Ikea: the Buyer Decision Making Process

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IKEA: The buyer decision making process
and related influences.

Word count: 3011

IKEA: The buyer decision making process and related influences.

Fancy a bit of a change in life? Why not pop down to IKEA and order yourself a Boklok, a Faktum, a Nutig, a Leksvik and a Brunskära; everything you need for a good night sleep and breakfast in the morning. To translate from IKEA’s language to English, you would have ordered a flat-pack house, a flat-pack kitchen, a fridge, a flat-pack bed and a tightly compressed quilt; all for under £120,000 (boklok.co.uk & IKEA.co.uk, 2008). IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant offer their consumers everything from houses to foot warmers to Swedish meatballs to a simple chair. The IKEA phenomenon began in 1943 with Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA. He began selling pens, wallets and nylon stockings at reduced prices. In 1948 furniture was introduced to the range and by 1951 IKEA was selling through a mail order catalogue. As a price war ensued with competitors, they forced suppliers to boycott IKEA, so IKEA decided to design all its own products; this was a success and the first IKEA store opened in 1958 and at 6,700m2 it was the largest furniture store in Scandinavia. Restaurants became a standard in IKEA stores from 1960. In 1974 IKEA made its first foray in to non-Scandinavian Europe, opening a store in Germany. Just one year later, 1975, IKEA went international with stores opening in Australia and Canada. It wasn’t until 1987 that IKEA reached the UK. IKEA are now the largest furniture retailer in the world, with over 230 stores in over 28 countries, 1350 suppliers, 118,000 co-workers, a product range of over 9,500 items and 2007 sales totalling over £15.5bn (IKEA-group.com, 2008).

IKEA stores, certainly in the UK, are synonymous with check-out queues, traffic congestion and assembly problems (Watson-Smyth, 2000); most IKEA shoppers can report at least one bad experience at IKEA, and yet people head back to IKEA in droves when they need to replace their furniture. This essay will look at the way in which IKEA managed to attract new customers whilst ensuring repeat business through their use of the buyer decision making process.

The buyer decision making process (BDMP) can be summarised as the basic five stages which a consumer goes through when purchasing a product or engaging a service (Schiffman & Kanuk, 2000). The five basic stages of the BDMP are; problem recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision and the post-purchase evaluation. Each stage of the BDMP is equally involved in the acquisition of a new product; however the fifth stage, post-purchase evaluation, holds influence on two levels. Firstly it is the evaluation of whether the product meets the needs of the consumer and whether they are satisfied with it; if not, it will likely be returned to the store. Secondly, when a consumer reaches the purchase decision stage they will rely on past experience, i.e. prior post-purchase evaluations, if the brand or store pleased them in the past, they are more likely to repeat-purchase (Nagle, 1984). Initially, each stage of the BDMP will be looked at individually.

The BDMP can only begin once a consumer perceives a difference between their actual state and their desired state, i.e. problem recognition, a need is created. From IKEA’s point of view it is problem ‘creation’, they must be able to make the consumer want. It might be thought that there is no point IKEA focusing on consumers recognised expressed needs, as consumers are already at the ‘information search’ stage of the BDMP. However, IKEA try to mould consumer’s basic needs by exposing them to product innovations in the hope that they can change a physiological need into a higher need, i.e. social or symbolic need. More importantly than recognised needs, in which consumers are already likely to consider IKEA for fulfilment, IKEA focus on a consumer’s latent needs. These are the...
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