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Experience Design - Case Study (Part 3)

Before you jump into this I recommend you check out part 1 and part 2 first!

This is a typical IKEA layout and if you are not looking for it you can simply overlook the beauty in the space design alone, for example:

Blind corners of the showroom - this is use to drive anticipation

Theme park-esque snake path - so it doesn’t feel like a long journey

Simple industrial feel of the self-serve - to indicate it’s not a place not to hang around

Removal of near all natural lighting - lose track of time and keep you stimulated

No clocks telling the time - again losing track of time, often a trick found in casinos

However, for me it is the invisible design that makes the experience, let me walk you through the experience design of Ikea floor by floor. You walk into Ikea and you hit...

The Showroom

The showroom consists of various familiar set ups, kitchen, living room, dining room and so on, all supported by some friendly arrows on the floor that nudge you in the right direction, then your senses are hit with the smell of coffee, meatballs and the noise of coffee chatter found in the cafe.

Next stop, the living room experience, here you will notice the lighting changes to a softer orange glow, you will often hear the crackling of a fire and the scents pumped out are usually of burning wood. The goal here is to start tricking that internal narrative discussed in part 2 with feelings of familiarity, the cosy snug feeling of it feeling like home, remember we are layering the experience with sensory design here.

Next, you move on to the kitchen, the smell instantly changes from burning wood to vanilla, baking bread and coffee, based on my research all three have been used. You can also hear the humming sound of ovens and even coffee grinders, all while not a single bean or loaf of bread is ground or baked. The lights here change from orange to bright white... next stop the dining room,

The scent used in the dining room is tricky and I haven't been able to identify it, I think it could be a designed scent for Ikea but I can’t put my finger on what it is. Again the lighting here is a lot softer with the goal to dial up that Hygge feeling (a Danish word)

Next, you hit the kids area, the scent used here is a really sweet smell. The stimulus around this area is cranked right up, bright lights, different colour light and lots of bright elements to keep the magpies (children) looking at all the cool shiny stuff. Here and throughout the store you will also find Bulla Bulla, which are basically baskets full of soft cheapish toys... The goal here is for Ikea to stall the customer by triggering kids to dig deep into the bins, hey and maybe spend a bit more money.

You made it through the showroom, big kudos, next step the market place, that is right after Ikea try to get you to have a quick coffee break in their cafe or maybe a few meatballs (I would they are sooooo good). Similar to the start of the journey it’s tapping into all your senses, organic noise and chatter, the sense of smell with the food, by the time you get to this point in the experience you're probably knackered, lost track of time and realise you've been in IKEA for about six months, so why not get some food right?

Sidenote: in 2017 IKEA found that 30% of their customers only come to IKEA to buy the meatballs.

The marketplace

The market place has a slightly different approach to the show room – there is more focus on product bolt-ons and tactile things, they often double down on a specific sense, an example being touch, the curtains, rugs, lighting, as you can imagine it is all about sight and the first room that blends all your senses is the bathroom.

The bathroom is a really simple one, lighting cranked up to white light so that everything feels clean and there's often a smell of mint, you'll also often hear running water and showers in the background. Just as you’ve made it to the end of the market place often your presented with candles or Tupperware... because they are cheap enough to buy internally you can justify the cost in time by saying you bought something... and honestly who doesn’t need more Tupperware. This last ditch attempt to sell you something is also use at the checkout. Often with lint rollers or Dime bars.


Then finally hit the self-serve area, which is very different from the other two areas, similar to how Disney use go away green paint. Ikea strip back the experience, there is no blended sensory stimulus, there's nothing.

Actually, it is really industrial and everything about it says this is not a place to hang around and have your kids play.

The cattle path (the path people) is direct and often straight lines to the check out, throughout the experience on this flow you are always in eyesight of checkout

Just after checkout Ikea will hit you with one more sensory overload with hotdogs, meatballs, coffee and my personal favourite the pic n mix, leaving on a high they then ask you to rate your experience with one of these

(Which is a nice little bit of peak end theory)

Wrap Up

When it comes to designing experiences, think about the space think about how customer value their time and create an experience that adds value.

Create that comfortable anticipation with space design, make things feel a little familiar but not so familiar it feels BAU. Play and experiment with senses use them to trigger emotions and narratives and layer the experience to strengthen a story and remember

remember we fundamentally cannot have a relationship with something if we don't know how it makes us feel
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