In our recent tour of IKEA’s store in Brooklyn, we kept thinking back to a 2011 lecture from Alan Penn of the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture.
Penn and his assistants analysed IKEA’s layout by following customers through one of the enormous stores. He was surprised to find an extremely uniform and efficient customer flow.
“If you shop in IKEA, all you do is follow people around the store,” Penn said. “You very seldom find people going the other direction.”
In fact, Penn realised, there was something very clever going on here, ultimately leading to higher sales. As he concluded in his lecture slides:
- IKEA is highly disorienting and yet there is only one route to follow
- Your time allocation is used in the showroom
- By the time you get to the marketplace you feel licensed to impulse purchase
- Unintelligibility removes autonomy
- Submission is the first part of a two part contract
- Delay is followed by gratification
In short, the overwhelming shopping experience is all part of the plan.
Here’s the IKEA customer heatmap from Penn’s presentation:
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