How can brands and retailers best survive — and thrive — in this turbulent decade? Chris Sanderson, chief executive officer of The Future Laboratory, outlined some key strategies.

This story first appeared in the May 30, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Realize there is a flattening of ages.

“When we look at life expectancy and we look at population, we have to start to rethink age,” he said, explaining on one hand independent living is among people’s greatest desires. And they want to be young.

“We’ve got people starting off their careers [and] people …supposed to be retiring, and they’ve both often got very similar attitudes,” he said. “You can’t define consumers by age anymore; it’s about mind-sets and common values.”

A “generation-less” approach is therefore important.

There’s also the convergence phenomenon. Sanderson spoke of the “phygital,” or melding of physical and digital, plus a change in data and peoples’ relationship with it. The merging of technology and “big, friendly data is going to be doing some very interesting things for us as brands and as retailers in the months and years to come, which is predictive and preemptive retailing,” he said.

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Sanderson noted in today’s overloaded world there’s a “moving to extremes,” such as “five-two lifestyles” entailing five days of cutting back and two of binging, for instance. “As consumers, we’re pushing ourselves toward extremism.”

With all this in mind, The Future Laboratory teamed with Givaudan, Campaign Design and Selfridges to create the in-store Fragrance Lab, which eliminates consumer choice and instead — after people go through an experience-oriented process — prescribes tailor-made scents for which consumers pay up front.

“Fragrance Laboratory is…a journey into the outer reaches of scent, and it’s also an exploration that helps you to discover the essence of one’s self,” said Sanderson.

He called it an investigation of the future of retail.

“What [consumers] need is for you to be a pathfinder brand,” said Sanderson. “They need you to show them the way.”

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