This article was written by Paul O’Hara, Senior Vice President, Business Development at Teleperformance
Hilton Barbour recently published a really interesting interview with IKEA’s Chief Digital Officer, Barbara Martin Coppola on LinkedIn. I’m really interested in the IKEA story because they have really been a leader in various innovations, such as using Augmented Reality for shoppers. The brand has also demonstrated how a strong omnichannel approach can reduce business disruption - the recent Covid-19 pandemic being a very good example.
The first point Barbara makes is just how far the customer journey has changed in recent years. She said: “The reality remains that 80% of all customer journeys – regardless of sector - start online. So, in order to stay relevant and ensure a unique customer experience with the IKEA brand, we have embarked on a 3-year digital transformation.”
I think this point is often lost on many executives. Their need to explore digital transformation is not just to keep up with the competition or to try promoting innovation. They need to do it because their customers are already using digital tools to find their products and to interact with their brand. This is 2020 - your customers are using digital tools.
Retail customers will almost certainly have used digital tools to research what they want to buy, check prices, or compare similar products before they ever click BUY on your app or walk into a store. The auto industry is a great example of this. Going to several car showrooms used to be an integral part of the car purchasing process. Now a large percentage of buyers just order online or arrive at a showroom knowing exactly what they want - they just want a quick look at the actual product in person before confirming.
I also think that Barbara’s focus on digital transformation as a journey, rather than a distinct goal, is absolutely correct. I’m tired of hearing executives talk about their ‘future state’ three years from now “once our digital transformation is complete.” It’s never going to be complete. Your competition and consumers are constantly changing. All you can do is move from a rigid, inflexible business environment to an agile one that designs all services around the needs of the customer. If you build this customer-centricity into your core business strategy and culture then future changes will be easier.
Barbara describes how IKEA has researched life at home - literally anthropological research into how their customers use their products. This is extremely interesting because it can create a virtuous circle if the brand understands how people’s home life is changing and offers products that exactly fit these needs. This kind of constant feedback and insight will be extremely important now it looks like working from home will be a reality for millions of people who never expected this at the start of 2020.
It’s clear that people are at the heart of the IKEA journey. The more I read about their own digital transformation, the more I can see that IKEA has a well-planned strategy that focuses on how technology enables their people to achieve more. This is exactly how it should work. Digital transformation should be focused on how people can achieve more with digital tools, rather than the tools themselves.
IKEA has now opened most of their stores after the Covid-19 lockdown and will be rebuilding sales again as we emerge from the crisis. I think their cultural approach will have helped the company through this very difficult time and they are well placed to be an integral part of the life of more consumers in future. They are on a mission to create loyal fans, not just customers.
About the author: Paul O’Hara is Senior Vice President, Business Development at Teleperformance, and joined the Group in 2007. With 20-years’ experience in the CX Management industry, Paul is passionate about helping organizations deliver a superior customer experience. Covering the EMEA region primarily Paul works with Senior Customer Service, Sales, Marketing, Insight, and Transformation Executives, who have overall responsibility for multiple territories and regions. He helps organizations address Customer Experience Management challenges within the complex European mosaic of markets, cultures and languages.
Photo by Oleg Laptev via Unsplash