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How Ikea is driving digital customer experience

Ikea franchisee in four Southeast Asian markets and Mexico taps chatbots, conversational commerce and remote planning, among other capabilities, to drive digital customer experience

Ikea is known for its well decked out stores that offer plenty of ideas on furnishing one’s home, but the Swedish retailer is increasingly focused on delivering an omnichannel experience shaped by growing digitalisation and the changing expectations of consumers.

For one thing, consumers are now more pressed for time and would have like to have more support in their journey of furnishing a home, said Alex Soliman, customer care centre manager for Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Mexico at Ikano Retail, one of 12 Ikea franchisees worldwide.

He noted that while customers would still like to visit Ikea stores, they are also looking to engage digitally to save time while continuing to enjoy lower prices, which Ikea has been able to offer by getting customers involved in their own buying journeys through self-service and self-installations.

“Mobile self-support, order tracking, conversational support through social media and remote design support are just a few examples that we are looking at today. And that requires us to have the right digital foundation so we can meet customer expectations,” Soliman said.

Ikano recently rolled out a real-time chat system that improves communications between its customer service teams and transportation service providers to help customers with order tracking, alleviating challenges that it faced with information silos when different communications platforms were used.

It has also implemented a chatbot for WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger in Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia and Mexico, providing customers with product information and answers to frequently asked questions. In Thailand, it is planning to do the same through Line, the dominant messaging app in the country.

We’re strengthening our data platform to leverage data for gains in both operational and marketing efficiency, but also customer experience where we want to deliver more relevant and personalised engagement
Alex Soliman, Ikano Retail

“Sometimes we know it can be hard to find the information you need, so we are looking at how we can leverage technology to make that a little easier, so instead of 10 clicks to get to somewhere because you don’t know where to look, it’s a matter of one or two clicks,” Soliman said.

With 30-40% of calls to Ikano’s customer service teams related to the status of deliveries, more can be done to provide customers with more visibility on when their orders will arrive.

To that, the company is creating application programming interfaces (API) integrations with its backend systems to not only provide timely delivery information, but also free up its staff to focus on revenue-generating activities, such as conversational commerce.

“A lot of times when an item is out of stock, we tell customers when it’s restocked and they go away, but we can do more suggestive selling,” Soliman explained.

“If we can tell you we don’t have this item, but we have another one that costs an extra $10, we can send you a link and you can look at it on your device. But what if we can help you with the purchase right now? I think it’s something that customers will appreciate.”

To enable that conversational commerce experience, Soliman said there was a need to integrate disparate systems with “data sitting everywhere” into one system that provides a single view of the customer, Soliman said.

That drove Ikano to sign up for Sprinklr, a cloud-based customer experience platform that powers the company’s chatbot and customer support capabilities, with knowledge management and workforce management (WFM) to be implemented later.

“Sprinklr enables us to have all the solutions in one platform, including single sign-on for our coworkers,” Soliman said. “We have all the data there and we’re going to plug in things like WFM for workforce scheduling and optimisation in all our five markets.

“We also want to get into things like knowledge management and guided work paths, so our coworkers have the information at their fingertips to provide customers with a better experience.”

Delivering good customer experience is also contingent on the capabilities of an organisation’s backend systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

Soliman said Ikano has upgraded its legacy ERP system to Microsoft Dynamics 365, which has improved demand forecasting, reduced costs and increased stock accuracy. “Stock accuracy is always the hot potato and it’s sort of addressing the elephant in the room. This is something we need to prioritise because at the end of the day, we can only sell what we have.”

The company is also building its own enterprise data platform and has made strides to improve its reporting abilities and deliver better analytics and customer insights.

“We’re strengthening our data platform to leverage data for gains in both operational and marketing efficiency, but also customer experience where we want to deliver more relevant and personalised engagement,” Soliman said.

That includes a “remote planning” service that’s in the works for customers in cities like Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, some of whom might want to, say, furnish a kitchen but are unable to visit an Ikea store located about 600km away in Bangkok.

“It’s an all-in-one solution, from helping customers to create that inspiration and gain the confidence to make an appointment, to virtually connecting them with kitchen specialists and going through follow-ups before they make their purchase.”

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