I have great admiration on Ikea as I believe they are really brilliant in the way they market their products and services. Every season, Ikea will probably introduce a few new additions to their existing collection but they will find creative ways to market existing products. Below is their storage catalogue dated 28 May to 12 July 09.
Rather selling individual furnitures/ pieces, Ikea creates lots of display so that the potential customers are able to get a clearer picture in how to play around with the layout and see the use of the product. They also produce a free catalogue which they distribute to houses. Production costs is low because it is subcontracted to developing countries like Vietnam. Ikea is doing very well because they know how to offer real value to the customers at a reasonable price.
There are also very small cute pieces that does not cost much- so every visitor would feel that they have something affordable that they can buy from a visit to Ikea. If you visit Ikea intending to buy a single item, you will need a lot of willpower not to leave with a trolley full of items.
For instance, if you look at storage solutions provided for children’s playroom, it comes to a relief to many young working parents who are struggling on how to store and tidy up all the toys. Many will just buy at least some of the items as they get the idea from watching the visual on the use of the product.
However, most families will buy furniture from the normal small business owners- because the bigger pieces can fall out of the budget of most young families. How do you think these traditional shops arrange their furniture?
Well, most of the time, these shop owners are using whatever space they have- even the customer walking area as storage space. Furniture are stacked up one on top of another- potential customers who visit these shop really must know what they want- so that the workers can retrieve it from a pile hidden somewhere. Still, if you talk to shop owners and tell them what they want, they normally sort of intuitively know what you want- through years of hands on experience in the field. This is something you seldom get when you visit the big guys.
But, most shop owners are also multitaskers- they have to answer calls, shift furniture, handle the delivery, make alterations, figure out what to order and worry about their dwindling sales (due to being eaten out by the big guys because they are unable to compete in terms of pricing since they are not able to order in bulk). This causes many shop owners to look distracted and sometimes impatient or unsmiling when talking to a prospective customers. And this is bad news for business.
Small business owners are normally the most knowledgible people on the trade- and I try to overlook the worried or impatient face because I find my questions are often well answered by these unsung experts. Still, many customers would not be able to do so. This is something that an owner must keep in mind. As small business owners, you will need to figure out what type of values that the big guys cannot deliver but you can. And focus on that. Ensure your staff and yourself show attention to every customer- including those who are dressed shabbily (because you may be surprised- some of these customers may end up buying more from you). That will help you to remain competitive.