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Launching a physical product to a virtual audience in the face of the pandemic – by Ikea’s Carla Klumpenaar

By Carla Klumpenaar, GM marketing and communication, IKEA

As the global pandemic sweeps across the globe, people all over the world – including in the UAE – are naturally concerned about their health and livelihood, and we share that concern. The pandemic also impacts IKEA. This is the biggest challenge we’ve faced in modern times and our priority is the safety and wellbeing of our co-workers, suppliers, partners and customers.

The pandemic also came during planning one of our most important launches of the year – the annual catalogue, which is an important driver of our success in the region.  For many years, the catalogue launch has been our biggest event of the year and this year was no different. While we found ourselves in difficult circumstances, our goal remained the same – to create a better everyday life for the many people.

We had to adapt overnight, and pivot to new channels very quickly as we had a small window to react. We reframed our strategy towards a more content-centric, digital approach without sacrificing our pre-COVID visibility objectives. Instead of distributing the catalogue to homes, this year we are amplifying its content across several online and offline media channels, such as the IKEA website, social media and advertising.

The IKEA catalogue has had a digital version since 2004. In an ever-changing media landscape this is one way to ensure access to our catalogue to everyone who wants one. Having a digital outlet of the printed edition is a great way of maintaining the heritage and interest of the catalogue, even as printed numbers are decreasing.

For IKEA catalogue 2021, the e-publication will be launched on a new platform. The immediate change for the user might not be that evident, but we hope that they will notice a cleaner design of the framework, a more user-friendly interface, and some added functionality for sharing. With the new platform we also secure accessibility that’s up to the latest standards.

The user will be able to flip through the pages in a PDF, like with the printed catalogue, or view page-by-page. The platform is responsive and will suggest a view depending on which device you’re using. A major change is hot-spotting of products in images, so the user can click directly on the image to open product information. From that it’s possible to place the product in a shopping cart that is synced with IKEA.com.

Purchases will go through IKEA.com as before, but with less clicks and hurdles along the way. It’s a quicker and more direct connection that we hope will support e-commerce even better.

When it came to the launch, we had to, once again, look at overhauling and recalibrating our approach based on the new normal we found ourselves in. Physical events are usually a huge aspect of our global catalogue launches, but we had to completely change tack and think of an innovative approach. To address this, we hosted the first-ever IKEA virtual launch which was attended by more than 200 people on the day. We also uploaded it onto our YouTube channel to be enjoyed by customers at their leisure, and this has been watched more than 3000 times in the last two weeks.

As the pandemic continues, it is important to not lose sight of our long-term commitments. We know from our past that challenges can and will be turned into opportunities to drive change for the better. Now is the time also to look ahead and lay the groundwork for a positive recovery for people, society and the planet. Our vision, culture and values will guide us, and we will always continue to do what’s in the best interest of the many people.