Assembling your own furniture benefits you through “the Ikea effect”

Ikea may be able to have lower prices because consumers have to put together their own furniture but there could be another benefit as well for consumers: they will value their assembled purchased product more.

“When labor leads to love,” a paper in the Journal of Consumer Psychology experimentally tests “the Ikea effect” that leads to people valuing things that they assemble, customize or build themselves more highly than premade, finished goods. We’ve all heard the story of how cake-mixes didn’t sell until they were reformulated to require the “cook” to stir in a fresh egg, but most of what we know about this effect is marketing lore, not research. It’s fascinating stuff.

The abstract of the paper:

In four studies in which consumers assembled IKEA boxes, folded origami, and built sets of Legos, we demonstrate and investigate boundary conditions for the IKEA effect—the increase in valuation of self-made products. Participants saw their amateurish creations as similar in value to experts’ creations, and expected others to share their opinions. We show that labor leads to love only when labor results in successful completion of tasks; when participants built and then destroyed their creations, or failed to complete them, the IKEA effect dissipated. Finally, we show that labor increases valuation for both “do-it-yourselfers” and novices.

I suspected there may not be much positive effect when the consumer can’t assemble their purchase.

While this is interesting in itself, it leads me to another question: were companies like Ikea and others aware of this effect and therefore required assembly for more items so that consumers would have more positive feelings for certain products?

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