IKEA builds bridges between online and offline

Happy New Year! During the holiday break I paid a visit to the local IKEA store here in Essen. I was amazed, how well IKEA has tailored its (mobile) website to the needs of onliners planning to go to a local store. A very good cross channel experience.

I visited their website in advance to make sure, everything I need is available in the right quantities. The site immediately changed to the mobile version when I accessed it with my iPhone and I was able to check stock levels for the store nearby. All of this went without any need to log in. Even saving items on a virtual shopping list was possible without an account. During the store visit, the site allowed me to tick-off the items already in my cart (green ticks on the left).

IKEA mobile site
IKEA’s mobile site acts as stock level check and shopping list
© 2014 IKEA

IKEA has done an excellent job in connecting the Online and the Offline world with their mobile website. This experience was very helpful because IKEA:

  • made it easy to access their site thanks to the mobile design
  • provided a tool to help me prepare my visit to the local store (shopping list & stock check) and
  • supported my during my store visit (ticking-off items on the shopping list).

Funny enough, this seems so little but had such a big effect on improving my shopping experience. To enhance the customer experience even more, I would love to see three additional features.

  • The information on where to find the items is of little use for the customer. It would be more helpful to know in which part of the exhibition or the pick-up area the item is located. This helps in narrowing down the area to search for it. Or even in-door navigation through WiFi…?
  • When I had finished shopping, I was not able to get all the items on my list despite the fact they were listed as available. Stock probably got broken or stolen and this can’t be accounted for in the system. When stock levels are below 10 pieces it would be more helpful for customers to tell them stock is “very low” or “as good as empty”. This prepares them for the fact that a shelf might be empty when they reach the store as it happened to me (with the website still saying seven pieces available).
  • The last part of my wish list would be a button on the mobile shopping list that allows me to place an online order with all the items I did not tick-off during my shop visit. It would complete the Online-Offline-Online customer journey during an IKEA visit.

Despite the three wishes at the end of this post, I was very pleased with the work IKEA has done in connecting the Online and the Offline world. No app or account was needed to give me great tools that made my live and my shopping experience easier. Good job!

Do signature elements stay crunchy over time?

Many brands have introduced signature elements into their customer journeys to differentiate themselves from the competition. Some of these elements are built around the core service proposition but many are located at the outskirts of the original product or service offering. I ran into such an outskirtish element while staying at the Double Tree in Amsterdam last week. Double Tree is a brand of the Hilton Group and targeted at younger (business) travellers that are looking for a cool style with all the usual 4* amenities.

When checking in sometime after 10 p.m. the lady at the counter handed my a chocolate cookie after all the paperwork had been done. I was amazed. Then I realized that the cookie was warm like coming straight from the bakery and when I ate it in my room, the chocolate chips on the inside were still melted. That blew me away. At first.

The Double Tree Cookie, a signature element
The Double Tree Cookie
© Ralf Hetzer, 2013

Where did the cookie come from? The reception desk has several heated drawers built into the desk that keep a stock of cookies at the right temperature. This signature element is intended to provide arriving guest (that mostly drop-in late in the afternoon) a sweet and welcoming treat and give their stomachs a rest after having been on the road or in meetings all day with no time to grab a decent dinner. The lady at the reception could immediately give me the story behind the cookie after I asked her.

A second look at this signature element

As the days in Amsterdam were filled with customer experience talk, I asked my colleagues how they had experienced the cookie. The observation was twofold. Everybody who was visiting the Double Tree for the first time was impressed and appreciated the cookie as something very unique and special. Everybody had eaten it immediately when they had settled in their rooms. For the returning guests to the Double Tree, the story was different. They reported a wear-our effect and started expecting the cookie as something that is part of the service package. Up to the point to intentionally skip dinner as the cookie will cover up for it. Some even got annoyed by it, especially when they were trying to stay away from sweets to keep their weight.

Can the Double Tree cookie stay crunchy?

