The needs of families with children are constantly changing. What a baby needs is very different from a toddler’s needs, a school child’s needs and a teenager’s needs. Changes constantly challenge families to rethink and adjust life at home as the children grow.
A business opportunity
Families’ changing needs present an opportunity for IKEA product developers. Even in the early days, they were creating products for children at home. In 1971 the DINO high chair was launched, and it soon became a classic. (It is now represented in the design department at Nationalmuseum in Stockholm.) In the 70s, the IKEA approach also played a significant role in opening up the living room for the whole family. A room that used to be furnished only for adults, and where children were expected to behave in an adult way, became everyone’s room.
But it wasn’t until 1997 that IKEA stores launched a new department. Known today as Children’s IKEA, it focuses on 0-12-year- old children’s needs at home.
A customer focus, not only a product focus
The IKEA Children’s range is an important ingredient for a better family life at home, but it’s not the whole story. Living with children is more than the Children’s IKEA department. It is a mindset about family life, and it applies to all areas of the home. Families need space to sit, relax, store, eat and spend time together, all over the home. And that’s what Living with children is about.
“It’s really about living together with others. To have a home for all ages, individuals and personalities. To find ways to furnish your home so that it’s comfortable for every family member – no matter what family constellation you live in,” says Britt Monti, Global Project Leader for all Long-term home furnishing priorities at IKEA of Sweden AB.
Children are where the parents are – everywhere
When children use the entire home, every square meter should work for children and adults. This is where IKEA home furnishing knowledge comes in. A simple step stool at the kitchen counter can make all the difference in how children can participate. A set of hallway hooks at child-friendly height means children can reach their jackets and bags themselves. And with toy storage close to a play area, clean-up is easier for children and parents. Of course, children need a place of their own too, where they sleep, do homework, store personal stuff and meet with friends. But most of the time, they want to be where the parents are.
Time together – every day
According to research, children long for more time to play, with parents as well as friends. Parents also want to spend more time with their children. This fact was the basis for launching the IKEA theme “All moments count” in 2014. To cherish the moments families already spend together, and show how easy it is to be together doing ordinary things. Things like cooking together, sharing household chores, watching a movie or playing a game. Or just doing nothing. “All moments count” meant you could create home furnishing solutions that made it possible to do all these things in your family’s own unique way. The IKEA catalogue, the IKEA website, the IKEA stores and communication throughout the year celebrated the same theme.
Starting to build a network
The success of “All moments count”, depended on everyone getting on board. Britt presented all the IKEA knowledge and insight about family life to all the IKEA retailers. She laid the foundation for a network of “Living with children ambassadors” in many of the markets.
“Thanks to the ambassadors, things started to happen and moving in the right direction. Some markets succeeded better than others and worked really well with a consumer focus. That also became visible in the results,” Britt says.
From strategy to ideas
Italy, Finland, Russia and China are some of the markets that worked really well with the theme with children. Even though they have all executed it differently, the pattern behind their successes is the same. They have all started to have a clear strategy for the country, which has been carried through their entire organisation. They have invested in their strategies, as well as challenged the way they do things.
A clear focus gives good results
Some IKEA retailers required co-workers to attend Children’s School, an IKEA training programme about children’s development and how to create safe home furnishing solutions. Many retailers conducted workshops and reworked the room settings in the IKEA stores based on new insights about family living. Some retailers introduced children’s birthday parties at the IKEA store.
One of the biggest launching events was created in Russia.
“In 2014 we had a very cool campaign called Kidvertising to prove that children’s fantasies can really change the whole world around you, making you see things in an unusual perspective,” said Anna Fokina, External Communication Manager at IKEA Russia.
“We invited children to be co-creators of IKEA Russia’s advertising. Children developed and filmed TV spots together with professional scriptwriters and directors. They turned IKEA products into cool drawings. In the end, we published a book called Apartmentology in cooperation with famous Russian children’s author Grigory Oster.”
IKEA Italy, amongst other IKEA retailers, also took the teenagers’ perspective, which had been in focus before. Not only did the Italian IKEA stores create new room settings focused on a teenager’s needs and dreams, they looked into the shopping experience for teenagers. IKEA Italy also launched a specific website for families, fuelled by tips and ideas on how to furnish for family life with children. And the new products, of course.
Focusing on Living with children has indeed met customer needs and given good business results.
The importance of play
From a product point of view, there were some highlights from 2014. TRÄNING and PLUFSIG are equipment for active play, such as juggling, balance and doing somersaults. They are the result of collaboration with the Swedish circus Cirkus Cirkör, and inspire families to get moving and be more active at home.
“When more and more people move to bigger cities, it also means that more children grow up in urban areas with less possibility to be active both indoors and outdoors. The home becomes the most important playground, and that’s where we can show relevant solutions for families with children. Solutions that encourage play at home in different parts of the world.
Within IKEA, we believe in the power of play and that it provides learning for life. We believe that play is unleashing creativity, innovation and well-being. Children need play to develop and prepare for adult life. The focus is on developing products and home furnishing ideas that encourage active play at home, as well as creating new ideas that stimulate role-play and children’s creativity. For example, the new MÅLA series makes it easy for children to paint, draw and be artistic with paper.
Care for children in every product
The care for children is also visible in the design of IKEA products. For example, tables, beds and storage solutions have rounded corners (e.g., like KALLAX shelving unit), to limit the risk for children who play around them. Other examples are cordless blinds like TUPPLUR, and sofas with removable and washable covers, making them easy to clean.
Time for some bold development
A lot has happened for families with children at IKEA stores this year. We have started to make everyone aware that, no matter what we work with, we need to have a deeper understanding of families’ needs at home. And that those needs must be reflected in better home furnishing that makes life better for the entire family. But Britt is not completely satisfied:
“Now it’s time for us to challenge old truths and really develop something new. I would like to see some innovative ideas for family life in all areas of the home. For instance, maybe we shouldn’t have a play area in the restaurant if we want to encourage family time together? To show that we really understand families at home, and also when visiting an IKEA store,” says Britt.
“Living with children” may have been the main home furnishing priority in 2014, but it is always there. Because people, no matter where they live, will always have children. And we will always contribute to creating a better everyday life for families with children.