Trip update Part 3: Let’s talk

Read Part 1 here.
Read Part 2 here.

Our last day was spent at the IKEA Concept Centre in Delft. It is an actual IKEA store with learning and research spliced in. In here, IKEA studies customers’ interactions with their products, floor displays and information. They conduct experiments to better the flow, engage the customer and look into every small detail such as the floor directory to help customers find their way through the store.

For the uninitiated, the first visit to IKEA can be harrowing – the crowd, the maze, the self-service-dunno-how. My first time, I felt sucked into a blackhole with no way out unless I obediently followed the arrows. Now 10,000 trips later, I have the floor plan and shortcuts etched on my palm (till IKEA Malaysia smartly went and renovated their store, just to throw me off!)

The good news is, IKEA works tirelessly to improve the customer’s journey through the store. Denis, the very animated store manager of IKEA Delft, took us on a tour and explained the ins and outs of the journey.

The redesigned store directory to get you from Point A to Z – inspired by subway maps.

When you first step onto the retail floor, you will be greeted by 4 to 5 room sets presenting a variety of styles and budgets. The big first impression. In advertising, it would be the headline – the first 3 seconds to catch your attention. At a glance IKEA wants to show that it has some thing right for you.

Denis, store manager extraordinaire, revealing his playbook.

The first phase is to inspire you with ideas and stimulate the chemicals in your brain to think “Yeah, I can afford to do this!” or “This reading corner is gorgeous!” Next would be to show you the individual parts that would allow you to re-create it – the sofas, the bookcases, rugs, etc and your range of options – from a more expensive STOCKHOLM down to a PELLO armchair – yes, you can have a reading nook to suit your budget and style.

Denis also proudly pointed out a few hacks they did in store. I was impressed with the use of their PAX wardrobes to hide different sections of a room such as the workstation, washroom, media centre. Close all the doors and the room is serene with just a daybed, coffee table and no clutter.

Room with many PAX, each housing a different function
Wash up in a PAX
Workstation in a PAX

I must say, if you are ever in Delft, don’t miss the Concept Centre. The display here is a cut above other IKEA stores. More creative, progressive, jaw-dropping (well, compared to my local IKEA). I couldn’t help feeling underwhelmed when I visited my local store a few days ago. I know, I know, it is hard to beat the mothership.

Solutions for attic rooms common in The Netherlands

After Denis was through, I was amazed at the amount of research that goes into perfecting the customer experience. They have feedback machines for customers to “like” a room set, they gather statistics on how well a product sell when placed at a certain spot …  let’s just say nothing is random but a carefully calculated route to inspire and excite you enough to swipe your card.

Instant feedback machine – only at Delft
I also have the chance to view the new Paper shop. Like!
The paper range is limited at the moment. Looking forward to more.

Last on the agenda was the meeting to discuss the issue of IKEAhackers and the trademark dispute. The Chairman & CEO of Inter IKEA Systems B.V, Torbjörn Lööf joined us for the meeting. I was floored, seriously, that Mr. Lööf would make time to meet with a blogger and take a personal interest in the matter. In the meeting the IKEA team explained that the IKEA brand has come under a lot of abuse over the years but realised that they cannot apply the traditional method of handling trademark disputes in the case of IKEAhackers. Which was the reason they took steps to reconsider, invite me over to find another way to solve it.

We had a good discussion with Torbjörn and team

Several suggestions were thrown back and forth including having IKEA only advertising, coming under the IKEA brand among others. My view is that IKEAhackers has to remain independent because that is the strength of IKEAhackers. It is powered by fans for fans. I have never and never would want to feel obligated to blog/promote anything for IKEA because I have to. I am open to collaborations but independence is vital for the site and my sanity.

Fika time! Hot cinnamon buns to sweeten the deal

And after an hour or so of discussions, the conclusion is this: that IKEAhackers remain an independent fan site with permission to use the IKEA trademark in its domain so long as it does not damage the brand (eg. no porn, no nudity, no drugs). No other restrictions or conditions were applied.

Win! Win! Win! For all parties.

I get to continue to run this site as is. My readers get to continue sharing their hacks and be inspired by hacks from others. And well, IKEA, get to continue selling more furniture to people who want to hack them.

And that was the best news from my 3 days with IKEA. I wanted to do a celebratory somersault there and then. But one must act appropriately in the presence of a CEO.

To Torbjörn, Lena, Henrik, Anders and Jenny, thank you for making this trip possible. It is one of the most illuminating and inspiring trips of my life. I learnt so much and had so much fun. I never thought it possible but I do love IKEA even more.

Hej då and hope to see you again!

After the heavy lifting, we chilled at the Royal Delft and found our animagus. Lastly I want to thank two special persons who went with me and supported me throughout the trip. Kat and Sook Han, thank you. The trip was great, but you two made it awesome!

Thank you team! Sook Han Wong (left), Katherine Law (centre)
 Couldn’t have done it without you gals.

Photos: Katherine Law

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  1. Wow, thanks for sharing all this! I live in the Netherlands, own lots of Ikea(hacked) stuff and think it is time for a visit to the city and Ikea of Delft.
    – Ivy

  2. Great story. Proof that not all big corporate companies are just bad. Very good and pleasant move by Ikea. Jules, congratulations on getting everything worked out with them. They must be glad too, I guess.

  3. So happy for you Jules! You work tirelessly and I am very appreciative. I love your blog. You were so professional with Ikea and I too like them even more now than ever. Great Job!

  4. I am amazed at the ending this story has had; I'm also quite happy for you, Jules. I've been a fan of Ikeahackers for years – shortly after my first visit to Ikea in 2001. I was worried that Ikea would pass over too quickly without seeing the value in the site and the community that has developed around it. I'm glad they took the time to recognize the love that you've poured into the site and the appreciation it allows all of us hackers to express for the brand. Congratulations.

  5. Congratulations, Jules! So happy it worked out for both Ikea and your site. I think I love Ikea even more now that they have been so reasonable! Looking forward to more Ikea Hackers posts, Kathleen in NYC

  6. So relieved that Ikea did the intelligent thing…that is, actually, what I expected form them, they are an innovative company and at the end of it all, they just didn't want to be embarrassed…you must feel great about all this!
    Love your blog, and so happy things turned out well
    This is great positive publicity for Ikea too…so a win-win for all of us.

  7. Woo Hoo! I'm doing the Snoopy happy dance. I love IKEA and this site and it is wonderful that a big company like IKEA can work things out rather than by suing or intimidation. Woot!

  8. Thank you for standing up for the site's independence! And thank you to IKEA for being so rationale and good spirited. Fantastic story with a great ending, thank you for sharing it with us.

  9. Good job sister! as a fan of ikeahackers I feel very proud of you the fact that it is a win win for all parties and the site stays.

  10. IKEA definitely needs to make it easier to get in-and-out of their stores instead of forcing you through their maze. A few months ago, I went to help an elderly friend pick out a bed. He has some troubles walking, so what I had to do was scout ahead for the shortest path to the bed section, and then afterwards the shortest path to the elevator. And in this particular IKEA, one elevator goes from the third floor to the second, and you have to catch another elevator to go from the second to the first. They should open up the layout like other department stores so you don't have to wander through sections that you have no interest in. Just let me get what I want and then get out.

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