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IKEA ramps up its digital efforts with Google Cloud during Covid-19

Rather than resting on its laurels, IKEA has been busy creating a more affordable, accessible and sustainable future with help from the cloud. Barbara Martin Coppola, chief digital officer at IKEA Retail (Ingka Group) tells us more.

We are here to create a better everyday life for many people with big dreams, big needs and thin wallets. Today’s life at home is more important than ever, not only to accommodate people’s basic needs, but also to make space for home offices, remote education and multi-purpose entertainment and exercise environments.   

People are looking for products and services that offer value for money, that are convenient and easily available. Consumers are increasingly connecting with brands and companies that are making a positive impact and contributing to the environment. Life at home has never been as important as it is today, and IKEA is determined to create a more affordable, accessible and sustainable future for all.

It goes without saying that the pandemic has affected societies and communities at large. During these times, people are looking for different ways to shop and have their items delivered.

Online shopping has reached new heights, with experienced online shoppers buying more than ever before and new shoppers entering the online space for the very first time.

During lockdowns, many of our IKEA stores catered to customers online only, leading to increased levels of growth in e-commerce and an acceleration of our digital transformation. Things that would normally take years or months were accomplished within weeks and days.

An adaptation strategy was important for our business whilst undergoing this period of change. We transformed our current technology infrastructure, converted our closed stores into fulfilment centres and enabled contactless Click & Collect services whilst increasing the capacity to manage large web traffic volumes and online orders.

By using Google Cloud, among other key serverless technologies, we were able to instantly scale our business globally, on the web and in our stores.

With the use of technology, we focused on taking care of co-workers as our first priority. We modified ways of working and engineered a solution where IKEA staff could borrow equipment online for a home office environment set-up.

We empowered employees with data and digital tools, automating routine tasks, building advanced algorithms to solve complex problems, placing more modern technology in stores and designing additional self-serve tools.

Through cloud technology we trained our data models to assist our co-workers, creating more efficient picking routes, which in turn enriched our customer experience.

During this time, we have also committed to accelerating our investments towards a sustainable business.

We will invest EUR600 million into companies, solutions and our own operations to enable the transition to a net-zero carbon economy.

As part of that journey, our goal is to use digital tools to help enable circularity across our value chain. We believe that doing good business is good business – both for us and for our planet.    

Fulfilling customer needs for the future 

With a growth mindset, we’ll continue to listen, learn and adapt our business to meet our customers where they are.

We want to create an experience unlike any other, with the uniqueness of IKEA at the core. We are currently working on better fulfilling customer needs using recommendations through AI, chatbots for simpler and better customer service and 3D visualisation design tools to picture furniture in photo realistic rooms.

We want to show that IKEA can truly touch every customer around the globe with home furnishing products that provide an unforgettable everyday life at home experience. 

Ingka Group recently acquired Geomagical Labs, a spatial computing company, developing mixed reality (real and virtual) experiences to support consumer needs.

Using an ordinary smartphone, consumers will be able to quickly capture their spaces and virtually play with IKEA products in their rooms before purchasing them.

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