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Inside the IKEA App

IKEA's catalog mobile app is a missed opportunity for retail giant.

This weekend, the family went to IKEA.

Now, even though the Swedish furniture-and-lingonberry retailer has taken a ribbing lately (see 30 Rock's "Hey Baby, What's Wrong?" episode) -- we love it.

Before the twins arrived, my wife and I bought scores of black Billy bookshelves and dined on Swedish meatballs in IKEA's café while we rested our feet. Now that the kids are almost 4, we needed storage for kids' toys and some poster frames.

So, what a better time to use the IKEA mobile app?

One problem: When I searched for the app, I came up with a few choices (including one in Italian) and my only other option was for something called "IKEA Catalogue."

It's the official IKEA app, though, and it began by telling me that the nearest IKEA was in Bolingbrook was 19 kilometers away.

Kilometers. The gaffe was charming, but a harbinger of the frustration to come.

Next: Although I downloaded the app from home-- I found out that app had not loaded the catalogue itself until I was walking into the store. OK, only minor setback--but it took another five minutes to download.

I was able to flip through pages and bookmark items I might need in the app. But the problem here was one of functionality. The app simply recreates the catalogue, photos and all, rather than offering a mobile-friendly version. Little attention was paid to ease of use and what shoppers might need.

It was maddening. After spending a few minutes with the IKEA app, I started making a wish list of how it could be helpful.

Namely:

1) A store map. Although stock changes, IKEA sections don't change much, so a map for the Bolingbrook store seems like a simple, useful addition.

2) Convert kilometers to miles, please.

3) Larger type. I appreciated the photos--but in simply uploading the catalogue, you can't read any of the small type without zooming it. On most of the pages, the type was so small, it might have well been in Swedish.

4) Coupons? Specials? Seems like a missed opportunity to no include them.

5) How about a lunch menu?

6) How about some design functionality that allows the user to see products in different colors?

7) New product highlights?

8) A parking reminder, so you can track down your car in IKEA's gargantuan lot.

9) Info on IKEA’s play area would be nice--perhaps even something that allows store employees to check in with you and send you updates of how they are fairing with other kids in the store daycare?

10) Could it tell me when something was out of stock?

Again, we still love IKEA.

But after a few minutes with the app, we used the paper catalog and maps available at the store. For an international company, IKEA could produce an app that could be a useful, dynamic tool that drives revenue and enhances the shopping experience.

Right now, it's just not there yet.

Richard Schmidt February 19, 2012 at 03:59 PM
This article could use some editing. In tip #2 the writer recommends to "Convert kilograms to miles, please." How about converting kilometers to miles?
Pam DeFiglio February 20, 2012 at 05:32 AM
Whenever I walk through IKEA, my brain reels from sensory overload. While this can sometimes be relieved by gravlax with dill and mustard, it would be nice to have a truly handy app.
Robert K. Elder February 21, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Thanks for the catch, Richard! Fixed.

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