Imagine you have a child who will go to university for the first time next week.
Imagine this child will be living on campus and, for the first time in said child's life, will need the type of household tools and supplies that were readily available to use at home.
Now... list 20 things your child will need to buy to be ready for "adulting".
(Take a minute and try to think of 20 things before you continue reading.)
I'm willing to bet that simple exercise was more difficult than you thought it would be.
And I'm willing to bet that if you actually had a child moving away next week, a list like the one IKEA provides in-store would help immensely.
Except IKEA goes beyond just providing a list.
They put everything on that list in a large, plastic container (which, quite conveniently, is one of the 20 items on the list) and will sell you this "University Starter Box" for just $99.
You may notice that if you add up the retail selling price of everything included in the kit, the total would be $123.82... yet the box is sold for just $99.
Here's the thing: the value of the kit isn't in the discount.
The value comes from helping you to anticipate what your child will need, which is worth far more than the $25 savings IKEA's starter kit also provides.*
We don't all have children heading off to live on campus next week.
But for those of us who have businesses, we all have customers who could benefit from our help in identifying what they need in advance of when they realize they need it.
And if you need a few thought-starters...
Walmart: "We notice that in your last click-and-collect order, you purchased infant diapers. It's common for infants to get uncomfortable baby rashes, so while we hope you won't need it, we'd like to offer you this coupon code for $5 off a jar of Sudocrem on your next order."
Netflix: "We notice you binged all three seasons of Titans as soon as they were released, and thought you might like to know that Season 4 arrives in two months. To ensure you don't miss it, we've added it to your "My List" and will send you an email on the day it's released to let you know it's available for binging, but just click here if you don't want us to do this."
That Wheel And Tire Shop:** "Hi there! Our records show you usually bring us your cars during the second week of November for us to put on your winter tires, but you haven't booked your appointment yet... so I thought I'd send you a friendly reminder. If you'd like, you can use my TidyCal link to book something now and reserve your spot. Also, keep in mind that they're forecasting early snow this year, so you might want to grab one of the few remaining spots I have available during the first week of November."
If you know your customers and the reasons they buy from you, anticipating their needs won't be very difficult.
And it will almost certainly be time well spent.
* Sure, some of you may rightly point out that the contents of the kit alone would not be enough for a child heading to university, and that additional purchases would be required. Some may also argue that not everything IKEA includes in its kit is absolutely necessary; for instance, does a university student need a soap dispenser when most liquid soaps you can buy these days come with a pump? These are fair and decent arguments, although I'd humbly suggest they do not negate the broader point of this post, which is that anticipating your customers' needs and finding a way to address them is a great way to earn both their appreciation and future business.
** A huge shout-out to Greg at That Wheel And Tire Shop, in Bradford; he doesn't send me these types of reminders, but he always manages to squeeze me in when I forget to book my twice-a-year tire changeover appointments and then suddenly realize I really, really need to get this service done.