Remote selling within the retail industry has gained significant traction in recent years. But at Ingka Group, the largest IKEA retailer, 8,500 co-workers supported by the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) powered “Billie” chatbot are taking the concept to new heights. The approach, powered by 80 years of IKEA life at home knowledge, brings increasing benefits to customers and co-workers.
‘’Billie’’ was originally created as part of a larger strategy and human-centric and data-driven vision to provide better value to customers and co-workers. By using chatbots such as Billie, powered by AI and natural language Processing (NLP), IKEA can use automated design systems to better interact with customers in real-time. These intelligent bots can understand customer questions, provide product information, offer recommendations, and even help design whole interior spaces without the need of human intervention.
"This level of personalization is not only going to continue to improve but will enhance customer satisfaction and increase loyalty overall."
– Parag Parekh, CDO for Ingka Group
Furthermore, Billie is available 24/7, providing round-the-clock support to customers across different time zones. It can also handle multiple conversations simultaneously, thereby increasing efficiency and reducing response times.
Since the rollout of the solution in FY21, Billie has continued to provide value, and from 2021 to 2023 it has handled approximately 47% of customer enquiries, which translates to 3,2 million interactions solved by the chatbot and nearly EUR 13 million in savings thus far.
With the chatbot handling simpler enquiries, co-workers are empowered to play a more value-adding and inspiring role within remote selling. So far, 8,500 call centre co-workers have been reskilled to gain a different set of skills, such as remote interior design competence, digital retail sales, building relationships, and handling unique customer inquiries that require complex problem-solving.
Ulrika Biesèrt, Ingka Group’s People and Culture Manager, spoke to Reuters earlier this month about reskilling people for the future of work and reinforced the importance of empowering co-workers.
"We’re committed to strengthening co-workers’ employability in Ingka or elsewhere through lifelong learning and development and reskilling, and to accelerate the creation of new jobs."
– Ulrika Biesèrt, Ingka Group’s People and Culture Manager
Sales through Ingka Group’s remote customer meeting points reached EUR 1.3 billion at the end of FY22, accounting for 3.3% of total sales. The aim is to grow the share to 10% in the next few years.
With its growing e-commerce marketplace, IKEA continues to evolve to better meet the needs of customers wherever and however they choose to shop. Ultimately, the successful integration of AI tools will be defined in the long-term by a seamless interaction between responsible AI and human knowledge and expertise.
 FY21 refers to the period 1 September 2020 – 31 August 2021
 FY22 refers to the period 1 September 2021 – 31 August 2022