Swedish interiors giant Ikea is to pilot a new scheme selling its flat-pack furniture through third-party online platforms.
Media reports have also claimed that the company is planning to test smaller city-centre stores and to trial order and pick-up points and standalone kitchen showrooms.
The company has not revealed which websites would partner with the brand, but it is understood that Amazon and Alibaba are most likely.
“We are curious and want to explore new areas and get new insights on how to reach and serve more people,” an Ikea spokesman told kbbreview. “One part of that is that we will start piloting and testing making Ikea products accessible through other online platforms than our own. The plan is to pilot this, starting in 2018. There are no decisions regarding what marketplaces we want to partner with yet, and also no decision regarding what markets.”
Commenting on the development, Gill Holloway, sales director at digital specialist Insight UK, said: “In a bid to become more accessible to its shoppers, Ikea’s move to start selling its products through third-party websites makes one thing clear – with consumer demand and expectations ever accelerating, it’s positive to see retailers speed up adoption of new offerings and services in light of these changing shopping habits.
“In an increasingly digitalised world, there have never been more opportunities for retailers to take advantage of the functionality that we, as consumers, have come to depend on in recent years. Further reinforced by the fact that a growing proportion of consumers were born into a world where mobile devices, social media and the internet are day-to-day companions, many consumers bring with them different expectations of how they want to engage with organisations.
“With a multitude of retail options, from online and social to mobile and in-store, consumers increasingly look towards retailers with a broad online presence and strong omni-channel strategies in place. After all, those who have seamlessly integrated channels that flow from shopfloor, to the back-end systems through to the online store will be the ones best positioned to capitalise on the new, digitally-driven path to purchase.
“As digital transformation is a journey, it’s important to remember that retailers are not going to get there overnight. And, as the retail industry evolves, more brands should be taking a leaf out of Ikea’s book by exploring how they can better manage existing consumer demands and transform for future business goals.”
Also commenting on the news, Hugh Fletcher, global head of consultancy and innovation, with e-commerce consultancy Salmon said: “Whether it’s Amazon or Alibaba, Ikea will have to work even harder to retain their customers’ loyalty in a retail world where brand names may well be quickly replaced by convenience and ease of access.
“Ikea’s ‘test’ to sell flat-pack furniture through third-party providers is unsurprising given how digitally-inherent customers now expect convenience in their daily shopping experience. The rise of digital services has disrupted the sector entirely, and is encouraging more and more brands to take on an omni-channel strategy that realises partnerships of this ilk. Ikea’s potential alignment with Amazon makes sense, given that the Seattle giant continues to show that immediacy is king in the retail world – Prime completely changed retail and showed customers that they can have what they want with little waiting time.
“Whoever Ikea aligns itself with, it will be a coup. Why? Because it is evidence that even some of the biggest global brands are using the interfaces and infrastructure of big marketplace providers to develop their omni-channel strategy. This type of partnership may open the floodgates for other brands and service providers to jump in, too. But jump in with caution they must. While a partnership with a marketplace gives access to customers, experiences and logistics, it removes a direct relationship with the brand. With this is mind, Ikea will have to work even harder to re-retain customer loyalty.
“There is no doubt that the supply-chain logistics and overall operations will be complex, albeit simplified by a partnership with an existing e-commerce powerhouse. Developing a complete e-commerce offering will allow Ikea to reach into a previously untapped market. Looking beyond online, innovation will play its part in separating the very best from the rest. It has never been so crucial for retailers to evolve their business. Online has rapidly become the platform of choice, but entirely new services, such as Programmatic Commerce and Zero-UI connected devices like Google Home, will soon become the norm. Retailers that embrace this kind of innovation will ultimately be the ones that succeed.”