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Time really is money at IKEA Dubai…

Fancy a Billy bookcase? That’ll cost you an hour and 55 minutes. Or an iconic IKEA hot dog? A snip at just 5 minutes.

Yes, you read that right; IKEA have turned time into actual currency in their new Dubai store.  

In February, to promote the Jebel Ali megastore, IKEA began letting customers exchange the time they’ve spent travelling to the store, for products.

“Cash, card or time?”

The campaign is called ‘Buy With Your Time’, and IKEA has put a specific ‘time value’ on each product in the store – alongside the price in regular dirhams.

Once they get to the cash desk, customers are offered three payment options: cash, card or time. If they choose to pay with their time, they simply show their Google Maps Timeline (interesting brand partnership there…) to prove how long they’ve spent travelling to the store.

Out of town, not out of touch

This is clever, insightful thinking. Because while this is clearly a brand promotion rather than a revenue driver, it’s still an ingenious spin on the well-known fact that IKEA stores are always out of town (Jebel Ali itself is 22 miles south west of Dubai).

A kink in the thinking?

But here’s a slight paradox. IKEA is also opening a new car-free green store in Vienna in 2021. Which means that the brand is on one hand encouraging customers to drive long distances… while on the other, promoting car-free shopping. Is that a sign of a flexible brand adapting to its environment – or one that’s simply piggybacking cultural concerns?

But hey, buzz beats all

The Dubai promotion feels innovative and exciting, and will generate lots of buzz (let’s face it, we’re talking about it here). But will it increase loyalty and traffic to the store over the long term? While designed to make customers feel that IKEA understands their time pressures, it feels more like a very clever, outrageously engaging gimmick. Which, to be fair, is sometimes enough.

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