example of marketing integration that flows as it should—from product development on out.

My next post will explore e-merchanising further and add a few closing thoughts.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY




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