I have many jobs in life, and the most important is being a mother. As such, I headed to Brooklyn to move my daughter from her dorm to her first apartment. While it was physically exhausting at best, the biggest fiasco was my shopping experience at Ikea.
Coincidentally, Ikea recently announced that it’s investing more than $2 billion in the U.S. for growth over the next three years. The furniture retailer says the money will go toward opening new stores and creating new fulfillment networks. It marks the largest ever U.S. investment from Ikea, and the company’s largest investment in a single country.
All of this is well and good. Ikea has a lot of work to do to optimize that opportunity. Product design and sharp prices are mere starting points. Logistics and customer service are the real growth drivers for customer retention.
When Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights asked 1,060 online shoppers in a conversion survey about which retailer policies and initiatives are most likely to lead to an order, fast shipping was No. 1 at 61% and past experience with the retailer came in No. 3 at 45%. I have found over the years that trust is the foundation of the customer-retailer relationship and that was sorely lacking as shared in my story below.
Chicago retail lessons
Maybe I’m spoiled. Perhaps they could take a lesson from a retailer who did right by the customer, Crate & Barrel. Its CEO, Gordon Segal had an expression, “retail is in the details,” which has real meaning in this scenario. A second Chicagoland area retailer, Abt, has a motto on every truck that frequents every neighborhood it serves, and it upholds it. “Our Goal: Complete Satisfaction, Serving Customers Since 1936.” Lastly, I can’t help but invoke the age-old adage that defined Marshall Fields, a store where I spent some of my formative years as a buyer, “Give the Lady What She Wants.”
Now I’m going to tell my story. Although it may be a familiar one, it bears repeating to suggest what it takes to do retail right. No one ever said it would be easy, but this type of retail torture has got to end if we are to maintain ecommerce and retail momentum. As part of this discussion, I’m going to integrate some of our Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights findings that illustrate how my story aligns with the 1,070 online shoppers surveyed in another story on home goods from April 2023.
I hope Ikea and all retailers will be paying attention to three pieces of advice:
- Timely and accurate delivery is always critical but has a higher meaning when it comes to furniture.
- Omnichannel choices and execution impact shopper decision-making.
- Customer service counts across all channels and should be foolproof.
One shopper journey
A month in advance of needing the apartment furniture, like 44% of our surveyed shoppers, I made selections online at Ikea ensuring that products were available in Brooklyn and that delivery would be an option. And yes, like 31% of surveyed shoppers, I encountered out of stocks. No issues.
I then shared my choices with my daughter, and we added a few items to round out our order. My first order of business after arriving at LaGuardia Airport was visiting the Red Hook Brooklyn store. As our survey indicated, 60% of online shoppers still wanted to see their home goods selections in person, and we too made the trip. We needed our furniture quickly, as did 41%. And while we didn’t want to pay for shipping like 40%, I knew it was likely I’d be paying for delivery. We road tested the chairs and mattresses like 31% of respondents. We were ready — or so we thought. To say no one was working at the store feels like an understatement. I saw fewer than five employees in that store visit, plus there were two individuals at checkout when we hand-carried a few items. This is where the nightmare began.
That night, after six hours of moving, I went back to my hotel to place the order, and Ikea appeared to be delivery-challenged. Upon clicking into potential delivery options, each time it said no delivery available or that one of the items in the cart was unavailable to deliver and needed to be removed. Angry would be an understatement. I could barely sleep thinking I would have to start all over again making selections from another retailer as time was my most precious commodity.
So, I went the old-fashioned route and my only positive experience came with the customer service representative who took my order and scheduled delivery for Saturday to the new apartment.
We picked up the desk the next day at click and collect, which was fairly easy — and comparable to 21% of survey participants.
Delivery misses the mark
Come Saturday, when I had already returned to Chicago, I received an email saying, “your order was not delivered.” They suggested the customer didn’t answer the phone and wasn’t home. The truth was there was no missed call and she was home. My favorite part was their message that said, “things don’t always go as planned.” Nothing like a little marketing spin on a bad situation.
I fretted and my daughter called to reschedule for Thursday. An hour later, I received another email that made me think she was not really rescheduled. I had no confidence in this delivery, and more importantly, I had lost all confidence and respect for Ikea.
I then spent an hour on the phone with a gentleman from the logistics company who was both competent and honest. He said I wasn’t alone, that supervisors don’t answer the phone on weekends and that they have a lot of problems with this company. He gave me the names of the supervisors and suggested I send an email with the sordid details and call at 8 a.m. the following day. I did both and was ensured my order was to be delivered on Thursday.
Of course, I felt I deserved some compensation and Ikea did remove the delivery fees, which was a no-brainer. I also felt more was due but the customer service representative reminded me of the limitations that constrained her. She couldn’t offer a credit but could give me a $100 gift card, which I could convert at a store. I, of course, had no intention of ever purchasing from Ikea again, but I took it anyway. It was basically sheer torture at this point.
When participants were asked how important the following features and functionalities were when shopping for everything home-related online and had the ability to give five answers, the top five were as follows.
- Customer ratings and reviews: 52%
- Access to pricing: 51%
- Ability to compare products: 35%
- Ability to zoom or see many product details: 35%
- Accurate delivery windows that indicate when items are actually going to arrive: 30%
I agree with their selections, but to me, accurate delivery windows would rise to the top of the list. Perhaps these shoppers have never had a poor experience.
When a transaction goes smoothly with a retailer, it’s a given. When an order goes wrong, it is a challenge and an opportunity for a retailer to reconsider what it takes to make it right. It is also a chance to reinvest and reestablish the trust that was lost and to move toward a real customer relationship.
Ikea ranks No. 3 in the Europe Database, Digital Commerce 360’s ranking of the largest online retailers in the region.
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