Brand refreshment to drive REACH: Ikea’s new city store

Post by Anne Charbonneau, Managing Partner based in Amsterdam.

Between two client meetings in Paris I saw what looked like the opening of a cool tech or sports store, with queues round the block… but in fact all the interest was for a new ‘City Ikea’ store! The store, near the Madeleine Metro, is part of Ikea’s new strategy to address the challenge of online shopping.

Below I look at some of the learning from this bold new move.

1. Widen reach to drive penetration 

First and foremost, Ikea’s move makes sense at it increases the brand’s reach to drive penetration, which is the key driver of brand growth. Many people, especially the younger generation, don’t want to travel out of town to shop anymore (as French hypermarket chains have learnt the hard way). Indeed, more and more Millennials don’t actually have a car. And the likelihood is that these big behavioural changes will continue, as more of us become part of the ‘Uber generation’.

2. Adapt the product ‘sausage’ …

Looking round the store, Ikea seems to have smartly designed it for young, Parisian urbanites. The average apartment size in Paris is 59m2. So, Ikea has adapted their product ‘sausage’ to focus on the most relevant part of its offer: helping people design and organise small spaces. It is a more open and serendipitous experience, with no arrows on the floor to take you through the normal maze of departments.

A nice touch is tags on products with an offer to book a chauffeur-driven electric car to take you home with your newly bought shelves.

3. … and the emotional ‘sizzle’

The launch also feels like Ikea want to make friends and connect with young Parisians, with an adaptation of the brand’s emotional ‘sizzle’ and tone-of-voice to create ‘fresh consistency’.

There  are still some Swedish Ikea cues, such as Abba music, Swedish-language headlines and the restaurant serving meatballs. The Ikea blue bags are used, but with a humorous celebration of Parisians’ love affair of with their city*

* “Paris tu l’aimes ou tu la kit” is a play on words. It means “Paris you love it or you kit it (out with new stuff from Ikea),” whereas the correct spelling “Paris tu l’aimes ou tu la quitte” means “Paris you love it or you leave it

The launch comms campaign in Madeleine metro station adds some fun and is highly impactful, featuring real-life furniture. This seems to have created some good good vibes for the brand, looking at what people are saying about it on Instagram. “Ils sont fous ces suedois! (These Swedes are crazy!)” commented one person.

4. Test and learn

Finally, Ikea seems to be embracing the test and learn approach we recommend big companies employ to innovate faster. Jesper Brodin, Ikeas’ CEO, talks about the Paris City store as an experiment, one of the many they are developing. “It’s a test laboratory. From the opening, we will start learning,” he said. “The idea is that the concept of La Madeleine will go to Milan to New York to Tokyo if we are successful.

Better than a pop-up store, the Paris store has the scale needed to deliver learning in terms on consumer behaviours and sales data, helping development of future city stores.

In conclusion, its great to see a mammoth retailer like Ikea experimenting to address societal changes head-on, and so avoiding a whole generation simply ‘skipping’ Ikea and never actually encountering the brand.

The store is definitely worth checking out, but maybe wait a couple of weeks if you want to avoid the crowds!