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Published September 17th 2014

Innovation in Social: A Look at IKEA’s Journey

Last week we attended the Consumer Insights and Analytics Conference in Amsterdam. But, it wasn’t all tulips, bicycles and ...

Last week we attended the Consumer Insights and Analytics Conference in Amsterdam.

But, it wasn’t all tulips, bicycles and clogs and other geopolitically insensitive stereotypes.

No, we were there to tackle the concept of a social business, and share some of the challenges and processes that IKEA are going through, with an audience of other similar organisations, to try and uncover how brands can undergo this change.


Naomi Trickey, Director of Sales and Client Services at Brandwatch, gave an honest and frank presentation of her experiences in an industry that has been engulfed in a landslide of data.

Alongside her Hans Gärtner, who works in digital development at IKEA, spoke of how the company is working on incorporating social into their global processes.

IKEA have always been an innovative brand, but social has presented a significant challenge in the way it adopts social technologies across the enterprise.


Social Business: A Timeline


When it comes to having brands incorporating social into their businesses it’s true that no business is the same, and IKEA is truly unique in its corporate structure.

The organisation is centrally structured through Inter IKEA Systems B.V., which then works alongside the IKEA group and IKEA franchises. Needless to say, it can sometimes get complicated.

For some, the concept of a social business is in its infancy, whereas for others it has been a staple for years.

IKEA freely admits that it is at the turning point of becoming a business embracing social and they are looking towards a future filled with innovation in the social space – yet at the moment they have lots of work ahead of them.

IKEA in the US is where most of their social experimentation is occurring, with the brand’s regional social accounts embracing a program of US Brand Ambassadors, on blogs and social media sites like Twitter.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 10.48.41 AM

But, not all locales have followed their lead, and different regions and departments have adopted alternative approaches to harnessing the power of social.

However, IKEA’s journey is set against a history of trial and error experiences by brands over many decades, so the path is well trodden.

Big Data for Big Decisions


Before the advent of big data from social, there was scant information available to brands about their audience, other than what they managed to glean from their own sources.

It was a little bit of knowledge, some surveys and some guess work.

In juxtaposition to that limited era, the rise of digital has meant that organisations now have access to overwhelming volumes of data from a number of different external sources, including social.

It’s tempting to think that the term Big Data is some kind of marketing fad, yet within beyond the throwaway jargon and other terminology lies something truly valuable.


Social data can be hugely insightful and is produced at breakneck speed.

It gives brands a new set of metrics that were previously obscured and provides an effective way of understanding an audience that previously would have been untapped or have taken weeks of more labour-intensive and expensive research.

Social data can also be aligned with existing datasets, such as sales figures – giving another angle to the data that may not have been explored before.

However, it isn’t all about the figures; it’s about the people that those social mentions represent – customer behaviour, prospect activity and other crucial nuggets of information that can help the business function more intelligently.

Across the Business


Being consistent with the data and the customer that it depicts is essential to having a social business that is aligned in all of its differing areas.

This could be marketing, customer service or product development – all of these departments need to understand the importance of social data and spread it effectively across the board.

IKEA is experimenting with social, as described, but in order to generate buy-in from executives and to get every department thinking about the potential impact of (and value in) social data the brand has installed a very visual means of presenting insights: Brandwatch Vizia.

IKEA Vizia

By using a stunning visualisation that showcases what people are talking about with regard to IKEA and its products, various stakeholders from across the enterprise are starting to take more interest in the potential for social data.

The installation is located in the headquarters of  Inter IKEA Systems B.V., and presents a very real manifestation of ideas generated by Hans and his team.

Insights that might have once been restricted to PDFs and unread emails are now being shared among key staff from all over the business, all in real-time as the insights emerge.

This is just the first path; some of the earliest steps on IKEA’s journey into becoming a genuinely social business.

What’s next will no doubt be fascinating, but you can be sure that they’ll get there much more quickly, and effectively, thanks to systems like Vizia.

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