Where other global businesses falter, IKEA succeeds. Founded 76 years ago in a small Sweden town, Almhult, the company has become the world’s largest furniture retailer. IKEA’s business model and well-designed home products have been replicated globally en masse. The company’s largest market is Germany, followed by the US, France, the UK, and China. This college essay on IKEA can be viewed as a case study of service excellence, and, consequently, commercial success. After a brief introduction to the company’s history, several questions will be tackled the most salient of which is the following: is IKEA’s success a function of marketing, culture, or human resources? It will be argued that the behemoth of furniture shopping has made multiple successful forays into the global market due to its insistence on the promotion of Swedish culture. The idea of the proud little nation with admirable work life balance and inimitable wholesomeness appeals to consumers around the world. For this reason, IKEA stores are regarded by customers as spaces of acculturation rather than manifestations of corporate greed writ large.
IKEA was founded in 1943 by a talented carpenter Ingvar Kamprad who was only 17 at the time. Initially, the company operated as a mail order business and sold pens, wallets, watches, and even replicas of Kamprad’s uncle’s kitchen table. In 1958, after diversifying IKEA’s portfolio and introducing new self-assembly designs, Kamprad opened the first brick and mortar outlet in Sweden. The first stores outside the founder’s home country appeared five years later in Norway. Gradually, IKEA spread to other parts of Scandinavia, Europe, and the world. Currently, the company operates 424 stores in 52 countries.
Marketing and Human Resources
IKEA’s focus on delivering high-quality products at low prices is hardly unique. Other corporate behemoths such as Walmart have been fairly successful doing it. Nonetheless, whereas Walmart’s reach extends to 27 countries, IKEA can boast a presence in 52 countries. Thus, the question is in order: why is the company more successful than other global powerhouses?
One can argue that the popularity of the home furnishing retailer is undergirded by its standardized approach to marketing which is unparalleled by other global businesses. The merits of this assertion vanish in the light of the fact that the substantial growth of IKEA in China followed on the heels of new marketing activities, which were introduced in 2004. Another fact nullifying the standardized marketing hypothesis is that considerable degrees of adaptation are present in the company’s marketing activities across the globe.
Human resources can hardly explain IKEA’s unrelenting success. While the choice of the right kind of people and their development are undoubtedly instrumental for the longevity of the commercial enterprise, they are not company specific. In other words, neither recruitment nor training procedures of IKEA are pivotal components of its success because they do not differ from those employed by other businesses.
Swedish Culture as the Engine of IKEA’s Success
It has been long understood that national cultures imprint themselves on global organizations. Given that consumer demands within the home market are molded by social and cultural norms, they have a lingering influence on the companies’ modus operandi in other markets. For example, IKEA customers purchasing a floor lamp or a curtain in Germany benefit from the Swedish approach to professional relationships between suppliers, workers, and other stakeholders, which is inevitably embedded in the final product.
The company is well aware of its socio-cultural advantage. A great example of the company’s unabashed broadcasting of its Swedishness to customers is the IKEA’s storefronts, which are painted in the colors of the country’s flag. Furthermore, the stores themselves are awash in the elements of the Nordic culture. Home furnishing products bear Swedish names with peculiar vowels – å ä ö. The conceptual link between the products and the country is also cemented in the simple and unassuming designs admired by the progenitor of the minimalist movement Joshua Fields Millburn. A nurturing, nonaggressive nature of Swedes is everywhere.
IKEA’s store entrances have children’s play areas named Smaland (a Swedish province in which Kamprad was born). On its website, the company mentions that the founder “applied the lessons he learned in Smaland to the home furnishings market” and elaborates that those are “working hard, living frugally, and making the most of limited resources.” It is as if the company primes customers to believe that everything they are about to encounter in the store has resulted from the unique ingenuity originating in rural Sweden. Given all of the above, it can be argued that IKEA’s insistence on drawing conceptual boundaries between Swedes and other countries as well as its promotion of the national culture have brought the company the enormous level of commercial success it currently enjoys.
IKEA Essay Conclusion
The essay has explored the drivers behind IKEA’s success in the global market. It has been maintained that the company’s popularity among international consumers is grounded in its unabashed insistence on the uniqueness of Swedish culture and the incorporation of national values into its business processes.
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