What “Future Readiness” Looks Like

For the past 15 years, we have lived in a V.U.C.A. world, one of vulnerability, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. In order to be successful in the future, we need to look at places not through the lens of real estate, but through the lens of content, argues Ibrahim Ibrahim, Managing Director of Portland Design.

By Ibrahim Ibrahim

The changes that we have experienced have not been cyclical, but structural. Consumers have changed beyond recognition, and what we are witnessing is being shaped by the rapidly changing relationship consumers have with brands, places, and each other.

The places that are thriving have broken free from their dependence on transactional retail and have created a mix of brands, amenities, non-retail uses, and experiences that attract new audiences by means of constant refreshment, novelty, and surprise. They have become more permeable, open, and connected to their communities and the public realm through activations such as events, markets, and community activities.

In order to succeed in the future, we need to look at places not through the lens of real estate, but through the lens of “content” that is responsive to culture, which, in turn, creates communities of interest in which brands and places play central roles.

Future success will be built on the four pillars of “Future Readiness”

  1. “Re-invent Convenience”: Consumers demand experiences that are easy, simple, and devoid of complexity. They will respond to autonomous, frictionless experiences and convenient “pit-stop” services.
  2. “Re-connect to Community”: Hermetically sealed, dreary, clone-like shopping centers and high streets have become irrelevant due to their disconnection with their respective communities, the public realm, and surrounding streetscapes. Successful places will be those that go beyond just transaction to delivering brands and services that galvanize communities and create a sense of belonging.
  3. “Re-imagine Place”: Successful places will deliver a mix of brands, services, and amenities that create anticipation, discovery, participation, and surprise. Moving beyond retail and F&B to a “S.W.E.L.C.H” mix, which is a blend of shopping, working, entertainment, learning, culture, and hospitality. 
  4. “Reposition Value”: Our audiences increasingly value personalization, authenticity, social experiences, health and wellness, and the environment. Successful places will partner with brands that have a purpose and prioritize ethical consumption, and, in turn, respond to the values of our consumers and communities.

The metrics of success have changed – it is no longer just about sales per square meter: In the future, a large proportion of transactions will not take place in stores. Therefore, we need to add value to the customer experience through ideas per sq m, engagement per sq m, surprise per sq m, senses per sq m, events per sq m, shares per sq m, and smiles per sq m.

In the future, successful places will have to speak like a magazine, change like a gallery, sell like a store, share like an app, build loyalty like a club, seed like an incubator, experiment like a laboratory, immerse people like a game, and entertain them like a show.

Places (and businesses) do not fail because they do the wrong things – they fail because they continue to do what used to be the right thing for too long.

Ibrahim Ibrahim
Ibrahim Ibrahim

is a futurist, retail strategist, and designer. He is the Managing Director of Portland Design in London, UK, and a Member of the ACROSS Advisory Board.

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