A better everyday life for as many people as possible: that's what Ikea has been trying to achieve for almost eighty years. More than ever, our life at home is also sustainable. Since 2018, Ikea has been selling renewable energy in the form of solar panels. Excap has been asked to analyse the existing buyer journey.
Energy is a brain teaser for many people. For many, the bill keeps rising, the energy bills that arrive in the postbox or the mailbox are complex and lack transparency, and monopolies play into households' hands. And yet we cannot live without it: everyone wants light when they flick the switch.
"So we thought: how can we organise ourselves so that we bring renewable energy within reach of as many people as possible?" says Wouter Fonteyne, Commercial Leader Solar & Energy Services at Ikea. At first glance, solar panels seem far away from our core range : furniture. But both activities share the same core identity: life at home, Ikea's mission.
So the company didn't just smell a commercial opportunity, selling solar panels is in line with its core business. "And it also gave us the opportunity, especially in these times, to do the right thing", by drawing the card of renewable energy. Ikea not only wants to become climate neutral itself, it also wants to help its customers to reduce their ecological footprint.
But why should consumers trust Ikea when it comes to solar panels? The company worked out a formula with business partners. "Ikea never intended to make solar panels itself. This market is constantly changing, it's hard to stay up to date." In the eleven countries where it currently offers solar panels, Ikea will work with a business partner that enjoys trust in that market and offers a turnkey solution.
Ikea has kept the customer journey for its solar panels as simple and affordable as possible. "We want to make sure that the moment the customer wants to buy he or she also has the opportunity to do so." So the steps are simple: enquiry via the website, a check via Google Maps integration of the orientation of the roof, an appointment with a technician to evaluate whether the solar panels can actually be put on the roof, a price offer, and contact for a follow-up, with or without installation.
But where does Ikea stand in this market? The company asked excap to take a look at the customer journey in the different markets. "The solar panel market segment is very fragmented," says Wouter. "You have a number of large suppliers or utility companies, but you also have many smaller installers and some random 'man in the van' installing solar panels. We wanted to know what the customer journey is like with our competitors and how it differs from the one we had put together with our business partners."
Mystery shoppers from excap tried to buy solar panels from Ikea and from a competitor. Did they find their way around the website quickly? Did they find the information they needed? Was their initial enquiry quickly responded? Were they followed up on? Why they did not make an appointment after the price offer to actually install the solar panels? Were appointments kept correctly?
Comparing markets in different countries is not easy: the culture, the business climate, the laws and regulations, everything is different. "But what we do know after such a benchmark is where our customer stands, so that we can develop a customer journey that the customer feels good about and has confidence in, where we can also support them, because there is sometimes a lot of administration involved."
Ikea was therefore particularly keen to learn from customer journeys of other players in the market. This was mapped out by excap using relevant metrics. "If a competitor with a large market share has a certain customer journey, that means it's catching on and people are familiar with it. Then we can see where we can do copy/paste and adapt." Conversely, if a competitor with a customer journey that matches ours has a low market share, Ikea knows it's time to adapt. "The journey with excap helps us see where we position ourselves for our own customer journey, what we can improve and what we can learn from our competitors."
The most important lesson? Not wanting to communicate too much either. "We should make more use of our own strengths, leave the communication of technical aspects to our business partners, while we should focus more on the emotional connection with solar energy and link to our core business, life at home."
Excap's data showed that Ikea Belgium had a good customer journey, although the mystery shoppers also exposed pain points here. After the first contact, there was a dip in communication with the customer and there was too much time in between, with the risk that the customer would look elsewhere for solar panels.
With the in-depth results - including management reports that also provide ideas for improvements - Ikea got a detailed picture of how they are doing in the countries where they already operate. As of 2020, Ikea wanted to offer solar panels in 30 countries with a customer journey tailored to each specific market.