Experiencing a Brand's Customer Experience Firsthand

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Rutgers Graduate MBS students IKEA field trip

On September 23, 2015, for my Rutgers University graduate class in Market Assessment and Analysis, I was pleased to orchestrate a trip for 35 students in the MBS Master of Business & Science program. The students participated in a unique project that included a local field trip to global retailer IKEA.

The field trip was part of course requirements to complete a semester-long project to analyze the renowned brand’s customer experience (CX) strategy. The project also includes an analysis of the company’s digital and social marketing strategy and content marketing approach, and recommendations for how IKEA could best meet its marketing objectives. The final project will include identification of key metrics to track performance and business results. The in-store IKEA customer experience played a major role in the analysis as students assumed the role of marketing consultants to observe and assess the brand’s overall presentation from the ground up.

What Is Customer Experience (CX)?

Customer experience is the process of providing an unforgettable experience to your customers at every touch point—online, on the phone, on social media, and in person. It is the realization that, as the CX thought leaders at Sprinklr put it, “Your brand isn’t your company. It isn’t your marketing message. It isn’t even your product. It is the sum of your customers’ experience at every brand touchpoint. Because of this, understanding the CX is essential to modern marketing, as it teaches students that a brand’s strength comes not from a single element, but in how all those elements work together to create a unifying whole.

Driving this point home was the idea that any customer experience is a work in progress. While brands such as IKEA have worked tirelessly to build a strong CX over the years, they would likely be the first to admit that there’s always room for improvement. And with this in mind, my students were more than willing to engage in the exercise.

The field trip portion of the assignment focused on evaluation of the in-store portion of IKEA’s customer experience. The students’ final project will include creation of a customer journey map to help them understand, explain, and recommend improvements to the existing customer experience. After observing the CX from the customer’s perspective and identifying key customer pain points, the student teams are in a better position to recommend improvements in customer experience design.