IKEA Inspirations: how flat-pack furniture can drive customer loyalty in the travel industry


“We should strive to welcome change and challenges, because they are what help us grow.”

H.G. Wells


Finding and booking a holiday ought to be fun, yet so many travel companies end up creating experiences that leave their customers feeling stressed and anxious.

Navigating all the potential variables–location, flight-time, hotel rating, transfer times, customer reviews, and all the rest—makes it hard for a customer to make a clear choice. And when they do so they are often left with a lingering niggle: “could I have got a better deal elsewhere?

As a psychologist would put it, all these factors serve to put customers under heavy cognitive load. The conventional wisdom is clear: cognitive load is no good thing, and if you want to keep your customers you’d better reduce it as much as possible.

Identifying friction in the customer journey is therefore the place most people start when seeking to improve the customer experience.


But can an investment of effort by the customer actually be turned into a driver of loyalty?


Is all customer effort necessarily a bad thing–something to be designed out? Or, can we actually use it to create deeper experiences that enhance customer loyalty?

On the face of it, this seems entirely counter-intuitive. How on earth can making a customer work harder possibly increase their loyalty?

Well, it all depends on what exactly that ‘work’ is—and how the customer feels about the outcome of it.  

A famous study discovered ‘The Ikea Effect’–the realisation that when people have a hand in creating something they value it more. The sense of satisfaction that finally comes after successfully assembling that cupboard/bunk-bed/ kitchen helps you forget the cryptic instruction pictograms, missing parts and arguments with your partner that characterised the actual build phase.

The key word here is ‘successfully’–effort resulting in success is remembered fondly, while a wobbly wardrobe is a brand killer.


How can this translate to the travel industry?


Where are the opportunities to create such loyalty-enhancing ‘IKEA effects’ in your organisation?

Could inviting customers to have a say in choosing which hotels to offer, or which resorts to include, have the hidden effect of increasing their affinity with your brand? Perhaps you could take an even more granular approach, allowing customers to suggest menu choices ahead of their trips.

Or perhaps you’d like to start with something even easier to implement. Could simply asking your customers to give feedback–and then showing them how you have acted upon it–cause them to say I did that!” There you have it, you’ve transformed yet another satisfaction survey into a loyalty tool.

Once you start thinking about it in this way, the possibilities start to seem endless.

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