IKEA stores, by design, are a destination shopping experience. The Swedish-based retail stores draw in customers with modern home furnishings at an affordable price, while their massive store spaces and winding floor plans often keep shoppers inside for an hour or more.
Spending that much time picking out a book case is one thing. Waiting another 20 minutes to pay for it is another. And after a rash of complaints from customers who described just that kind of repeated delay, IKEA stores in the United States are yanking the self-service checkout systems that were causing the back-ups.
While most IKEA stores house a sprawl of checkout lanes, both self and cashier operated, typically the cashier lanes were opened only on peak shopping days. That meant that customers were funneled into a smaller group of self-checkout lanes that became clogged with shoppers trying to operate the system and manage their purchases.
IKEA did not return calls to be interviewed for this story, but company spokesperson Joseph Roth told The Tampa Tribune that the self-checkout system “wasn’t as efficient as we originally hoped.”
Francie Mendelsohn, president of Summit Research Associates, an international consulting firm devoted to kiosks, personally experienced the frustration with IKEA’s self-checkout and quipped, “What took them so long?”
Mendelsohn described a typical shopping experience when the only option for checkout was the self-service kiosks. Roughly half of the shoppers hopped from lane to lane in attempt to shorten their wait times. Once able to use the self-checkout, users found the directions to be unclear and the scanner uncooperative.
“There was no explanation on how to use them,” said Mendelsohn, who has tested kiosks worldwide. “I was aiming the scan gun at the bar codes and it just wasn’t working.”
Whether IKEA’s self-checkout kiosks were difficult to use as a result of user-error, company-error or manufacturer design-error was a topic of consideration for Mendelsohn, who said she felt the kiosks lacked proper instructions for such a touchy system.