IKEA: Subliminal Shopping


I am good at reading/viewing atlases, maps and satellite images in order to figure out where I am plus I am also good at figuring out how to get to somewhere easily without these resources but there is one thing that I haven’t done that would prove once and for all that I have these talents and that is…

…visiting an IKEA store.

I have heard about how you can get lost easily in IKEA after you start impulse purchasing – but this is no accident, it was meant to happen! Why? Because IKEA uses their retail environment in combination with your mood & behaviour to keep you shopping in their store.

The four factors of your behaviour (time in store, money spent, decision process, exploration) (Algie 2014) begin as you enter the store – you know the immense size of the store so you plan to limit the time and money you spend inside whilst avoiding making purchase decisions yet you want to explore IKEA (something you can’t avoid at the beginning). Your mood is defined as ‘low arousal’ at the beginning since you are avoiding purchase decisions yet you have pleasure in IKEA (Algie 2014). The retail environment (Algie 2014) of IKEA then subliminally ‘warps’ your sense of direction and shopping resistance but how?

The music, odours, lighting and temperature of the store drifts you into the dreams of your perfect home and your mood is now ‘high arousal’ (Algie 2014). The size and design of an IKEA store prevents you from seeing outside or any possible reference points to guide your way around and the maps IKEA provide don’t seem to help much either due to their simplistic design so when you wake up from your perfect home daydream…you are lost and somehow now the holder of a full trolley.

Without realising your behaviour has changed subliminally – you’re now over your time and financial limit, made too many purchase decisions in IKEA’s favour but yet you now don’t want to explore anymore – you want to get out. The crowding of IKEA’s retail environment doesn’t help too and so your mood heads straight back to ‘low arousal’ and you shift to displeasure (Algie 2014).

You will eventually find the exit…a few hours later and leave with everything you dreamt of but didn’t intend to spend on. There is a quick way out of IKEA but for now it seems only possible during a store evacuation – ‘More than 2000 people have been evacuated from IKEA in Tempe due to a fire in the shop’s loading dock’ (Hoh 2014).

To finish this blog for the week, here is an IKEA-based spoof of the trailer for the movie ‘Gravity’ made by 9GAG.TV which pretty much shows what I have just explained through it’s humorous narrative:


IKEA, 2013, 2013 IKEA Retailing Facts & Figures, online video, 16 October, YouTube, viewed 25 March 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SM7omxXUyYk.

Algie, L 2014, ‘Consumer Decision Making’ powerpoint slides, MARK217, University of Wollongong, viewed 20 March 2014

Hoh, A 2014, ‘IKEA store in Tempe evacuated after fire’, Sydney Morning Herald, 3 February, viewed 25 March, http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/ikea-store-in-tempe-evacuated-after-fire-20140203-31wjj.html.

9GAG.TV, 2013, Lost In IKEA Might Be Worse Than Getting Lost In Space, online video, 25 November, YouTube, viewed 25 March 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1BzqFMQKio.


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