Sometimes walking through IKEA feels as though you’re in a maze where the walls are built from eye-catching organisational units. You both can’t and don’t want to leave. This isn’t an accident — IKEA is trapping you on purpose.
The megastore is designed to keep the consumer wandering its halls and filling their shopping cart until they’re so exhausted they order a stack of meatballs for dinner. Vox broke down all the ways IKEA manipulates you into buying stuff you didn’t plan on and don’t need in this helpful video.
Now that you know what IKEA is up to, how do you fight their wily tricks? Here are a few ideas:
Have a Plan
Approximately half of consumer spending is “unplanned,” according to researchers, and 80 per cent of the decisions we’re making while shopping are based on emotions, not logic or needs. That’s something IKEA understands well, and they manipulate it with their layout.
Make sure you have a list. It won’t necessarily keep you from picking up random stuff, but with a clear goal in mind and on paper, you’ll be far more focused.
Understand the Layout
There are three main styles of store layouts.
A grid emphasises speed, because it’s easy to find what you want. Picture a grocery store, as an example.
A “freeform” layout is maybe more of what you’d see in a department store such as Myer. It’s full of displays that don’t necessarily control your movement through the space like a grid does, which allows people to explore (and buy more).
A “racetrack” creates a loop that exposes the customers to a predetermined path of product.
IKEA uses a fixed path through a literal maze of more product displays. Their strategy is to make you stay in the store as long as possible, exposing you to more and more products.
Generally, consumers only see about one third of a store, but IKEA’s numbers are higher. They don’t stay specifically how much, but anyone who has been to IKEA knows how easy it is to get sucked in there for hours. Know that’s what they’re trying to do, and resist!
Go Straight to Your Goal
You can do that by knowing exactly what you want, and see if you can find out where it is on a map of the store before going. The showroom with all the distracting displays are generally found upstairs. There is another area of much less appealing boxed furniture that you can go directly towards if you pick out your piece ahead of time online or in a catalogue.
You can also order online, if you prefer delivery fees to random impulse buying.
Avoid the Showroom and Marketplace Entirely
IKEA offers a big, bright shopping bag at the entrance, right next to a well-lit escalator that guides you towards that enticing showroom. Lights are very important to the IKEA design, highlighting the areas they most want you to see. These designs aren’t based on a hunch. They’re able to measure customer paths via data acquisition in stores.
Yes, they’re watching you and they know what you like. They’ll use that info to tweak their design and make you buy even more things. And if you must make your way through the dreaded “marketplace”, you need a firm sense of resolve. When you catch yourself picking up a random bowl when you went in there for a shower curtain, ask yourself, am I falling for another IKEA trap?
Bring a Buddy and A Snack
If you are trapped by the showroom maze, you may find yourself there much longer than you planned for. That means you’ll get tired and, let’s face it, hangry. Bring something to eat, such as trail mix, fruit or an energy bar. Don’t let IKEA wear you down! You’ll be less emotional and impulsive (like they want) if your physical needs are taken care of.
And finally, bring a buddy to help keep you on track. Yes, people joke about how IKEA ruins relationships. But with the right person, you might be able to control yourself and get in and out quickly. If one of you picks up something random for the sharping cart, vow to demand why they need it. Keep reminding each other — we only came here for one thing. Just one thing…