IKEA stores are like Disneyland for adults: people go there not just to buy furniture, but to have fun and maybe even a little adventure. In this magic place, logical thinking disappears, and people start to fill their shopping carts with completely unnecessary things. As it turns out, the Swedish giant has a few tricks up its sleeve that they use to reprogram the thinking of their customers.
Bright Side has done a little bit of research and learned about the techniques that this store uses to manipulate its customers. We wrote this article so that you don’t get manipulated the next time you visit an IKEA store.
1. Meatballs help sell furniture.
Gerd Diewald, one of the IKEA managers from the US, says that meatballs are the best sofa-sellers. It is one of the most popular products in the furniture store: every year, customers from all around the world eat about one billion of their meatballs. What is the magic behind this meal?
A hungry customer is a bad customer. This is why the IKEA restaurant is located right in the middle of the store. Marketers know that a good meal makes you kinder and more likely to buy something else.
A big serving of meatballs doesn’t cost a lot, but customers start to feel as if IKEA is a generous store. A low price for the meatballs kind of suggests that all the other products here don’t cost a lot. The store puts your vigilance to sleep using cheap food and after that, here you are at the cash register with a cart full of useless things.
2. IKEA mattresses have a non-standard size. And they do it on purpose.
The sizes of some mattresses are a little different from what we are used to. It seems that this is no big deal — just buy a new bed base and that’s it. But there is one small thing: the bed sheets. Regular factories make regular-sized bed sheets and they are not the same size as IKEA mattresses.
As a result, you are forced to buy the IKEA brand bed sheets only. The same goes for pillows: for some of them, there is only one place where you can buy a pillowcase. And you know the name of that store.
3. There are 2 days when you can buy new products in the As-Is department
All IKEA stores have the discount department (As-Is). Here you can buy some furniture with minor defects at a 70 % discount. Unfortunately, inexperienced customers end up buying completely useless things or furniture that is almost completely wrecked. But there is a secret you should know.
An IKEA employee shared it on Reddit. You can buy good-quality things at a discount right after the spring or the summer sale. This is because customers often return the products they either didn’t like or couldn’t use for some reason. And these products go straight to As-Is. So, mark April 1 and August 1 in your calendar — you can easily make purchases a few days before and after these dates.
4. IKEA appliances are always more expensive and the reason is trivial.
Built-in household appliances at IKEA are much more expensive than at other stores. And they are definitely way more expensive than you’d expect from a pretty cheap store. Why? Because they are the only type of products that are made by a third-party factory especially for IKEA. All the other things are made in factories that belong to IKEA itself. So, these household appliances are somewhat unique and customers are not paying for some outstanding quality, but literally just for the brand.
5. Retail associates don’t approach you first on purpose.
An IKEA employee would never ask, “How may I help you?” And it’s because it is prohibited to do so. Retail associates allow you to make your own choices. And this is also another great marketing ploy.
If an assistant offers their help, this will stop the client’s imagination. Just imagine that you are standing there and thinking about how great some curtains would look on your windows... Oh, and these pillows would go perfectly with them! And then suddenly an assistant comes up to you and wakes you up! No, IKEA gives you an opportunity to dream about the life you could have if you bought these wonderful things. And we do buy them.
However, you can always find help in an IKEA store. All the associates are extremely polite.
6. The way the stores are built literally makes you spend more money.
The mazes of IKEA stores have been the reason for internet jokes for a long time now: it really is very easy to get lost in the store. But it is not because you are terrible at orienting yourself, it is because the store designers are trying to make you feel lost on purpose.
London architect Alan Penn told us how it works: the difficult mazes and the absence of a simple straight path makes customers walk in circles and return to the same place over and over again. An hour after walking like this makes a person disoriented. They completely forget why they came to IKEA in the first place.
Penn estimates that about 60% of all his purchases in IKEA were not originally planned.
7. The fact that you have to assemble the furniture by yourself has an unusual effect on you.
In psychology, there is term called the IKEA effect. This refers to a cognitive distortion that happens when a buyer values things more that they’ve made by themselves. Just think about it: you spend hours assembling furniture that costs money, you get lost in the manuals, you lose the necessary parts, you get really exhausted but next time you need furniture — you go to IKEA again.
Customers love this store for many reasons: the low prices, the universal design. But more than that, they love the time and the effort they invested into assembling the furniture.
8. There is a reason why there are baskets full of different products all around IKEA.
IKEA marketers use the bulla bulla principle: around the entire store, there are baskets full of different products. The customers’ thinking goes like this: if there is a lot of something, it is cheap. You will buy these napkins / comforters / spoons not because you need them, but because they are sold at a very cheap price (spoiler: they’re actually not). This is IKEA’s way of selling a lot of products without any discounts by manipulating us to buy more.
9. IKEA uses some casino tricks to make you buy stuff.
Have you ever noticed that IKEA stores don’t have windows or big clocks? This is a trick that the company borrowed from casinos. The store does all that in order to make you lose track of time.
Once you remove all the sources of natural light and all the clocks, people start spending more time on shopping. Nothing distracts you from thinking about what to buy and actually buying “very useful things.”
10. Cheap hotdogs and ice cream are sold at the exit for a reason.
So you have completed your super-long journey through the IKEA mazes and you are ready to pay. Some customers get really shocked. The things that cost very little separately, cost a lot together. Admit it: it’s really painful to pay a crazy amount of money for things you don’t really need. But IKEA knows how to soothe the pain of saying goodbye to your money.
Right after the cash register, they sell cheap hot dogs and ice cream. This is probably the cheapest price you can find anywhere. IKEA doesn’t want you to be in a bad mood after shopping. So, you won’t feel guilty about buying a lot of junk because the last thing you bought was actually cheap.
The ways to save money at IKEA
- The cheapest products from a certain category are marked with a red-yellow price tag. For example, a comforter with this price tag is the cheapest of all IKEA comforters.
- The IKEA Store app allows you to make a shopping list and avoid getting lost in the maze of the store.
- The “decorations” of the rooms hide shortcuts to other parts of the store. The employees try to hide these doors but they allow them to get from one part of the store to the other extremely fast.
- Don’t take the pencil for notes. This is another psychological trick. Simply having a free thing from a store makes a customer relax and gets them ready to buy things they do not need.
- The IKEA FAMILY card gives a discount for some products. You can save 30-50 % by using it.
Bonus: The New Empire of Sweden
Today, 300 IKEA stores are open around the world. This is an actual Swedish empire that has been conquering the world for quite some time. However, IKEA doesn’t have any connection to Sweden now aside from its name: in 2012, the company was sold to a Danish company. But it still continues to maintain its good old Scandinavian style.
Tell us about your IKEA shopping strategies. Do you make a shopping list when you go to the store or do you just buy everything you like?