A lot has meanwhile been written about Vienna’s new IKEA downtown store which opened on September 1st, 2021 right next to the busy Westbahnhof train station. Immediately after the opening visitors needed to pre-register for a slot of 90 minutes to allow as many as possible people to enter the store first time.
Now, I spontaneously went there together with my 24-year-old daughter, who can still be allocated to the Generation Z, short Gen Z, or Zoomers (often defined as birth cohorts 1997-2012) as a kind of alternative Friday evening entertainment program, to see something new, and to be inspired. And: as we are both interested in the latest developments in retail, IKEA is always a good case to look at and learn from.
In the past we were used to take the car to drive to IKEA’s store in the Shopping City Süd, one of Europe’s largest shopping malls located in the southern outskirts of Vienna. This time we chose the subway which took us directly to the Westbahnhof train station where the new store is located. Indeed, this downtown location can be considered as a statement targeted to the young urban shoppers of Gen Z that is becoming the sustainability generation. (see also: Forbes.com – Gen Z Is Emerging as the Sustainability Generation)
We left the subway and stood right in front of the main entrance of the IKEA building which is very much different from all other blocks around. What makes the architecture so special is the fact that the interior of the building is obviously turned inside out. As a visitor you immediately feel and get an idea of what is inside the building before having entered.
The outer shell is the contrary of a traditional façade. It shows the structural steel work and reminded us of the famous Centre Georges-Pompidou in Paris’ 4th Arrondissement. The use of glass and light makes it look transparent like a window that is opening the view into a well illuminated interior: inviting, attracting, and making curious.
After having entered it felt like a department store. Different from IKEA’s traditional concept of tightly leading the shoppers through all the different sections and only once in a while allowing shortcuts, here we felt free to move and inspect what caught our attention and looked inspiring to us. You all know the cued, little, smart IKEA items that make life a bit easier and shoppers happier!
On the 1st floor we visited the kitchen section. As usual at Ikea, the many small kitchen gadgets were on display for people to look at and touch. And many items had QR codes to find more details online … and for the smaller, handy, and easy to carry items shoppers can chose to buy in the store or online. This is where marketing and sales concepts become all at once tangible. Welcome to the IKEA way of a hybrid and omnichannel shopping experience.
We also saw that visitors are invited to have their new kitchen individually planned. Later on, when being at home we discovered the various online options for kitchen planning, from the free 3D kitchen planning webtool and the kitchen quick quoter to the option of booking an appointment instore or online with a kitchen planning expert. Each individual service may not be unique but the way these services are integrated, connected, and presented creates a specific holistic perception.
The same accounts for other topics where shoppers need experts’ know how, for example for sleeping systems, mattresses, and beds.
As in all IKEA stores the Swedish language plays an important role in the product presentation and brand identity concept. On top of that we realized that at least some of the IKEA staff members communicated in English among each other, underlining the young, urban, international, and open-minded culture IKEA represents.
On the upper floors there is a Swedish Restaurant, Bistro, and Café.
Finally, we ended up on what IKEA calls TOPPEN, the roof terrasse. On IKEA’s website you learn that TOPPEN is Swedish and means top 🙂 – it offers an excellent panorama view across Vienna’s southern districts, from Mariahilfer-Strasse in the east, (one of Vienna’s main shopping high streets) to Schoenbrunn Castle in the west. Even before seeing the first summer, IKEA’s rooftop started to enter the first sightseeing hit lists for tourists.
From what we saw and experienced, there are 5 characteristics which make this store so remarkable from a shopper’s point of view:
#1 The Concept
With its new concept, Ikea has picked up on the growing environmental sensitivity. Shoppers shall no longer come by car but use public transportation to visit IKEA. Therefore, car parking space is not offered, but the subway station is right in front of the store. On top of that, new trees contribute to reduce the air temperature on a heat day.
#2 Downtown Location
IKEAS new downtown location appeals especially to the young, urban target groups of Gen Z and Y and thus makes IKEA a place to go. People go there to be inspired, to see and physically touch smart and clever products and solutions which they may further investigate online later on at home, to get professional advice and consulting service for all questions around furnishing … or simply for having a good time and quite incidentally doing some impulse purchases.
#3 Omnichannel Experience
IKEA is offering information on products and solutions in the store and online in a combined and integrated way. The IKEA shopping experience becomes more digital and more personal (see kitchen and sleeping consultancy) at the same time – only seemingly a contradiction. It’s the shoppers’ choice: to shop instore, to shop online, or to do both at the same time. IKEA invests a lot to make the customer journey multifaceted and exciting to meet shoppers in those physical places and virtual rooms where they actually are. The line between online and instore shopping becomes more and more indistinct and omnichannel.
#4 Architecture = Marketing
With its new Vienna store IKEA makes architecture part of the marketing concept. It is no longer only the products that are smart, Nordic, cool, and stylish. It’s the building as well.
#5 Next Level Shopping
With all the above-mentioned steps, IKEA brings lifestyle furniture shopping to the next level.
Conclusion: Well-Tuned Holistic Approach
The above mentioned points may not all be unique. But the way IKEA combines and presents things make it a well-tuned holistic approach and an interesting and attractive Swedish cocktail for the target group.
From my perspective IKEA is not only a showcase in the furniture and interior design category but of general interest. Other retail sections are as well on the way to become more sustainable, digital, individual, omnichannel, and lifestyle. Look at the rapid development for example in food retail. And this is only the start of a huge transformation retail will see in the coming years.
Do you want to take a closer look at the implications of this transformation on your business? Why don’t you contact me? I am already looking forward to exchange thoughts and ideas.
Video: The Opening of IKEA Vienna Westbahnhof
He founded perspective: international in 2013. He works as a strategic advisor, operative facilitator and interim manager with many years of experience in internationalization and international business development.