Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Ikea: Can you escape the maze?

Who out there has actually managed to survive a trip to Ikea without coming home with a car filled with flat-pack tables (that you’ll never bother to put up), mountains of Tupperware (that you already have) and a belly full of meatballs (that you really weren’t hungry for)?
It seems as though the geniuses behind Ikea have managed to delve deep into the psychological principles of behaviour change and combine them together to create one big game of persuasion and influence.
From the moment you step in the shop the adventure begins. To start the game you must first get in character. At the front of the store stands a little box containing pens, paper and tape measures all to get you in the role of ‘the interior designer’. This creates for you a manded altercast in which by giving you the kit to act like a sofa professional, you end up believing this and taking the role upon yourself (Weinstein & Deutschberger,1963). Cleverley, this can make you buy more expensive goods as you try to live up to your new identity of being a knowledgeable decorator and want to appear as though you value quality. 

The clearly laid out footprints guide you round the store in a mechanical fashion. These aren’t just here to keep your kids entertained but actually direct you towards certain goods and in a certain order. Often the larger, more expensive items are placed near the start of the trail, leading onto the less expensive warehouse furniture and clearance section at the end. This is a clever tactic based on perceptual contrast, where by showing a more expensive item before a less expensive one, the cheaper is seen as even less expensive than usual due to the automatic comparison made with the previous item (Cialdini, 2007). You may also notice that the shelves are pretty messy and piled high with goods. This may not be a coincidence though as studies have shown that messy shelves lead to greater sales as we see this as social proof that others have been interested in looking at these items and picking them up (Castro, Morales & Nowlins, 2013).

More traps are hidden along the path with small impulse buys placed within easy distance to chuck them in your trolley, because everyone needs a baby cactus! What makes the Ikea approach even more influential though is how customers are fooled into thinking they can’t come back for the product as the path won’t come back around to the same place. In reality they could just walk back the opposite direction, you don’t get put in Ikea jail for battling through traffic in the wrong direction! On top of this, the confusing nature of the store means people believe they may not be able to find their way back if they want to return and get it. Therefore, this may create arousal through the principle of scarcity in which individuals have a higher desire to buy a product when they see it as limited by time or quantity (Cialdini, 2007). This perceived scarcity in time available to get the product can lead to an urgency to buy it in which the costs side of the cost-benefit analysis is overlooked (Rook, 1987). This has shown to lead to different tendencies in men and women though. Whilst men appear to act on this urgency to buy and pile the goods into the cart whilst they can, women prefer to hoard the items and later decide if they really want them (Gupta, 2012). Women therefore may be more likely to beat the maze if they later work out what they just threw in the basket in a moment of situational pressure. 
You quickly realise that manoeuvring off the track can be dangerous, and the floor plan is needed if you want to come out of the labyrinth the other side. But, you may have guessed by now this is no design flaw and the person that built the store hadn’t just had one too many beers. The shop is actually designed to be confusing (although Ikea says otherwise). But why? I’ve already mentioned that a key part of the plan is to get people to think they have to buy a product now or never and aren’t meant to be able to find their way back to the same space. However, this is all leading up to the final stage of the maze when you get let lose in the food hall! Here the magic footprints disappear, and customers can go crazy choosing which isles they want to go down and what they want to buy! Feeling like a kid in a sweet shop (literally, if you haven’t tried the Swedish fish then you haven’t lived), the new-found autonomy gives you permission to impulse buy. This impulse buying has been suggested to be spurred on by the lack of planning in the environment and a dominance of emotions (Verplanken & Herabadi, 2001). Evidence has shown that the key reason for impulse buying is to reduce negative emotions (Verplanken, Herabadi, Perry & Silvera, 2005), and the stress of getting through the maze has to be enough to account for that!
By now you may think that you’ve cracked the maze and its time to go home with your boot full of Swedish goods, but you have one more hurdle to go…the café!

The long trip round the shop floor without the ability to cut corners or skip to what you want has probably taken the energy out of you meaning food is now a necessity! Ikea don’t wait till you come to order your food to get you dreaming of that big plate of meatballs, sneakily many of their stores pump the smell of the food into their kitchen display section so as soon as you step foot into the café you know you won’t be leaving hungry! This is referred to as scent marketing (Daucé & Rieunier, 2002). One study found that perceiving the retail environment as smelling nice led to shorter predictions of how long they spent in the store (Spangenberg, Sprott, Grohmann & Tracy, 2005). This may lead them to being less put off returning compared to if they remembered the experience as being a long, exhausting game of beat the maze! With up to 75% of our emotions estimated to be generated by what we smell (Lindstrom, 2005) this is a clever tool to employ!
You may eventually escape the maze, but as per usual it’s 1-0 to Ikea as you trundle back to the car in a slight food coma with a stacked-up trolley!
Well played Ikea!

Castro, I. A., Morales, A. C., & Nowlis, S. M. (2013). The influence of disorganized shelf displays and limited product quantity on consumer purchase. Journal of Marketing, 77, 118-133.
Cialdini, R. B. (2007). Influence: The psychology of persuasion. New York: Collins.
Gupta, S. (2012). The Psychological Effects of Perceived Scarcity in a Retail Setting and its Impact on Consumer Buyer Behavior. In Robert Mittelstaedt Doctoral Symposium Proceedings (p. 1).
Lindstrom, M. (2005), Brand Sense: Build Powerful Brands Through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound. New York: The Free Press
Rook, Dennis W. (1987), "The Buying Impulse," Journal of Consumer Research, 14, 189-99.
Daucé, B. & Rieunier, S. (2002) “Le marketing sensoriel du point de vente” (Retail store Sensory marketing), Recherche et Application en Marketing, 17, 45-65.
Spangenberg, E. R., Sprott, D. E., Grohmann, B., & Tracy, D. L. (2006). Gender-congruent ambient scent influences on approach and avoidance behaviors in a retail store. Journal of Business Research, 59, 1281-1287.
Verplanken, B., & Herabadi, A. (2001). Individual differences in impulse buying tendency: Feeling and no thinking. European Journal of personality, 15, 71-83.
Verplanken, B., Herabadi, A. G., Perry, J. A., & Silvera, D. H. (2005). Consumer style and health: The role of impulsive buying in unhealthy eating. Psychology & Health, 20, 429-441.
Weinstein, E. A., & Deutschberger, P. (1963). Some dimensions of altercasting. Sociometry, 26, 454-466.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.