This morning, Fast Company featured an article about Ikea’s market research into how people think of and use their homes. Ikea’s focus, as always, is to create innovative, functional, affordable home products. For their recent Life At Home annual study (worth reading if you are into any aspect of home product development or sales) they interviewed 12,000 people in 12 cities around the world. Part of Ikea’s study utilized cameras mounted in different parts of homes (with permission). The results of their research will be used to modify or create responses to the way people really use their homes.
One of the things they discovered was how people actually use their sofas. Very rarely are they just places to sit and watch TV. Sofas are most often used for sleeping or as backrests for people sitting on the floor. When designing home furniture, this is an important finding in terms of upholstery, structure, placement and modularity.
Ikea also found that 43% of the people they interviewed wanted things that could help them to do what they loved most. They have taken this idea of objects as ‘enablers’ to develop products that enhance experiences.
Another result of their enormous research effort was the discovery of how much people value and seek privacy. That particular finding will have an impact on the way home interiors are designed to enable sanctuary or ‘me’ spaces even within a shared accommodation.
What I find quite wonderful about the work Ikea has done is the way it epitomizes in the best way what we emphasize to our clients who are interested in creating a differentiating strategy. While very few can afford research of this magnitude, the lesson is that qualitative research is as important as getting the numbers. Asking the right questions, really listening to the answers and then analyzing what it means in terms of one’s own position in the market (price point, target audience, distribution, etc.) is the straightest path to a successful business, whether you are selling products or services. Even more important, keep asking those questions of your current and potential customers to ensure that you can move quickly to meet emerging needs and preferences.
– Sandra Altner