Give your sofa a second chance.
Combine mass production and mass customization in a clever way -- and you have a great business idea. This is exactly what Bemz, a Stockholm, Sweden, based company is doing. Founded three years ago, Bemz sells removable, washable slipcovers fitting the most popular models of IKEA sofas and chairs.
Bemz has chosen to focus on one specific competitive advantage: to offer their customers a unique product that they could not get easily in another way. The whole process is very lean and well crafted:
Products are sold exclusively on the internet, and all products are made to order. Customers choose from a huge selection of colors and patterns for the most popular IKEA sofas and armchair. Pricing is rather competitive compared what you would have to pay if you order these goods with a tailor, given that they have high quality fabrics only (Bemz is 100% private owned and not affiliated with IKEA).
Bemz focuses on the part of customization that is really important to customers: the design. To do this, they use a great standard platform: an IKEA sofa (given the market share of IKEA in Europe, this is a real standard platform). Bemz just produces a high-value upgrade for your sofa which you can "assemble" by your own – no tools required.
But this is also a win-win situation for IKEA: Their products are getting more interesting and valuable for consumers, but IKEA can focus on their main skills (mass marketing, distribution and design), but does not has to bother with an exploding complexity of custom designs.
What could be improved: Given the strong focus on customization on Bemz's web site, they could offer a bit more customization. While choice is not always valuable, for this product more fabric options could offer more value -- given that this is a product for the after-sales market where people may have very specific needs for decoration. And with regard to Bemz' limited customization options today, the delivery time of four weeks seems to be rather long, given that the actual throughput time in manufacturing is probably very short.
But overall, I really liked this example as a very lean and clean mass customization offering. Just imagine what you could get if you combine Threadless' user innovation and design capabilities (their sub site nakedandangry.com has wonderful patterns – just made for sofas!) with Bemz' custom manufacturing skills and IKEA's standard platform: this could become furniture mass customization 2.0.