Reasons to be cheerful; the optimism of a business futurist

Having a broad background in retail, hospitality and brand innovation tends to mean that people think you can answer any question, on almost anything. They’ll ask ‘What will the next 20 years look like in… city living, how we’ll work, what our homes will be like, how we’ll shop, travel, have fun, look after our health and relate to each other?’ I’m not Nostradamus, but the consulting work GDR and our Business Futurists do for big consumer-facing brands is diverse and fascinating and this gives me a privileged helicopter view of major societal shifts impacting cross functional businesses. It’s also given me a unique insight into how companies are adapting to the changing needs of the consumer and how we have adapted and flexed since the coronavirus pandemic struck and transformed our world, our way of living, working and shopping.

My job is to inform and inspire. I help brands, retailers, investment companies and property developers think differently about how to create a better future. Since the brief for this was gloriously open, here are some of the things that, as a business futurist, give me cause for optimism. Let’s face it, we’ve all had enough doom and gloom. Covid-19 (out of necessity) has caused many of us to become more digitally savvy. Sales online have surged, along with D2C services and IoT and AI automation. This gives us a preview of the possibilities of the future built around connected smart cities. The smart city experiments happening in pockets all over the world have the power to save us from ourselves – from our increasingly unaffordable and unsustainable lives. Home-building, education, entertainment, the nature of work, consumption of products and services, transport, last-mile delivery and community connection are all undergoing revolutions.

Health, wellness and the mitigation of factors that challenge a population’s fitness in the face of an invading viral army has, for some time now been near the top of the priority list of the F&B, hospitality, pharma, beauty and supplement industries. The direction of travel has been towards genetically differentiated AI-driven ultra-personalisation, but I believe the next wave of innovation will be in anti-senescence. Ill health and ageing are inextricably linked. The next ten years may well reveal the secrets of the world’s ‘Blue Zones’, where people have long been known to live longer, happier lives, and where balance with nature bestows the benefits of robust health even for the very old.

Speaking of nature, of course, it’s game over if we fail to structurally adjust for a more environmentally sustainable future. GDR’s analysts and strategists monitor global innovations that have the potential to shift the dial at scale. I’m excited about shared and fractional ownership platforms, circular systems for packaged goods, bio-plastics and edible protein made from carbon capture, as well as experiments with Donut economics.

My specialism is in connecting the dots across sectors and geographies to identify future consumer-facing trends. GDR has a proprietary process to do this like no other consultancy and after 23 years in the business, we know a lot of experts. Be reassured; despite the significant short-term challenges, we’re feeling optimistic about the future.

Kate Ancketill is a retail futurist and CEO of GDR Creative Intelligence. To book her (or any other speaker) for your event, please contact JLA here

Articles

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