Ikea Expands in Russia through Interior Design Web App

Swedish furniture giant Ikea has been diversifying its business model in Russia, by finding a way to replicate part of the furniture shopping experience on the web—thanks to a preference for uniformity among Soviet city planners, Bloomberg Quint reports.

About 60% of Russians live in standard, Soviet-era apartment blocks, which have a limited number of designs and floor plans. Ikea has replicated the layouts on its Russian website and given them virtual makeovers, allowing a customer to select suggested items and furnish her entire apartment with a few clicks of the mouse, the report says.

The service, called Kvartiroteka—“selection of apartments” in Russian—has brought 2.8 million visitors to Ikea’s site since the launch last June, most of them new customers, in the fiscal year that ended in August. The country is Ikea’s fastest-growing market behind Hungary, and the company is considering whether to expand the offering to places with similar communist-era housing stock, including Germany, Poland, and China. “Many people couldn’t believe that they could do anything good out of this standard typical planning,” says Pontus Erntell, head of Ikea’s Russia unit.

The Kvartiroteka service offers a choice of designs for common apartment layouts in 14 types of buildings. One suggested layout for a family home shows a children’s room adapted for sharing by two kids of different ages. A curtain divides the room in two and displays recommended wardrobes, chests of drawers, and mounted shelving units that fit well in the space. In the hallway, shelves under the cеiling save space, and there are hooks on the wall for hanging skateboards.

The Swedish furniture giant is trying to remain the world’s top furniture retailer without relying so much on its roughly 30,000-square-meter (323,000-square-foot) blue-and-yellow stores, where customers fuel up on Swedish meatballs before navigating a maze of showrooms and a self-service warehouse. Although the traditional stores still account for about 90% of Ikea sales worldwide, foot traffic has stagnated in recent years as more young people move into urban areas, drive less, and buy more things online. The company has set up smaller outlets in cities and expanded its e-commerce platform to fight aggressive online rivals such as Wayfair Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.