How IKEA Took Mobile Marketing to a Next Level with Virtual Reality
Some consider it heaven. Others would call it Hell. Wherever you stand in the fight between IKEA’s lovers and haters, the popularity of the Swedish furniture retailer has never been so high.
This is because, in the last decade, the store, firstly launched in 1943 as a mostly mail-order sales business, has overcome the national and European borders and has taken some important steps towards innovation, while leading the furniture market.
While some information of how the brand evolved over time can be easily found online, I’d like to go deep into an aspect that caught my interest in the last days. While I was searching the latest news in the Mobile Marketing world, I got to know that — funny enough — not only IKEA is listed as one of the most successful stories on record, but it has also taken traditional Mobile Marketing to a new, exhilarating level.
BACK TO 2010
2010 is actually the year when IKEA took the first step towards real innovation in Mobile, as proved by an article published on Mobile Marketing Association website.
THE INNOVATION: CREATIVITY + ACTION
IKEA Interactive Catalog was a free application only available on iPhone or iPod Touch. The two sections: “Place your furniture” allowed to use mobile cameras to place the furniture anywhere in the house. “Discover your style” enabled to discover the style that better suits their taste through different quizzes that present furniture pairs. Besides a very basic video trying to help customers dream of their next house design, the challenge was enormous: for the first time, IKEA’s call-to-action did not focus on actually buying furniture, but on a call-for-creativity for users, in order to fit furniture in the house according to customers’ preferences.
Surprisingly enough, the campaign launching the new app set two main goals:
- Inspire creativity.
- Stimulate interest.
In both cases, the catalog is just a medium, with a new, digital format, that can be used any time, without being stored anywhere in the house. Nevertheless, dreaming of new furniture (that you pick from your fingerprint) while virtually touching reality becomes a unique experience in the retail world.
THREE YEARS LATER
Three years later and after some awards won for the best campaigns, IKEA takes the mobile app feature to a new level. This video was first posted in 2013 and mentions two key-words: AUGMENTED REALITY.
First of all, the new feature does not ask users to get rid of the printed catalog. The feature could be unlocked only by scanning selected pages in the printed catalogue with the app or by browsing the pages in the digital catalogue on smartphone or tablet.
Yes, it’s time for some interactivity. Forget the design of the house while sitting on your couch. The user has to place the real catalogue where the furniture will be in the room, choose a product, and see the way it fits in the house.
VIRTUAL REALITY IS HERE
2016 sets a new milestone in IKEA’s Mobile Marketing story. The Swedish company is now launching a pilot virtual reality app, Ikea VR Experience , that, built using the Unreal Engine 4 from Epic Games, puts owners into a virtual Ikea kitchen of real-world size. Users can change cabinet and drawer colors for three different kitchens, and view it from any spot in the house.
As shown in this video, customers can place the catalog wherever they want to visualize the IKEA furniture and use the app to virtually place it in their physical space. “Virtual reality is developing quickly and in five to ten years it will be an integrated part of people’s lives,” Jesper Brodin, managing director at IKEA of Sweden, said to The Verge. “We see that virtual reality will play a major role in the future of our customers. For instance, someday, it could be used to enable customers to try out a variety of home furnishing solutions before buying them.”
Most customers seem to like it, as shown in the review page of the app. At the same time, for IKEA, it is a way to keep them engaged throughout the year and not only when they go to the store.