When you look at the changes Swedish furniture giant IKEA is implementing in its operations, it’s clear that they aren’t satisfied with the status quo. In fact, they are making some moves to make their business more attractive to consumers in the digital age with services and products that are designed to match the lifestyles and needs of consumers in the future. While many of these actions are in preliminary stages, they do indicate IKEA is transforming into a tech company.
IKEA’s Enhanced Digital Offerings
One of the joys (OK, absolute frustrations) of IKEA furniture is the DIY assembly. When IKEA acquired TaskRabbit, a platform that allows consumers to connect to individuals who will assemble their IKEA furniture, it gave its customers a way to avoid the DIY trauma. Although you can do it yourself, the company now markets “you don’t have to.” Another thing customers had come to expect from IKEA was travelling through its large, blue warehouses and visiting the kitchens, bathroom and living rooms to find the products you want to buy. However, with the IKEA Place app and its augmented reality, you can “try” out different furniture in your home before you decide what to purchase. This app has been downloaded 2 million times and been widely used. The company has plans to determine how to consolidate their different apps to allow customers to browse their catalogue, plan store visits and virtually decorate from one app. Digital technologies are expected to allow IKEA to reach more customers in a more cost-effective way than building new stores and paying high real estate prices.
Smart Products and Self-Driving Cars
In addition to digital offerings to enhance the customer experience, IKEA is developing products, services, and strategies to compete in the future. They have begun to offer products to outfit a smart home such as speakers and smart plugs.Reviews of these smart plugs indicate they aren’t as sophisticated or reliable as others on the market, but it’s an important step that the company has entered the smart home market.
IKEA plans to have a zero-emission delivery fleet in select locations by 2020 and in all markets worldwide in 2025. It’s also possible to envision how customers might be able to request an autonomously driven mobile showroom to come to their location with furniture they are interested in seeing for an entirely new take on shopping from home. Rather than a customer self-hauling purchases, self-driving trucks might deliver purchases to customers. The company is also looking ahead to how fully autonomous vehicles will change how the interiors and exteriors of cars will be designed. What we now believe are must-have amenities for cars will not necessarily be the case in a future with self-driving cars. When vehicles become fully autonomous passengers might want very different amenities in the vehicle to support the activities they will be able to do instead of driving such as a mobile office or entertainment on the go. IKEA’s expertise in small-space living and cost-effective home furnishings could translate very effectively into autonomous vehicles. So far, the company doesn’t plan to start building autonomous cars; they will leave that task to others.
Space10 Innovation Lab
Space10 is IKEA’s research hub and exhibition space launched in 2015 that brings together designers, artists, and technologists to innovate tomorrow’s new products and solutions. From developing autonomous urban farming to upcycling products and materials into other uses, and autonomous vehicle design to 3D printed meatballs and more, Space10 is churning and testing out ideas that might make it to an IKEA catalogue in the not-too-distant future. The goal of Space10 and its partners is to create better and more sustainable ways of living. Space10’s concepts for autonomous vehicles including a shopping car, coffee car, hotel car, and grocery car, can be viewed through augmented reality on Space10’s app.
These steps to transform into a technology company show IKEA’s commitment to stay relevant and competitive in the future. The company’s technology commitment will allow them to reach a broader and younger consumer base including urban dwellers. IKEA’s traditional business model that required shopping at a warehouse and hauling merchandise to their homes for self-assembly was never a viable option for urban dwellers. Through Space10 and tech acquisitions, IKEA is investing in a future that will demand new products, services and interfaces to attract customers and remain competitive.
Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations on strategy, digital transformation and business performance. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK. He has authored 16 best-selling books, is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his almost 2 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.