In response to evolving consumer behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic, Swedish retail giant, IKEA developed an adaptation strategy and used Google Cloud, among other serverless technologies, to scale its business globally online and in store.

The strategy incorporated transforming its current technology infrastructure, converting closed stores into fulfilment centers, and enabling contactless Click & Collect services while increasing capacity to manage increased web traffic volumes and online orders.

“With the use of technology, we focused on taking care of co-workers as our first priority,” IKEA Retail chief digital officer, Barbara Martin Coppola said.

“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 EUR 600 million into companies, solutions and our own operations to enable the transition to a net-zero carbon economy. Our goal is to use digital tools to help enable circularity across our value chain.”

According to Coppola, today’s home life is more important than ever as consumers 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.

“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.”

Looking to the future, IKEA is currently working on better fulfilling customer needs using recommendations through AI, chatbots and 3D visualisation design tools to picture furniture in 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,” Coppola said.