MAKE THE HOME SMART, NOT A SMART HOME – LESSONS LEARNT FROM IKEA

By: Louise Bredholt

The smart home market is littered with a whole host of products from smart heating to smart toothbrushes and microwaves. But the market still has ways to go before it reaches mass market status. It’s expensive and there are far too many impractical, and frankly comical, products that are muddying the waters for consumers. I mean, do you really need your hairbrush to tell you if you’re brushing your hair wrong? We believe that IKEA – a company primarily known for its inexpensive flat-pack home furniture –  may just be the one to cut through the noise and take the smart home mainstream. And it’s already started to.

IKEA first launched its Trådfri Lighting collection in 2017 – without a hefty price tag, making smart lighting available to the mass market for the first time. IKEA’s entire approach to the smart home – which it calls Home Smart – is distinctly different to many of its competitors. Grounded in real consumer insights and its unique combination of design and affordability – the Swedish home furniture giant is well positioned to be a big player in the smart home market.

Speaking at the Connected World Summit in London, Global Business Leader of IKEA’s Home Smart Björn Block shared the philosophy behind its smart home range.

SOLVING THE PROBLEMS THAT REALLY MATTER

IKEA’s Home Smart range is grounded on real customer needs. Block explained, “for us the point is to enrich the whole IKEA range and life at home”. So, rather than trying to make every household item under the sun ‘smart’, they aim to solve problems in today’s life, at home (i.e. a smart hairbrush is not going to solve a major consumer pain point at home). As Block stated, “it’s not about making techy things, we’re in the home furnishing business”.

CRACKING SIMPLICITY

There are many solutions on the market which are “so techy” that you can’t work out how to use them from the get-go. So, it’s no surprise that take-up has been so slow. Block believes this has paved an opportunity for IKEA to crack simplicity in this space. “We focus a lot on day one, when you actually buy it and when you want to get it working… We also think that it’s important that we start with individual products, not with complete systems.”

IKEA is all about solving the simple and uncomplicated moments with simple and uncomplicated solutions – as with their Trådfri Lighting range. In a study, they found that their customers wanted to dim lights to create atmosphere at home. But 80% of the respondents didn’t own dimmable lights. So, the home furniture retailer went about creating a wireless dimmer and bulb package that was easy to use – at a price affordable to everyone. This core focus on simplicity ties in with IKEA’s brand ethos – functional, quality home furnishings at affordable prices. With their low-price tags, simple solutions and millions of customers worldwide, IKEA is propelling smart technology into the mainstream.

COLLABORATE, COLLABORATE, COLLABORATE

Speaking on a panel on ‘Accelerating smart home take up and achieving mass-market success long-term’, Björn Block was asked what was needed to get the market going more quickly. His answer: “it’s all about collaboration, piggybacking from others and working in a seamless manner”. Owning that IKEA’s strengths do not lie in tech, Block admitted, “we need to collaborate. We can’t succeed in making smart homes ourselves”. And IKEA is open and transparent when it comes to their collaborations. They “don’t want to just marry one company” and have forged close collaborations with Amazon, Apple and Google.

FUTURE OF THE SMART HOME

So, what will it take to make the smart home a mainstream reality? Our money is definitely on IKEA. The IKEA smart home range is currently limited to a handful of products, but the range is expanding. Most recently, the home furniture retailer announced plans to move into audio with a collaboration with Sonos. There’s no special gimmick with its Home Smart line-up but it’s the philosophy that illustrates exactly how the Swedish furniture giant can fulfil the smart home’s potential. The range is affordable, simple, practical, design-led and true to the IKEA brand ethos. And very importantly, although sometimes  forgotten by competitors, grounded in real consumer insight.

So, maybe there’s a lesson to be learnt here. One which the rest of the industry should follow. Instead of focusing on making everything ‘smart’ just for the sake of it, we should focus on making the home smart, and not a smart home.