**Disclaimer: We are not affiliated or authorized by IKEA, or any of its subsidiaries. All views expressed in this case study are strictly our own and merely for educational and informational purposes only. The official IKEA website can be found at IKEA.com.**
It’s 2021 and COVID-19 continues to ravage the population. You need to go to IKEA for some drawers for your home office only to find a big yellow out-of-stock tag after the maze you just spent an hour walking through. Frustrating? Heck yes!
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers have since introduced new health and safety protocols for their daily operations. This resulted in changes to the in-store shopping experience that customers have long been used to. From being able to simply walk into an IKEA store and purchase items to being plagued with long lines and constant inventory problems. Shopping at IKEA has become much more stressful because it now requires more time commitment and many customers struggle to get everything that they need. What was once an accessible and affordable solution now is a mission in itself.
So what now?
Our team developed a live wait time and store capacity tracker to integrate with the existing IKEA app to help in-store shoppers who struggle with long lines and time-consuming shopping trips during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Timeline: August 2020 — Present
Collaborative Team: Emily Chee, Alison Tom, Lisa Xu
Tools Used: Canva, Figma, Google Form, Miro
CONSTRAINTS & ASSUMPTIONS
- No control over stock inventory*
- Wait time data*
- We assume that this is an ideal situation, where the engineering team has the capability to accurately track stock and wait time information.
Formulating the Problem Statement
This past spring, when IKEA reopened with new protocols in place, our team member Lisa visited to buy furniture for a new apartment. Upon arrival, she saw a long line that wrapped around the store. Not only did she wait almost an hour to enter the store, but she also found many of the things she wanted out of stock. She left the store rather dissatisfied with the experience, especially in comparison to how the in-store experience was pre-COVID.
Some of the biggest frustrations were the unexpected time that was required for lines and that many of the items that showed to be in stock on the IKEA website, turned out to be out of stock in-store.
Our team decided to look into this problem further and do some basic research on the IKEA Reddit page, which showed that many customers were having similar experiences.
We decided to also take a look at the IKEA app, and to our surprise, the existing app was not very user-friendly nor did it provide much information on to go for shoppers.
- Did not know the wait time for entry — hard for customers to figure out a time to go to fit within their schedule
- Safety protocols were not clear
- Inventory information is sometimes inaccurate — hard to plan an efficient trip
2. Research (Google Survey)
35 responses. Long lines. Inventory out of stock. Too. Many. People.
From our Google Form Survey, we were able to capture the concerns of many customers during the pandemic. 37% of the responses expressed concern in regards to the store capacity limit. With healthy precautions issued by the government, it is only natural for the community to feel worried about their health while shopping in person.
“Honestly I would prefer to not go. The people there don’t have good social distancing, lots dont wear masks all the way. I only went because things were only available in store and we had to return something”
“They should have a ticketing system to call back like 30–50 people to get ready to enter the store instead of wait in line. I would feel safer waiting in my car or a less crowded area.”
Another survey response suggested store capacity monitoring to help inform potential customers of the approximate time of their entire shopping experience. From parking to checking out display rooms to finding inventory to checkout, shopping at IKEA requires a good amount of time. The last thing a customer would like to do is waste more time.
In addition to waiting in long lines before their shopping experience begins, many responses faced inventory problems as well. Not only were popular items out of stock, but the inventory tracker was invalid or not up to date.
“Real-time inventory tracker to provide insights into what is currently available. Potential warehouse mapping to help to find products needed to build the final item.”
More. Time. Wasted.
To address these concerns, we kept in mind the customer’s experience from beginning to end. We considered what roadblocks they faced along the way and what could efficiently help customers reach their goals and needs.
3. User Interviews
With 4 semi-structured Zoom interviews, we heard various shopping experiences from easy 15-minute curbside pick-up to hours on end with a half-empty cart. Why are they drastically different?
IKEA introduced a new feature on the website called “Click & Collect” where users can order items online and pick up the following day. However, many found the feature impossible to use. Items are quick to be out of stock and with no accurate stock inventory, customers are forced to gamble and shop in person.
