How to leverage the IKEA Effect

At first glance, the idea that someone would prefer a product they have to put work into, seems outlandish. Yet, a 2011 study (by Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School, Daniel Mochon of Yale, and Dan Ariely of Duke) identified that buyers were happy to pay 63% more for something they had helped put together. You see where we are going with this – IKEA!?

The idea is not that they prefer putting things together – who really enjoys assembling an IKEA piece of furniture? But when the buyer is involved in the making of it, their concept of how valuable the product is, rises. Their own input, their ability to use their skills and creativity increase the perceived value. This, of course, being a wonderful example of how cost of a product or service is very different to its value.

So, how can we leverage the IKEA effect for other businesses? Here some examples:


If you are selling more than one variety of your product, offer consumers the opportunity to create a mixed bag or box. Vegetable box, chocolate selections, pick-mix, cook your own food from a fresh box etc.. Think about it, for the seller, there is less work involved in offering a ready made box of goods, but knowing the the personal assembly adds value, they offer this option in stead. In this case, the perceived value arises from the assembly itself, but also from getting various versions of the same product. A third value factory, of course, being a reduced price for bulk-buy.

Large purchases like homes

Anyone who has bought a new home and was able to choose the colour of their floor, kitchen furniture or similar, knows that this part of the purchase immediately makes the purchase more interesting and we feel like we are getting more value for our money.

Not just consumables

Another example of the IKEA effect can be seen with Build-a-Bear, where customers get to choose all the pieces it needs to put a teddy bear together and can then assemble the bear.

Get working while you holiday

An increasing trend in tourism is the combination of staying somewhere as part of a holiday, but then actually working. Examples are agricultural holidays where holidaymakers work on the farm, helping with animal husbandry, burning in the harvest or similar. This type of holiday being particularly sought after by the millennial generation with a strong passion for all things natural and environmentally friendly.

Consultancies or Training providers

Now here is a thought. If you provide consultancy services or training, why not consider getting your clients to contribute to the ‘making’ of advice or training? One way to do this is to involve them in one piece of the puzzle and to get them to bring a certain input to a training session, for example and to present this. Another way would be to get them to do the write up of a meeting, not because you cannot be bothered, but to help them make the work ‘their own’. The effort put in will translate into a higher perceived value of the service you are providing.

What not to do

The IKEA effect backfires when customers participate in the process of creating a product or service, but become frustrated by the complexity of it. This, essentially, will have the opposite effect and the perceived value for the product or service will go down.

The IKEA effect is an interesting phenomenon for marketing, which, was not just discovered with IKEA, but has had a strong tie to the furniture industry well before the Swedish home brand came into existence. It’s name, however, ever so apt.

Next time you plan out a new product or service offering think ‘less is more’ and see if you can get your customers to participate in the creation process.

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