Can Time Be Used as a Currency? How Did IKEA Turn Time Into Money?

Can Time Be Used as a Currency? How Did IKEA Turn Time Into Money?

Have you ever thought about this? What is money? You might say that money is currency notes that are accepted as a legal tender by the government of a nation. Well, you are not wrong here but think more deeply, think of the concept of money, how it came to existence. Is this the only currency or there can be a better perspective to look at it. Can brands incentivise to change your viewpoint of money? Let's figure out how a company changed money norms.

How can Time be converted to Money?
How IKEA turned 'Time' into 'Money'
Benefits of Buying with your Time

How can Time be converted to Money?

Suppose you want to buy something, let's say the latest iPhone. You go to the store and you exchange your money with the iPhone. Simple right? Actually, no.

Let me make it clearer. There is a principle in microeconomics that says ‘the price of something is what you sacrifice to get it’. You might think it's the money that you sacrificed to buy the product, but think again. How did you earn that money? How much ‘time’ did it take you to earn that money? Yes, you are near the answer.

This might look weird in the first view but it is the ultimate truth. We are all told that money is currency from ad infinitum. Such culture all around us has made this entrenched in our minds. So much so that we started to believe that it is somewhat the most important thing in our life, ignoring the fact that it is time which is supreme. Well, not being more philosophical here, let's move on.

So we just saw that time is the ultimate currency (at its root). This is not a hypothesis anymore, rather it is gradually becoming a reality. As more and more people get to know the importance of time, it is slowly getting in the main focus of the brain.

Well, not only our brains but some companies have focused on it too. For example, IKEA.

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How IKEA turned 'Time' into 'Money'

IKEA is a Swedish retailer that deals in ready to assemble furniture. Be it kitchenware, office chair, and all sorts of home appliances. It has started a campaign where it allows customers when they shop from their stores, not to pay with currency but to pay with their time. Yes, their time.

IKEA Dubai announced that customers can pay with the time that they took to reach the stores. They are scanned by IKEA staff for their Google maps history and then according to the time that it records, customers can pay for buying any goods at the store. This is restricted to Dubai only for now but can spread as the campaign gets successful.

IKEA Buy with your Time Campaign
IKEA Buy with your Time Campaign

IKEA's giant stores are mostly and primarily built on the shores of cities. As a result, customers travel more in order to visit the store. So obviously there has to be some pulling incentive. Some incentive which is more powerful than the pain of travelling borne by customers.

So IKEA innovated this incentive by giving a discount, as it can be seen as a discount. It says fine, if you travel to our store from a good distance then we will let you pay with time.

IKEA Dubai 'Buy with your Time' Price Tag
IKEA Dubai 'Buy with your Time' Price Tag

Everything in the store was marked with tags of money as well as in terms of time. During the checkout, all the customers have to do is to show their google maps history and travel to its stores. This was the “Buy with your time” campaign that it initiated. Which as expected became an instant hit.

How did IKEA Benefited from 'Buy with your Time' Campaign

This “Buy with your time” option definitely changed the way customers shop at IKEA. The benefits that the campaign entailed were as follows-

Visit Frequency

This innovative marketing technique promoted more and more visits to the store. Now customers would agree to travel long distances to come and shop at IKEA which lead to better customer loyalty. This incentive for time also leads to better customer retention. Once a person enters IKEA’s premises, the store would do its job in luring them to buy more products.

Store time

When someone uses his good chunk of time to travel to a destination, then he normally prefers to spend more time at the place to make the travel worth it. This is normal psychological behaviour but works wonders for IKEA. As the furniture retailer installed an incentive to travel longer times, customers tend to be in the store for more time than average. They tend to buy more products impulsively.


IKEA has recorded in the past data that most customers that are loyal, travel an inordinate amount of time to travel to IKEA stores. So, the company thought of incentivising this behaviour, which will not only build better relationships with the existing customers but also encourage new customers to build that behaviour.

Google Maps

The involvement of Google maps in this promotion technique has added more users to the map services by Google. It also means that customers have to allow Google to track the time that they travel on road. It also encourages behaviour of ‘it's fine to get tracked until you are getting incentivised’. This thing scares privacy conscious people a little but most are okay with it.

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There is sure that this campaign went well. It worked perfectly fine with customers, making them visit IKEA more often. This also pushed other retail brands to think about adding this as a promotion tool to their inventory.

This experiment was thoughtful and tells us how one currency can be shifted with another more universal in nature. It also showcased how customers react to incentives that are time consuming. It also reveals how we are not trained to see time as a currency. While companies change the fate and face of the world, who knows time becomes the next currency?


How much time do people spend at IKEA?

According to a store manager the average consumer spends around 2½ to 3 hours at IKEA.

What is IKEA Buy With Your Time campaign?

The campaign, “Buy With Your Time,” was created to help shoppers who live on far away from the IKEA stores and spend a lot of time traveling to the stores.

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