Online Learning

The Ikea Effect

How To Use It To Boost Your Business Online?

Do you remember the Seinfeld episode when Kramer came up with an idea for a pizza place where you make your own pizza? Well, as funny as this concept is, Kramer intuitively understood human psychology: making people feel autonomous has a lot of benefits for your business. A very popular Swedish company named Ikea, with a large portion of its furniture products requiring some self-assembly, recognizes this secret and uses it to their advantage. This approach even became a special term in psychology. “The Ikea effect” refers to the cognitive bias of consumers placing a very high value on an object that they partially built themselves. This supports the idea that autonomy is a key ingredient for customer satisfaction.

So what is autonomy? Autonomy is a perception of control over environment. It is also a feeling of having options and choices in life. According to research, when we believe that stress is unavoidable, this stress will be highly toxic and destructive to our bodies. However, if we feel more in control over stress triggers, they will have significantly less effect on our lives. The sense of autonomy therefore becomes crucial for our psychological, emotional and even physical well being.

In an online environment, autonomy becomes one of the most important requirements for successful functioning and learning, as we often feel isolated and lost in cyberspace. Autonomy is also highly connected with online engagement. If your audience feels autonomous while interacting with your online products, courses, workshops and webinars, they will be more engaged with them.

Unfortunately, many online interactions are run in a very controlled manner, as if the business wants to somehow compensate for the lack of physical connection and provides almost no room for independent learning, struggle, and discovery.

The majority of marketing experts also teach you to position yourself as an expert, or the "guru". While the status of an expert is great for your brand, it really impedes the online learning of your customers. I suggest that instead of "giving" knowledge to your customers (where you are the ultimate source of wisdom, and your customer is a passive recipient of it), you develop a space where your customers can co-create the learning process with you and other participants.

Here are some practical suggestions for increasing autonomy and engagement in your online courses, webinars, and training workshops.

  1. Introduce main concepts but allow the participants to figure out their own solutions. For instance, you can assign your participants to different groups, and then ask them to discuss how they can solve a problem or overcome a challenge.
  2. Provide different options for assignments. When people have a choice, they feel empowered and will be more engaged with your content.
  3. Ask your participants to co-create course content with you. Maybe they will submit a case study that can be used as an illustration of a key concept, or maybe they can find images or other examples for your materials.
  4. Whenever possible, present information in various formats. We live in a time when learning happens on the go. Maybe your participants will listen to a podcast and then continue with a downloadable PDF or watch a video clip to get a better understanding of the material.
  5. Allow participants to set their goals and monitor their progress towards these goals. This will increase their sense of ownership and will heighten engagement with your products.
  6. If your online forums are kind of dull, try setting up contests. For instance, those who show the most participation will win a free consultation with you.

Whatever you do, try to give your participants some space to find their own solutions, make mistakes, struggle and overcome their fears.

However, in order for this to work in an online environment, you need to provide a strong emotional support, checking on those who seem to withdraw and reminding your participants on a regular basis that you keep their success in mind, that you are available for any questions, and that you will encourage and reward them along the way.

When you connect on the emotional level, while leaving space for your customers to identify their own relationship with your company and create their own journey through your products, then "The Ikea Effect" will help your brand reach a level it has never seen before.

Dr. Marina Kostina  |
Dr. Marina Kostina is a distance learning expert, and an online business coach. She helps small business owners to transcend distances and leverage their work online without losing personal connections with their clients. Marina is also a co-author of an Amazon Bestseller, "The Golden Climate in Distance Learning" that helps online trainers connect, engage and enjoy the online environment.