Ikea Group (Ingka Holding B.V. and its controlled entities), is taking over TaskRabbit, a platform that enables freelancers to access and work jobs on-demand. The companies have signed a conditional agreement for Ikea to acquire 100% of the shares in TaskRabbit, according to a press release.
The companies signed the agreement on Sept. 25 and expect the transaction to close in October. Ikea Group will fully own TaskRabbit, though it will operate independently and will partner with other retailers and businesses outside of Ikea.
TaskRabbit, which will remain based in San Francisco, operates in 40 cities in the U.S. and U.K. Though it will continue to function as an independent company, the companies said services could be expanded to more countries.
The overwhelming frustration that comes from spending a day puzzling over new Ikea pieces would be unacceptable to a customer purchasing higher-end furniture, and some competitors are pointedly providing less inscrutable directions to differentiate their customer experience.
"The way you put [Ikea] furniture together — it’s almost impenetrable, while [online furniture retailer] Wayfair is very focused on making sure that its instructions are very simple when it comes to what goes where," branding expert Philip Ryan told Retail Dive last year. "The interactions are very simple and easy for their customer."
Shopping at an Ikea store, a vast space crammed with loads of merchandise, is also arguably a pain point, Vivaldi Erich Joachimsthaler, CEO of brand strategy firm Vivaldi, told Retail Dive on Friday. But it's one that leads to discovery and emotional decisions that means Ikea shoppers often buy more than they intended going in. "The number one pain point is going through the store, but even though it’s a pain point, I would never recommend they fix that," he said. "They would destroy the Ikea experience. But the post-service experience, that experience of putting it together at your home, is a different story."
The acquisition works for both companies, he also said. Ikea brings TaskRabbit's teams of freelance "taskers" without the fixed costs of full time hires, while TaskRabbit benefits from Ikea's large, and international, scale. "This really makes a lot of sense to me," Joachimsthaler said.
This acquisition takes off from a pilot program in London, launched by Ikea last November, offering TaskRabbit’s furniture assembly services, and TaskRabbit has had a page dedicated to its services putting together Ikea furniture for a while. "With IKEA Group ownership, TaskRabbit could realize even greater opportunities, increasing earning potential of Taskers and connecting consumers to a wide range of affordable services," TaskRabbit CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot said in a statement.
The difficulty of putting together a piece of Ikea furniture is almost a part of the brand experience, to the point that it was lampooned in the hit movie "Deadpool." (Ikea, by the way, didn’t pay for the backhanded-compliment product placement in that film, but demonstrating a sense of humor, insisted the scriptwriters employ the actual Swedish names of its furniture rather than make up fake ones.)
For some items, it's not just a matter of confounding instructions, but also of safety. Ikea last year recalled 29 million chests and dressers sold in North America and China — products blamed in multiple deaths and injuries of young children. In any case, the acquisition comes amid a push by Ikea to boost the quality of its goods and grow e-commerce sales.
"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," Jesper Brodin, president and CEO of IKEA Group, said in a statement. "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."