I Love Ikea But…

I love Ikea. No home furnishing brand is better at providing modular living solutions at such good value. In fact, I just finished installing my second Ikea kitchen—a stylish, affordable galley that looks and performs like models costing four times as much.

But…I hate shopping at Ikea. It’s impossible to get through their stores without feeling like a lab rat navigating a maze. No matter how directed your purchase intent is, you’ll be forced to wander through endless showrooms and product displays, only to complete your journey with a yellow bag filled with impulse buys—but probably not everything on your shopping list. Ikea’s inventory can’t seem to keep up with demand, so if you go to a store on a weekend, you’ll likely end up missing several items on your list. Which means coming back for another trip through the maze–and more impulse purchases that you don’t want or need.

Ikea floorplan

As a shopping strategist, I salute Ikea for their success in upselling every customer in their store. As a customer, I feel like a beaten down lab rat. At least there are the $1 cinnamon buns, a Pavlovian reward for making it all the way through the maze.

We live in an omnichannel world, right? Where customers should be able to shop and engage with any brand where, when and how they like. Which is why I keep trying to shop on Ikea.com, but…

I hate shopping on Ikea.com.

For the millions who don’t live near an Ikea store, as well as the hordes of us who hate going into those stores, Ikea.com should offer full inventory (“endless aisle” as we call it in the biz), be easily shoppable, have state-of-the art search, and a seamless purchase flow.

Unfortunately, Ikea offers none of these.

Even though I’ve visited Ikea.com dozens and dozens of times I still have to select North America/US every time I visit. Ever heard of cookies, Ikea? Automatically recognizing your customers is the digital equivalent of a $1 cinnamon bun. Give it a try.

I needed some extra shelves for that new kitchen so I searched “Rationell replacement shelf” and received zero results. Zero. No suggestions. No matter how much I narrowed my search, I couldn’t find the product. I tried browsing but couldn’t find a link to accessories or parts. When I clicked through to “interior organizers” (a phrase I would never use to describe a shelf) I got this result:

Ikea search results 1

Both of the likely options were fixed-width shelves with no options for size or color, so I gave up and did a Google search. I landed on Ikeafans.com, a crowd-sourced site with no affiliation to the store, where Ikea customers provide the answers, information and links that you’d expect from the brand itself. Ikeafans took me directly to the product, which turned out to be on the initial results page, but so buried and confusingly labeled that I had given up before discovering it.

Ikea search results 2

Things only got worse when I tried to purchase the shelves online. Items that I’d previously put in my shopping cart (but didn’t want anymore) followed me all the way through the purchase path, no matter how many times I deleted them.

I tried “chatting” with Anna, Ikea’s automated online assistant, to resolve my cart issue. Live chat is an efficient, cost-effective way to provide customer care. At Fluid we recommend it to our clients all the time. “Chat,” however, is a misnomer for what Anna offers. She delivers nothing beyond FAQs—and not very good FAQs at that; forget about troubleshooting or problem solving. The one thing Anna does achieve is a virtual representation of Ikea’s attitude towards its customers: if we’re not headed to one of their stores, then Anna and Ikea couldn’t care less.

Unable to make my purchase without including unwanted items, I had to shut down my computer and make the order by phone.


I have to conclude that Ikea doesn’t actually want customers to make purchases on Ikea.com. My guess is that they make so much money upselling their in-store customers that they’ll do anything to keep them from buying their products anywhere else—including their own website.

Hey Ikea: I work at Fluid. We specialize in seamless digital customer journeys. Give us a call. We’ll help you make money from all the people who prefer to shop online. We can even show you how to make amends with your loyal customers.

Including me.