AI-Powered Assistance: Meet Billie, IKEA’s Virtual Interior Design Consultant

June 13, 2023 -Innovative transformations are underway in the realm of interior design services as Swedish home furnishing giant, IKEA, takes a bold step towards revolutionizing its customer support. Recent reports from Reuters suggest that IKEA is reshaping its call center representatives into skilled interior design consultants. This strategic move aligns with the company’s determined efforts to offer a broader range of remote home renovation services. Moreover, they are leveraging an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot named Billie to provide customers with preliminary consultation services.

IKEA expanded its remote interior design services in April this year, following successful launches in various European regions, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates. Customers in the United Kingdom, for instance, can now avail themselves of a 45-60 minute video consultation for a mere £25 (approximately CNY 224), entailing personalized interior design advice and curated product recommendations. For comprehensive design plans, including floor layouts and 3D visualizations, customers are required to make an additional payment of £125 (approximately CNY 1,119).

Ingka, the parent company of IKEA, shared that since 2021, they have successfully trained 8,500 call center representatives, while their AI chatbot Billie has handled 47% of basic customer inquiries over the past two years. Ulrika Biesert, the Global People and Culture Manager at Ingka, emphasized their commitment to empowering employees through lifelong learning, development, and retraining initiatives, aimed at creating new employment opportunities. When asked about the potential impact on job cuts due to the increasing implementation of AI, Biesert responded that they do not anticipate such a scenario at present.

During the 2022 fiscal year, remote interior design services contributed €1.3 billion (approximately CNY 9.997 billion), accounting for 3.3% of Ingka’s total revenue. Ingka aims to increase this proportion to 10% by 2028. In comparison, IKEA’s online sales through its website amounted to around €9.9 billion (approximately CNY 76.131 billion) in the same fiscal year, representing 25% of Ingka’s total revenue.

A London-based analyst remarked that IKEA’s entry into virtual design services has come somewhat late in comparison to its main competitor, the US-based home goods e-commerce platform, Wayfair. Additionally, significant investments are required to ensure accurate representation of colors, textures, and dimensions of IKEA’s products in the virtual realm.

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