Ikea, the world's largest furniture retailer, is no digital dummy.

The company, which has annual revenue of over $36bn, has proven to be a savvy digital player. It actively markets in numerous digital channels, where it has created some great campaigns

It has also embraced new technologies, like augmented reality (AR). In fact, just this week it launched a new AR app called Ikea Place, which is built with Apple’s new ARKit platform.

Now, Ikea has acquired a tech company: TaskRabbit, which operates an online marketplace for on-demand gig workers and bills itself as “the convenient and fast way to get things done around the house.”

Previously, Ikea had formed a pilot partnership with TaskRabbit under which TaskRabbit's freelance workers, which number some 60,000, could be hired by Ikea customers who wanted help assembling their Ikea furniture.

While Ikea boasts that most of its products “are designed to be assembled by the customer”, the reality is that many customers don't feel comfortable assembling furniture themselves or prefer to pay for the convenience of having somebody else assemble the furniture for them.

By partnering with and now acquiring TaskRabbit, Ikea effectively gains access to a large number of independent furniture assemblers along with a technology platform that can help its customers more easily find nearby assemblers and schedule an appointment with them when it's most convenient.

A demonstration of the growing importance of customer experience

In explaining his company's acquisition of TaskRabbit, Ikea CEO Jesper Brodin stated:

In a fast-changing retail environment, we continuously strive to develop new and improved products and services to make our customers' lives a little bit easier. Entering the on-demand, sharing economy enables us to support that. We will be able to learn from TaskRabbit's digital expertise, while also providing Ikea customers additional ways to access flexible and affordable service solutions to meet the needs of today's customer.

Translation: Ikea's acquisition of TaskRabbit is all about customer experience.

Despite the fact that its furniture is comparatively easy to assemble and it's one of the most successful retailers in the world, furniture assembly is still a pain point for Ikea's customers. TaskRabbit can help it address that pain point.

It could also help Ikea as it faces competition from Amazon. Amazon now offers its own furniture assembly help through Amazon Home Services, so there's a good chance Ikea management felt the need to make sure it's competitive on this front.

For that reason, Ikea's acquisition is a good reminder for other retailers of the importance of customer experience today, and of the fact that customer experience continues beyond a customer completing a purchase and receiving their package or leaving the store with product in hand.

Patricio Robles

Published 29 September, 2017 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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