How IKEA tricks your brain into buying more

Have you ever been to an IKEA concept store? If you’ve ever visited one, you were part of one big experiment. The Swedish company has been using these concept centers for something you wouldn’t expect.

Not long ago, I visited one near my hometown. Yours truly naively thought they’d be selling ‘concept’ furniture…

Nothing could be further from the truth. All your movements and actions are meticulously monitored while you think you’re just browsing the store. This is how IKEA puts it:

We believe in learning by doing. We operate the IKEA Concept Center in Delft, the Netherlands, where shopping, learning, testing and supporting all come together.

As a neuromarketeer, this gets me excited. IKEA analyses our behavior for good reasons: the furniture giant wants to know the effect of subtle (and sometimes less subtle) changes in the environment on our buying behavior.

Recently I’ve been visiting the store in Delft more often. Making it easier for me to spot those subtle changes (the experiments). The location of the restaurant, the signs, and even the public bathroom — which seemed to be relocated (which made me extremely curious).

What’s the neuromarketing behind all of that? Let’s take a look into the psychological marketing techniques that can explain these changes. Does the location of the toilets really matter in which neatly packed closet you’ll be cramming into your car?

1. A fun day shopping – the distraction of kids

All aboard! Well, not everybody. Let’s start at the beginning: Småland. The paradise where you can shamelessly leave your kids, so you can shop in peace. And for good – economic – reasons. Kids tend to get bored easily during the long path the Swedish meatball giant has laid out for you. Bored children in turn focus their endless energy on their closest entertainment: their parents.

What follows is that shopping with children makes you want to sprint through that one-way maze. Less time in IKEA means less spending, but also less time and attention to the bigger purchases. Exactly the purchases IKEA wants you to make. Less nagging, higher margins.

2. Have you lost track of time already?

Have you ever stopped to notice that there’s no window in sight in IKEA? You can look, but you won’t find a dash of sunlight. The fake clocks on the walls aren’t of much help either when it comes to knowing what time it is. It’s a smart trick borrowed from casinos.

Take away every…

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