In my opinion it can’t as the idea of giving a little treat to a customer needs to have variety in order to stay interesting. I was amazed as I did not expect the cookie. To keep the momentum on the concept, it would have to change every once in a while, cycling through a set of pre-defined elements. By this the guest can not guess what he will get this time, which keeps the element of surprise. And let’s face it, the thing that made me happy last week at the check-in was the surprise itself and not so much the cookie.

Have this pair of jeans your way

When every medium-sized website personalizes its content to each individual visitor, the real world can’t stay behind. This came clear to me when I strolled by the Levi’s Tailor Shop in Berlin last week. Next to buying almost every model currently available, you can also have your jeans fitted or altered or even let the guys there renovate the worn-out one from the back of you closed. Watch the video from the NYC store to get the idea.

LEVI’S TAILOR SHOP PROMO (Directed by Raf Moses) from rafmoses on Vimeo.

 It is going beyound mass customization

Levi’s started out with its legendary 501 in the 1890s and for many decades, there was no need to enlarge the number of jeans models significantly. Checking out today’s shopping world, I find 199 Levi’s models for men with a quick search at Zappos.com. With the tailor shop concept, the possibilities have become endless.

While you can have your new car configured to almost every aspect you care for, the old concepts of mass customization always build upon an individual customer and a product and manufacturing system that offers a wide range of combinable options. Man facing a fixed system. The new setup puts another human into the game. Now the customer can interact with the tailor in the shop and share his ideas on how the new pair of jeans should be customized. If everything goes well, tailor and customer will eventually create something that was not even envisioned by the customer before.

In terms of the customer experience, Levi’s delivers two things at their store concept: Truely personalized goods that can’t be found somewhere else and a very close relationship between customer and brand as the brand helped to bring the personal closing style of the customer one step further. Well done!

Packaging design with a laugh

The last time I had to grin about a packaging design was at the Kindle’s  barcode with the person reading below a tree. This time I was not really expecting something special when I had bought a new shaver. I should have been warned, because it was a Philips product. One of the few product companies that is offering their design services also to external clients: Philips Design.

Moustache Barcode
Moustache barcode on the packaging

OK, I had unpacked the shaver and was on the way to flatten the cardboard packaging and throw it away. There I saw the nice barcode on the bottom that had just the right amount of humor to provoke a good laugh while keeping up the high value perception that the product and packaging quality suggested when buying and unpacking it. Getting ready for my first Movember this year!

(Image by: jpmartineau)

Hello Customer Experience World!

This is the famous first post on my new blog. Instead of writing a lonely “Hello World”, I want to take the chance to briefly introduce you to what interests me most in my professional life: customer experience, strategy and innovation. And in a way, I feel that those three topics belong to each other anyway. As you might have figured out by now, this blog is about those three areas and a nifty abbreviation would be… CX.S.I. Blog. Right? But before I start off with the first post, I want to give you a brief outlook on what you can expect.

 Why do I start blogging?

As you can see in my profile on this site, I have been working in management consulting for quite some years, before I entered my current job that introduced me to customer experience – and made me fall in love with this way to see things. From there, thoughts and ideas end up in my mind and keep on boggling me until I can either share them with a colleague or friend or put them into writing. This is why I start this blog.

What will you find here?

The main content of this blog is what its title promises: customer experience, strategy and innovation topics. Further more, I want to use this site to give a view from the German perspective, being German and working here. The anglo-saxon world is further advanced with customer experience than mainland Europe when it comes to service experiences, while some areas around here have a legacy of perfect experience design when it comes to engineering – thinking about cars from southern Germany. I have already taken some notes and will write an article on this specific topic in the future. Promised.

Next to all my writing, I would be happy if this blog will become a place for lively discussions once in a while when a topic hits the spot. So please don’t hesitate to make comments and challenge my thinking. I’m looking forward to it.

Welcome to the CX.S.I. Blog!
Ralf