Ikea plans to start selling an “open source” sofa next year that can be customized, augmented and reconfigured by customers to fit different spaces or serve different purposes, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The Delaktig sofa would allow customers to turn the sofa into a bed, clip a lamp onto it or attach a side table, among other actions. Ikea is hoping to encourage third-party designers to develop other products and furniture elements that can complement the sofa, and help adapt it into new configurations. The sofa, featuring an aluminum frame and wood-slat base, is likely to cost somewhere between $400 and $900, and will come in different sizes. The frame will have built-in grooves that will allow customers to attach optional armrests, a headboard or a sofa back, depending on its use.
The Swedish word “Delaktig” translates into English as “being part of something.” That literally nods to the modularity of the new sofa, but also figuratively hints at Ikea’s desire to encourage its own customers’ imaginations in the interest of creating a stronger bond with them.
The Wall Street Journal story notes that Ikea has a strong following among what you might call furniture hackers — people who already like to customize and adapt different Ikea furniture items to their own preferences and uses. Ikea didn’t create that following on purpose, but the open source sofa is clearly designed to cater directly to them.
Overall, the sofa itself and the way it’s looking like Ikea will market it translate into a smart idea. Though Ikea has been looking for new avenues of growth, this is not necessarily an idea that comes out desperation. Like every other brick-and-mortar retailer, Ikea is trying to navigate its way around the e-commerce boom and growing competition. Other furniture retailers are exploring their own recipes for growth: For example, West Elm is getting into the hotel business, and Wayfair is investing in virtual reality applications. However, Ikea undoubtedly has benefited from the decline of Sears, another seller of inexpensive furniture.
A sofa that can change with customers’ whims sounds ideal for the segment of Ikea customers that already like to put its own spin on Ikea furnishings. Of course, there is another segment of Ikea customers that frequently vent their frustration about how hard its is to assemble Ikea furniture, even without a bunch of different options in play. Giving this group an open source sofa might just send them over the edge.
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