Before entering IKEA:
“Arrived 15 minutes before the opening…line was not organized…took 45 minutes to get in.”
Shopping in IKEA:
“Things were listed in stock prior to visiting, but stock information was not accurate.. Bummer..”
“He (Employee) didn’t have any idea when stuff would be back in stock and was told to check back in 2 weeks.”
End of IKEA trip:
“Check out process was slower than before. They tried to snake it similar to the line outside.”
Again, the shopping experience wasted a lot of people’s time. From beginning to end, the customer waited and waited only to receive no results. This led to frustration, anger, and complete dissatisfaction. The last thing a customer wants after putting so much time and effort into shopping is getting nothing in return.
4. Affinity Mapping (Miro)
Gathering information from user surveys and interviews, we gauged potential services that shoppers would like to use if they were to use an IKEA app. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, we noticed a need for a quick, convenient shopping trip to IKEA. Shoppers want to know if there’s a short wait time to enter the store, or if their favorite items are still available, or if safety precautions are taken upon arriving to an IKEA store.
After noting the features mentioned during user surveys and interviews, we narrowed down the top features and discussed how we can enhance the user’s needs for a safe and efficient shopping trip.
5. User Personas
To better understand who the users would be, we created 3 user personas that are representative of our key target audience. Their common motivations and pain points are furnishing their living spaces and efficiently getting the furniture they want and need.
6. User Journey
We analyzed the features to potentially implement in the IKEA app and mapped out the user’s journey and thought processes while looking for the new IKEA app features:
- In-store shopping wait time
- Item stock
- COVID-19 health & safety precautions
7. Wireframing / Low-Fidelity
With our research and user flow in place, we began our low-fidelity wireframe sketches to map out the potential redesign. Instead of an entire app redesign, we focused on 2 key areas (Your Store / Shopping List & Bookmarks) that will best serve to improve a customer’s in-store shopping experience from beginning to end with the COVID restrictions in place.
8. High Fidelity & Prototyping
Users select stores before proceeding to item selection. Not only can they search for a particular store using the search bar, but they can also scroll horizontally to find stores closest to their current location. By immediately providing a suggested store, the interface improves navigation and efficiency.
SHOPPING LIST SCREEN
From opening to closing hours, Your Store informs users of special store shopping hours, estimated wait time, best & worst time to shop on specific days of the week. A new section for COVID precautions was implemented. This information provides comfort and ease to potential in-person shoppers.
A key feature is allowing the user to set their trip. By selecting a specific date and time, users can achieve maximum productivity after seeing what times are best to go and not go.
SHOPPING LIST SCREEN
Don’t know where to find your items in store?
Shopping List will tell you not only where your items are located, but the order in which you can find them!
From In stock to Running low to Out of stock, the shopping list will tell you all. The stock inventory and the last time it was updated helps users access whether or not they should go to IKEA to purchase their desired item.
No more waiting for items to restock!
CONCLUSION & KEY TAKEAWAYS
- Shopping experience involves FAST AND EASY access to quality products
- Prepping for a shopping trip is just as important as the shopping trip itself
- Living in a pandemic requires extra precaution and care for potential shoppers
User interface should mirror the shopping experience itself. Informative app with accurate inventory count, entrance wait times, and COVID-19 safety reduce challenges and inconveniences with users’ shopping experience. Freedom to control what store to go to and what items to put in the cart are two key features in a successful shopping trip. Additional information like wait time and stock inventory are there to provide assistance and reduce cognitive load. Thus, the new design increases accessibility and efficiency.
In addition to surveys and unstructured interviews, our team would love to conduct further research into understanding our ideal users and their pain points. Focus group interviews with task-based activities like navigating through the current flow of IKEA’s mobile app could provide us more insights about any roadblocks or possible issues causing frustration. Reactions to aesthetics and quick feedback on the viability of a product idea will be revealed. To continue the iterative design process, usability testing is necessary. It helps evaluate the success of our design and demonstrates that a problem exists. Our case study on IKEA’s mobile app primarily focuses on the flow of the shopping experience; this is one of many features that can be improved by user experience design processes.