In a highly competitive and dynamic market and with digital transformation hitting the world by storm, retail brands are in a marketplace of ‘disrupt or die’. Building a disruptive retail experience, now more than ever, has become one of the most paramount competitiveness edges of any retail brand.

We’ve exclusively interviewed Carla KlumpenaarGeneral Manger of Marketing, Communication & Interior Design, IKEA, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt and Oman, for her take on the next big thing for retail brands in the region. 

BB: Having design in your pocket, how do you think the store design of the future will look like? 

CK: The store of the future will exist both online and offline and will give the consumers the chance to touch and feel the products along with a wide range of digital options to make their buying decisions even easier. This will allow us to demonstrate our excellence in innovation as well as showcase product benefits. While brick and mortar will always be there, the store of the future will see new developments that focus on the ease of shopping including updates to payment methods, delivery options and increased interaction with the sales staff. 

Carla Klumpenaar

BB: Now, more than ever, retail brands need to understand their consumers’ drivers, motivations and emotions so they can effectively manage their experiences, the thing that leads to consumer satisfaction. How can retail brands design a holistic brand experience strategy synchronized across in-store and digital channels? 

CK: For IKEA to excel in brand experience, messages on each channel are customized. Based on the global guidelines we receive from IKEA, we adapt it to our local markets in order to reach the right consumers, at the right time, with the right message.  For some channels we work a lot with inspiration to develop creative content, while on others it is more relevant for us to be direct and to the point. 

BB: One of the main pillars of a remarkable retail experience is tapping into the five senses of consumers into the retail environment. How can retail brands build a multi-sensory experience? If you touch on the five senses of consumer retail environment sight, sound, smell, taste and touch and how we can build on that.

CK: The retail environment is made of a mix of the five senses.  It is important that consumer can touch and feel the product to see the benefits of each product and go through the trial phase before buying. For example, when a customer visits the store to buy a sofa, they would like to access the comfort, quality of the fabric and if the colour matches their theme. 

Sight is an important component in our creative and communication campaigns that helps us draw the customers attention more towards the brand. For example, in our latest ‘Kings and Queens campaign’, we drew the attention in a medieval setting and ended with an IKEA set to show that everybody needs a place where they rule. In short, we inspire our customers through visuals and drive our consumers to our website where they can directly buy our products.  

The IKEA Restaurant and Cafe is the ultimate go to for customers to fulfil their smell and taste buds. Customers can choose from a wide variety of healthy and sustainable options. In fact, the IKEA meatballs has been the most popular dish in our restaurants and is loved by the many people. If you visit the store in Festival Plaza, Jebel Ali, you’ll see that the IKEA Restaurant has its own independent entrance which gives direct access to the restaurant and eases customer flow. To improve the shopping experience, the restaurant has also introduced two brand new self-checkout stations making it easier to place orders and grab a quick bite if you are on the go. 

BB: Last year has witnessed a lot of retailers shutting down physically and turning into e-Commerce. Is this the retail apocalypse? Or retail is being reinvented in the digital age? 

CK: All our customer meeting points are very successful. We have a strong presence in both our brick and mortar and online stores. Both of these channels are important for us to reach and be close to our customers in the most convenient way that works for them.

The IKEA shopping App for example allows our customers to browse through thousands of products with a seamless checkout process. The digital aspect is very popular nowadays as it gives people the convenience of shopping from the comfort of their homes 

BB: Can you please weigh on IKEA’s efforts in championing digital transformation in MENA region ?

CK: IKEA has made big steps in digital transformation in the MENA region. Customer journey is simple, and we are always reviewing it to make things better. Our latest store in Festival Plaza, Jebel Ali is a great example of how new and improved digital solutions which help enhance IKEA customer’s shopping experience. 

For example, the digital signage and projector solutions installed will provide customers with information about the range of products available as well as guide them through the store and enhance their shopping experience. Approximately 16 home planning wall projectors are built across the store that will allow customers to be able to easily visualize products in their home. In addition to this, amongst the complete home setup in the new store is a home designed with smart home solutions. This will enable customers to easily transition to smart living solutions. 

With the learnings of the new developments in the Jebel Ali store, we adapt the existing stores as well as adapting our plans for the new stores we are set to open in the coming years.