Ikea made a reported $39 billion in revenue in the 2014 fiscal year.
The retailer is a volume seller, mass-producing quality furniture as cost-effectively as possible, and selling in 37 countries around the world.
This business model puts the Swedish furniture-maker in a fascinating bind: To innovate, it needs to find design solutions that are applicable to homes in cultures around the world.
Thus the need for local research.
For example, the company did a survey of morning routines of 8,292 people in eight major cities. It yielded some telling findings: New Yorkers spend more time grooming than anybody else, Shanghainese spend the least time getting ready, and Stockholmers feel the most confident about their appearance.
But as Beth Kowitt notes in her feature on Ikea for Fortune, some things are universal — namely, that women spend more time than men picking out their outfits. And it is often a stressful experience for them.
In the corporate jargon, you call that a pain point, one that clever design can help solve.
"With this data in hand," Kowitt writes, "Ikea came up with a freestanding mirror that has a rack on the back for hanging clothes and jewelry. The Knapper, as it's called, is intended to help customers assemble an outfit — clothes and accessories — the night before to cut down on morning panic."
It's the sort of thing a corporate anthropologist would be proud of. With the Knapper, Ikea provided a solution to a problem that people didn't know they had.
It's listed at $69.99 on the Ikea website.
Here's the official description:
Hiding behind the mirror are hooks and a rail for clothes hangers. A practical solution that makes it easy for you to keep everything from blazers and jackets to jewelry and bags in one place.
That's the virtue of the design-driven company. Like Jony Ive and Apple show again and again, thorough research can help yield elegant products.
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