IKEA, the swedish store that has penetrated the US market offering low cost home furnishings, have also gained a place in popular culture, due to the spelling of its products (mostly Nordic and impossible to pronounce), the DIY approach to furniture and also to its maze-like layout. In a recent episode of 30 Rock on NBC, one of the characters called a trip to IKEA on a Saturday afternoon a stepping stone for a relationship, implying most couples wouldn’t survive a trip to the store. Apparently, there is scientifically evidence to support that what most customers seems to hate about the Store(the Layout) is exactly what give IKEA a lot of revenue: the impulse buy.
Alan Penn, director of the Virtual Reality Centre for the Built Environment at University College London, found that IKEA’s zig-zag trail quickly leaves a customer disoriented about where the exits are and thereby coerces them to shop the whole store and pick up impulse items. Sixty percent of items purchased at IKEA are unplanned purchases, he claims.
Dr. Penn analyzed the IKEA store in London, and highlighted his findings in the following presentation:
He claims he was interested in the topic, because most customers complaint about (and dislike) the layout but they keep coming back. He found out that the Layout actually follows the order on which products are shown on the catalog, and although it does offers shortcuts (and emergency exits as required by Building codes), they are not apparent to most customers, forcing them to walk the whole store and offering plenty of opportunity to get items not on their original list. More grid-like layouts create a more open and accessible environment. In the IKEA case, a customer knows that if she finds a cheap product that might not be on her list, she most likely can not go back to get it, so she might as well grab it when it is found, unlike in the case of a grid-type layout where the customer is less constraint by the layout, and also, is not forced to follow a particular direction.