Talking With: Ikea Sales Leader Karen Haas on why businesses must know the customer
Ikea's customer experience has been compared to the Apple customer experience and that's no small compliment. Like many innovators Ikea isn't just sitting on its laurels and continues to expand and innovate.
Founded in 1943 in Sweden, Ikeahas more than 380 stores in 48 countries, including 41 in the U.S., and is currently debuting a pilot virtual experience and views virtual reality as a technology that will soon be integrated into consumers' lives.
At the same time Ikea is expanding operations into Canada in its quest to be a true multi-functional retailer, as Retail Customer Experience reported this month.
Retail Customer Experience reached out to Karen Haas, U.S. sales leader for workspaces and Ikea Business, to get her insight and feedback on strategies, do’s and don’ts and challenges facing retailers.
Retail Customer Experience: How would you describe where customer experience is today with small businesses and what's the prime driver of the current status?
Karen Haas: Creating an impactful and memorable 'customer experience' is top of mind. Small business owners are working to respond and keep pace with the evolving expectations of today's shoppers. For example, trends that we see influencing small business design in the retail environment include:
- An increased focus on using design to build or establish a unique brand identity. Business owners understand the value of leveraging design to bring to life the concept or identity behind their product or service (in-store and online).
- The millennial generation is reinventing the way businesses must operate. Due to millennials effortlessly adopting new technologies, businesses now are able to have a dialogue between their brand and their customers 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
RCE: What challenges does the small business retailer face in putting innovative customer experience into play?
Haas: The challenges vary depending on how the small business owner wants to address or enhance the customer's experience. That said, two common challenges that we see overall with small business owners are: 1) time (lack thereof) and 2) money. These challenges impact many different parts of a business, including putting an innovative customer experience into play. A small business owner may have the desire to implement something new but may not take action or execute if they don't have the time or resources to do so in a good way.
RCE: What are some do's and don'ts small retailers should be aware of to avoid potential issues in boosting the customer experience?
Haas: Here are some do's:
- Do your research and do get to know and understand your customer. An important element of putting innovative customer experience into action is to make sure you understand your customer, and that any new or different experience(s) offered are valuable to them.
- Do network and tap into peers, experts for ideas and advice.
Here are some don’ts:
- Don't rule out changes customers can’t see: Consider changes to the 'back of the house' that could impact the customer experience in the 'front of the house.' For example, updating an employee break room to re-energize staff or creating a more organized back office space with ergonomic furniture to focus on employee well-being. Different generations will increasingly be working together: work places need to be suitable for all generations and their changing needs at the same time. Your customers may not see the change you made to your business, but they will feel its impact if it improves their experience.
RCE: What insight. given Ikea’s efforts with customer experience. can you give the smaller retailer on developing a strategy?
Haas: You need to establish your brand identity and set clear goals for your business. If you don't know who you are or what you want to accomplish, how will your customer? You need to understand your customer:who are you targeting? What are their expectations re: retail experiences? How/when/where can you best reach and engage with this customer? Thirdly, set up the best framework to engage with your target and achieve your goals. It can get overwhelming to try and be everything to everyone. Keep it simple and focus on products, tools, technologies that are most important to your business and to your customer.
Judy Mottl / Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.