Would You Buy IKEA’s New Integrated HD Entertainment Furniture System?

It’s a battle of “easy all-in-one” versus “select individual components.”

Global retailer IKEA has just announced that it’s entering (or perhaps creating?) a new category of integrated electronics and furniture.

Beginning June 2012 in Stockholm, Milan, Paris, Gdansk and Berlin, IKEA is launching the new UPPLEVA line consisting of:  HD Wi-Fi-ready LED television, 2.1 sound system, Blu-ray/DVD/CD player, wireless sub-woofer, and 5-year guarantee.  Retail pricing starts at about $955; and more markets will be added later in 2012, with world-wide availability expected by mid 2013, per news reports.

According to IKEA, the concept is “a completely new range that integrates smart TV and sound system with furniture. UPPLEVA brings beauty and functionality to the living room, solving the problem of cable clutter and miss-match between TV and furniture.”

Some readers may remember when televisions came encased in elaborate wooden cabinets.  Needless to say, technology has taken us a long way from those days, and while my first reaction to IKEA’s news was a desire to learn more, I was skeptical about the product concept.

However, consider that IKEA’s concept does address a significant consumer pain point, or maybe multiple pain points:

•  Electronic component set-up and integration is hard for most people, and the cables are a pain in the ass for everyone;

•  Finding suitable “housing” for today’s flat screens and components, including wall mounting, is not easy.  Retrofitting into existing cabinetry is typically difficult;

•  Selecting the specific brand and model of electronic components is hard;

•  Dealing with multiple remotes and/or programming a universal remote is not fun;

•  People typically live in less square footage outside the US, so anything that maximizes space in a functional manner has a good chance to be appealing, which is why the European launch makes sense.

Leveraging a core strength, one of the benefits of IKEA’s UPPLEVA is that there are custom cabinet configurations to choose from.  This comes in handy, because according to news reports, the tv can be had in sizes ranging from 26 to 46 inches.  Click here to see some of the configuration examples.

Back to my skepticism.  Many consumers will be apprehensive about an all-in-one electronics concept, fearing poor quality.  That may be true, but doesn’t have to be.  IKEA is outsourcing the electronics to a Chinese company.  I was surprised by these news headlines:

Let’s go back to how IKEA defines itself, in its own words:  “The IKEA Concept is based on offering a wide range of well designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”  In this context, the new HD entertainment system makes sense and fits with the company’s strategy.  Whether it fits with consumers throughout IKEA’s geographic footprint is another story, especially in the US market, which is why starting in Europe is the right way to go.

At the end of the day, it will be the perceived financial value of the combined quality of the electronics and ease-of-use for the overall configuration that will make or break this concept.  In the meantime, a better name would be nice.  The company always goes with Swedish product range names, which is fine.  But, in this case, I find it hard to believe that “I want an UPPLEVA” is going to catch on!

Headline

IKEA’s new HD entertainment furniture system is easy to understand from a corporate strategy and mission standpoint.  It even seems to address a consumer opportunity area.  Give them high marks for thinking different and being willing to innovate.  That doesn’t guarantee success, though.  Furniture and retail furnishings are one thing.  The electronics business is a completely different  animal.  Just ask Best Buy.  Let’s see what happens.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.

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