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The Ikea Effect: From Labor to Love

The psychology behind IKEA’s bestselling business model


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As the largest furniture retailer in the world, Swedish company IKEA is widely known and commonly loved by customers worldwide. Offering a wide range of stylish products at affordable prices, IKEA maintains the affections and backings of homemakers, interior designers, and students through its extensive knowledge of consumer psychology. Understanding buying habits and effective marketing strategies play a large role in the Swedish furniture company’s success, and the psychological effect behind IKEA’s build-your-own furniture option has garnered the interests of Harvard researchers.


Harvard researcher and professor Michael Norton was interested to know how much consumers were willing to pay for self-made products compared to premade ones. His team conducted a study where 52 participants were given IKEA products to build, and upon completion, they could bid to keep the furniture or lose it. The results showed that consumers were willing to spend up to 63% in premium for their self-made products compared to premade ones.


In further testing, a separate experiment was conducted in which participants were asked to make origami. Similarly, the test confirmed the hypothesis with participants choosing to pay the same amount for their own origami – even when they were offered the same price for expertly folded ones. Known as the IKEA effect, it’s a psychological process of individuals loving what they built on their own. This approach has been leveraged by IKEA with its marketing strategy and is one of the reasons behind its global success


The IKEA Effect: Study Finds Consumers Over-Value Products They Build Themselves