A Standardised Approach to the World? Ikea in China

Ulf Johansson
Department of Business Administration, Lund University, Sweden

Åsa Thelander
Department of Service Management, Lund University, Sweden

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Publicerad: 2008-02-15


ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


A theme that dominates the literature on international marketing is the question of standardisation and adaptation of marketing activities from a company point of view (e.g.; Baek; 2006; Levitt; 1983; Theodosiou & Leonidou; 2003; Szymanski& Bharadwaj; 1993; Lim; Acito & Rusetski; 2003) or from a consumption point of view (e.g.; de Mooij; 2004; de Mooij & Hofstede; 2002). The discussion has not really penetrated the field of retailing. With a few exceptions there are mainly general discussions on the subject (e.g.; Mårtensson; 1981; Salomon & Tordjman; 1989; Treadgold; 1991); there is not very much research in this area. It is a strange shortcoming as the literature on retailing seems to follow that of international marketing in general to a large extent.

There is also; among academics; increasing argument that one key success factor in international retailing has been adaptation of marketing strategies; rather than standardisation (e.g.; Cui & Liu; 2004; Dawson & Mukoyama; 2006; Rundh; 2003; Samiee; et al; 2004). This seems to be especially true for internationalisation in Asia and in China indeed.

The Swedish furnish retailer Ikea stand out among global retailers as they use a standardised approach to every market it enters. It looks and operates the same in every market. Or does it? Existing analyses of Ikea marketing strategy are either fairly old (Salmon & Tordjman; 1989) or are often done from a very general perspective (Salzer; 1994; Mårtensson; 1981); with little emphasis on marketing activities in specific countries and also with lacking understanding of what standardisation and adaptation might mean in a retail perspective. More recent studies (Edvardsson et al 2006) have a distinct service management perspective rather than overall marketing strategy perspective.

The aim of this paper is to analyse the Ikea marketing strategy for China; in the context of standardisation and adaptation of marketing activities.

The paper builds on both primary and secondary data. Interviews with senior managers at Ikea have been conducted and studies on business; retailing & consumer behaviour in China; from academic journals; trade press and management journals have been analysed.


Retail; marketing strategy; standardisation; adaptation; Ikea; China


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