I am an IKEA customer. Putting their furniture together is not only cheaper, but also a big fun. It’s like having a larger Lego set to assemble. The furniture is always in pieces, packed together in a relatively small box, which means they are relatively easy to move. Hence, if you are changing your flat, you can disassemble your furniture, decrease their size and move to your new home. We (the IKEA customers) like seeing creative and nicely done expositions with ideas for arranging our flats and houses. We know that even with fully decorated flat we will always find something worth buying in the shop. Can this change in the future?
The technology is advancing faster than everyone can imagine. Few years ago only a few people had printers. Now everyone has one at home, and some decided to move forward and use eReaders and tablets instead of printing papers. But there is a new printer on the horizon, which can be a real game changer: the 3D printer. The 3D printer can make custom-shaped objects within relatively small time and out of metal or plastic. And probably in the future out of wood as well. This would mean IKEA could use printers instead of big stock hangars and customers could create their dreamed furniture, cupboard handles and decorations with just a few clicks.
Imagine walking into an IKEA store, and instead of seeing every exposition and every decoration hidden in the different parts of a huge store, you simply sit with the consultant and discuss your needs. The consultant can even be a virtual one for simple shopping. You take a virtual tour on an IKEA computer, through all the available designs, and choose things you like. Next, your order is being printed and you simply go to pick it up. If you feel like creating something unique, there’s no problem. You use the same computer to easily create things you would like to have, like a new vase with colors fitting your walls, an original mug for your partner or a special plate set with your custom design.
Moreover, with 3D printing you could easily make furniture that have measures fitted exactly to your space. It happened to me in IKEA that the wardrobe I wanted to have was too wide and I had to resign from it. With a 3D printer IKEA consultant could have helped me design a similar furniture, but with the dimensions I needed. The furniture would fit my apartment, not the other way around.
Going one step further, IKEA could also make a website where you could create your dreamed furniture and decorations, and order them online. This would mean you only sit in your comfortable chair with a cup of nice coffee or tea and make your dreams come true. Next, you wait a bit and IKEA delivers your order to your home. No time wasted in traffic trying to reach the shop, you can buy things even in your pyjamas, and IKEA increases its customers satisfaction, simultaneously decreasing the time spent serving their customers.
For IKEA this could also mean the change in shops locations. There would be no need in having huge shops with stock in it. IKEA could be a small shop in the city center or the shop down your street with few consultants inside, who advise and print the designs.
Take a look what 3D printers can do now and try to imagine the amount of possibilities IKEA could give their customers by deploying such printers in use.