Bringing customers and IKEA suppliers closer through co-creation

A pop-up lab in the Shenzhen store saw IKEA product development specialists and suppliers sharing prototypes with customers to co-create on new products in the making.

The air is heavy with humidity in Shenzhen, and it is a relief to step into the air-cooled IKEA store for a break from the overwhelming heat.

Inside, many people have come early to enjoy breakfast before shopping. As they come downstairs into the market hall, they are met by IKEA co-workers and suppliers, ready to show them prototypes of new products in development.

The IKEA team has spent the week at the supplier, and together they have developed four different variations of a new low-price lounge chair. Now they are excited to share those and find out how this type of chair will be perceived by Chinese customers.

Luckily, the customers in-store are very interested in giving their feedback! As one person puts it, “I like this, and I have not seen any other furniture companies do anything like this. It allows me to share what I think, and you get to know what your customers really want.

Kevin Fu, Product Development Engineer at IKEA, with suppliers Ruiwen Wang & Xuedong Liang listening to feedback from customers in the store.

“Having the suppliers with us here in the store allows them to see and understand directly from the customers what the needs and expectations are.”

James Whitta, Product Design Developer at IKEA

James Whitta, Product Design Developer at IKEA and Elaine Ye from the supplier team.

This is the first time IKEA has invited their suppliers to participate in co-creation with customers, and it opens a whole new world for the suppliers. At first, they are a little shy, but soon the entire team is busy talking to people as more and more approach to see and try the prototypes.

Ruiwen Wang from Lihua (an IKEA supplier) is surprised about all that is learned and says it changes his perception of the Chinese consumer.

“Young people today are not just interested in low price they also expect good value for the money they pay.”

Ruiwen Wang, Lihua

JingFei Guo, Sourcing Developer at IKEA, interacting with customers in the co-creation pop-up.

The shopkeeper for living room, Cristina Yuan, comes to see what is happening, and she is happy to see co-creation in the store. In the future, she wishes that people from her team can participate and be part of co-creation to learn even more about what customers need. She also feels that this is a great way for her to be prepared for the new products arriving in the store.

During the 1½ days that the team is in the store, they interviewed 100 customers. From that, they got all the feedback they needed to be able to create a new product that truly fits the customer’s needs. They investigated both the general perception of the lounge chair to understand where and how this will be used and the details of the specific prototypes to learn about size, form, material and price expectations. James Whitta is excited,

I have learnt so much, we will do this for every product from now on!

James Whitta, Product Design Developer, IKEA

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Find out why IKEA believes in the power of putting people first and learn more about how we co-create