This personalization trend is having an impact on all aspects of our lives. So what could top starting up an online business with a print-on-demand personalization model for one of the world’s best-selling products – IKEA furniture.
Print industry experts always associate a certain number with IKEA – more than 200 million printed catalogs a year. And if you consider sales generated by the world’s leading furniture store business (2017: more than 36 billion Euros worldwide – 4.87 billion just in Germany), they demonstrate that print is an essential factor in the company’s success story. But we are not here to talk about print products supplied by IKEA, but about a Cologne-based start-up called Limmaland, which provides a print personalization service for furniture sold by the Swedish corporation and is therefore exploiting an opportunity of harnessing IKEA’s success and widespread geographical presence without actually being owned by it. “Limma“ means gluing or bonding in Swedish and is therefore an apt description of the niche model approach taken by the company set up in 2014 by Stefanie Gärtner and Rabea Knippscheer. This model involves digitally printed adhesive film. And it is a niche offering to the extent that Limmaland is focusing on a specific group within the huge mass of IKEA customers, namely parents.
As previously mentioned, product personalization is not a service that the leading furniture manufacturer provides, at least not from within its own organization. And to ensure that anybody who owns an item of this well-known assemble-it-yourself furniture does not find the same look in the homes of their friends and acquaintances, a huge number of, let me call them, “pimp-my-furniture ideas“, usually involving laborious manual work, have been generated ever since IKEA furniture became hugely popular. And given that that’s exactly what inspired the idea of setting up Limmaland a few years ago and that quite a lot has happened at the start-up in the last twelve months, I shall be profiling this model here in greater depth.
The founders call the specific children’s room decoration options that their store provides “IKEA Hacks” – and they have therefore embraced a trend that keeps on gaining wider currency. Social media not only served as a source of inspiration for their business, it is also a very important factor in how the business evolves in the future. The founders are active on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and interact with this wider community to develop ideas and concepts for their next products. So this represents close customer contact or rather contact with potential customers and a great opportunity to identify needs directly and translate these needs into print products. “Of course such products lend themselves more to establishing social media contact with customers than the mass-produced print products that you can order online“, the job printer would say. But – please forgive the dig – both these ladies are doing a far better job in that respect by being proactive on social media than some online print providers that I have known for some time now. And believe me, I know plenty.
“Identifying demand – finding a niche – reaching out to customers in the right places: Limmaland is a perfect example of how you combine the potential of print and eBusiness with actual product personalization demand.” – Bernd Zipper
But now let’s take a look at the store itself. Although IKEA offers several items of children’s furniture, if you take a closer look at Limmaland’s product portfolio, you will see that the Cologne-based niche provider can also transform some of the Swedish furniture giant’s bestsellers like Billy and Kallax, i.e. “normal” furniture, into children’s furniture. You can find more than 300 different designs, which are to some extent available in different color ranges, for shelving, children’s kitchens, tables, beds et al. The offering is only available online via the start-up’s own platform and other marketplaces like Amazon and Dawanda; in combination with Limmaland’s social media activities, its target-audience reach is therefore highly effective. As far as technology is concerned, Limmaland’s B2C store is Magento-based and uses CloudLab’s printQ web-to-print solution.
The films are produced using the latex printing method by a local printer that also handles shipping. Latex printing is particularly suitable for the Limmaland film application because the water-based inks used do not emit any further solvents after printing. These made-in-Germany films also meet the EU Toys Standard and are laminated after the printing process to make them robust and therefore suitable for children. Limmaland therefore does not have any production facilities of its own. But that is not what the start-up is focusing on in the future, because both the owners and the company’s ever expanding clientele is thoroughly satisfied with production arrangements as they stand and with the quality provided. In fact reaching out to customers in those places where they find themselves, i.e. on creative platforms searching for kid-compatible furniture design ideas, forms the core of both owners’ work. According to Statista, the IKEA customer groups aged 20-29 and 30-39 are overrepresented in relation to the population as a whole at more than 20 %, which means nothing other than the fact that this age group is teeming with a particularly large quantity of potential customers. And that’s precisely the group that Limmaland is primarily targeting.
What the story with pricing? If you own the children’s kitchen priced at 89 Euros displayed above, you can customize this item of furniture by adding a configurable film priced at 29.95 Euros. Prices range from 14.95 to 49.95 Euros, depending on product and corresponding film size, which means that several items of furniture in any one room can be personalized at reasonable cost and design effort. That’s the beauty of print!
What’s also very new is the photo upload function for redesigning tables of differing sizes. The dimensions of the rectangular films are not limited to certain IKEA products, but you can choose from 22 different sizes to produce your own design, e.g. to redesign tables made by other providers.
My take: a clever idea that demonstrates how you can use print to personalize popular products. Another bonus of this model is the fact that the films can be printed on demand. Given the market penetration that IKEA has already achieved with its furniture and is increasing year on year, Limmaland is reaching out to a broad base of potential customers. That’s because it’s not just new purchases of furniture that generate customization potential, existing furniture in children’s and other rooms can also be taken to another level by the Cologne-based start-up’s print offering. For Limmaland that means continuing to raise awareness of its offering and continuing to have a handle on its online processes – then there is nothing to stop the company from growing.