Ikea chief digital officer Barbara Martin Coppola has set out how the homewares retailer used technology to respond as customers moved online fast during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.
She says the retailer experienced new heights of online shopping – ecommerce volumes “more than doubled” to the level of “a Black Friday every day" during – and beyond – lockdown, as more people work from home and ecommerce volumes “more than doubled”.
“It goes without saying that the pandemic has affected societies and communities at large,” said Martin Coppola. “During these times, people are looking for different ways to shop and have their items delivered. Online shopping has reached new heights, with experienced online shoppers buying more than ever before and new shoppers entering the online space for the very first time.
“During lockdowns many of our Ikea stores catered to customers online only, leading to increased levels of growth in ecommerce and an acceleration of our digital transformation. Things that would normally take years or months were accomplished within weeks and days.”
Popular services during and beyond lockdown included remote room planning and click and collect, with a particular focus on home storage and working spaces and children’s bedrooms.
Ikea used serverless technologies including Google Cloud to roll out innovations across its global multichannel business. “We transformed our current technology infrastructure, converted our closed stores into fulfilment centres and enabled contactless Click & Collect services whilst increasing the capacity to manage large web traffic volumes and online orders,” says Martin Coppola in a fireside chat with Google Cloud Nordics MD Eva Fors.
Ikea staff moved to working at home during the pandemic, using digital tools to automate routine tasks and solve problems. At the same time, contactless click and collect and self-service technologies were introduced in stores.
By using machine-learning data analytics across its business, Ikea was able to understand what its customers want and need from it. It used cloud to launch and scale new omnichannel functions including contactless click and collect services, while also managing high levels of online traffic and orders. The retailer is also using digital tools as part of its €600m investment in its transition to a net zero carbon economy and a circular design strategy.
It has also developed next-generation customer services such as the use of mixed reality – through Ikea parent company Ingka Group’s recent acquisition of Geomagical Labs – to enable shoppers to design their dream home. The retailer is now working on AI recommendations, customer service chatbots and 3D visualisation design tools.
Ikea is a Top100 retailer in RXUK Top500 research.