Movers & Shakers Q&A – Gillian Drakeford, country retail manager, IKEA UK & Ireland

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Gillian Drakeford, county retail manager, IKEA UK & Ireland

1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?

The biggest opportunity for IKEA is a transformation in the customer experience. We’ve worked hard over a number of years to invest in the physical and digital spaces for our customers and this has brought a lot of success for us so far. However, I believe there is a great opportunity now to engage our organisation on transforming the customer experience at every touch point, especially putting the interaction of co-workers with the customer at the centre of that change.

NEW STAFF IKEA WMBLEY SEPT 13 Photograph © vicki couchman  07957226911

2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?

The biggest challenge will be to lead a change process from top to bottom and across in the organisation that unleashes the potential of every single co-worker by empowering them to put the customer first. It will require a strong leadership culture at all levels of the organisation and a clear plan around the change process itself. We have always said at IKEA that “we do half and you do half and together we save money” and I think now is the time to truly understand and deliver what the customers wants and expect from us in “our half”.

3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?

When I joined IKEA two and a half years ago I think I underestimated the size of challenge to change behaviour during this transformation journey. We are on our way but it will take time and we need to be clear about the milestones we want to achieve along the way.  There’s definitely no ‘winning formula’ and we have to be adaptable and keep the belief in what we are trying to achieve.

4. What is the future of the physical store and the high street?

We certainly believe there is a place for both the physical and digital environments for IKEA.  We have been able to grow both our online business whilst maintaining growth in our store visitation over a number of years since we launched our online shopping capability. I believe the future of the physical will be less about the transaction and much more about the experience. I believe IKEA has always tried to create a fun day out for the family and that our advantage really is the fact that we offer our customers and visitors inspiration and ideas that will improve their everyday life at home.

5. What technology-related plans have you got for the next 12 months?

Our main focus at the moment is that we are developing a new web platform later this year which will give visitors a seamless experience across any device.

6. With the issue of digital wildfire how do you understand and control your growing digital landscape?

I think that any digital investment needs to have clear benefits for the customer and a clear objective for being in your digital landscape. One of our values is simplicity and for me this of course should stretch to our digital offer. It’s really about putting the customer at the centre and not the technology itself.

7. If you hadn’t been a retailer what would you have liked to do?

I actually trained as a teacher at one point in my career so of course I would have taught, however I just couldn’t keep away from retail where I have a lot of passion!

8. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?

Whilst I wouldn’t like to score myself as such, I do believe I have done well so far in my career. I always feel like there is so much more to do! I really believe my leadership style should both inspire and empower others in our organisation to be brave and lead their agendas so that together we can achieve success.