Occasionally I like to feature a company with good systemization. You can learn from others and get ideas to use in your own business systemization. Today it’s IKEA. The reason for this is that the other evening my kids and I went to IKEA to look for some shelves for their bedrooms.
IKEA stores are typically in warehouse-sized buildings. At least they look like a warehouse on the outside. Once you get inside, however, you quickly forget the exterior.
It’s always interesting to wander through the store. It starts with the showrooms. There are multiple showrooms organized in sequence. You move through a variety of living room displays and then into kitchen showrooms and then bedroom showrooms and so on. They make it easy, and even fun, to imagine the possibilities for you own home.
From a System View perspective, IKEA is an amazing place to visit. Their systemization is incredible. The layout of the stores is part of a system. The sequence of showrooms is a system. Showrooms are specified by a system: layout, props, lighting, tagging. The systems go on and on. Most are hidden. But, you can tell the systems are there, because as a customer you experience the result of their systems at every step and down to the smallest detail.
Customer safety is a big factor in their displays and throughout the store. Large pieces of furniture are secured to walls so they can’t tip over. With all the kids running around trying things this is extra important. In a kitchen showroom there were large knives held by a magnetic knife block. It occurred to me this could be dangerous. Looking closer I saw that each knife blade was encased in a tough plastic sheath.
Items they don’t want customers to mess with are discretely secured. For example, in a workshop display there was a skateboard and helmet on a shelf. Both were fixed to the shelf so they could not be picked up. This is smart in a number of ways:
- Items can’t be stolen – this maintains the integrity of the display and reduces the display cost.
- Items can’t be misplaced – this maintains the integrity of the display. It also eliminates staff effort to tidying and restoring displays throughout the day. This in turn reduces display cost, reduces staff frustrations, and frees staff to perform other duties.
- Items can’t get broken – this maintains the integrity of the display and reduces the display cost. By passively maintaining the display in prime condition, the displays maintain their effectiveness – broken items are a turn-off for customers.
There are kiosks stationed throughout the store. Each kiosk has paper measuring tapes, notepads, pencils, and catalogs for customers. When you see an item you would like to purchase you can note the details of the item from the tag attached to each item. Later, in the self-serve warehouse, you can go directly to the correct shelf to pickup the item.
In each showroom all the featured items are tagged. Each tag has information useful to the customer: available colors, dimensions, finishes and other details. Pricing for individual items as well as for the “as displayed” item are included on the tags. The tags themselves are encased in plastic and firmly attached to the item.
The self-serve warehouse is a system in itself. It’s also part of IKEA’s customer fulfillment system. Getting customers to serve themselves reduces costs.
I have barely scratched the surface when it comes to IKEA’s systems – they seem endless. But they created each and every one over many years.
IKEA isn’t for everyone. But, that leaves more than enough for IKEA to be a huge multi-national home furnishing success.
So, maybe you are thinking – “Sure, systemization is great for big companies like IKEA. They need it and they have the resources to create and implement systems. I’m just a small outfit and I plan to stay that way.”
The thing you need to realize, is that, before IKEA became huge it was a small company. It was a small company that created systems and used systems. They continuously innovated and found better ways to produce, market, and sell their products and provide an outstanding customer experience.
Systemization made it possible for them to survive and flourish. Systemization gave them the option of staying small or growing. Without systems they likely would have stayed small and struggled.
If you’ve never been to IKEA and you have the opportunity – make sure to stop in for a visit. Bet you stay for more than just a few minutes.