Ahead of his session at Cushman & Wakefield’s retailiate 2019 event speaking about tech and augmented reality, Michael Valdsgaard, founder of Valdsgaard & Partners and Leader of Digital Transformation at Inter IKEA Systems, takes time out to talk to us about how technology could change the retail property landscape, how property professionals can keep up with change and reveals his childhood gaming passion.
[Cushman & Wakefield]: Have you always been interested in tech and how did you come to have a professional interest in the subject?
[Michael Valdsgaard]: I have always had an intuitive understanding of tech. When the retail sector started to get disrupted by digital technologies, I was entrusted with the task of devising a strategy for how to handle this at IKEA’s HQ. After working in this capacity for the past 10 years I have arrived at a higher appreciation of technology. It is part and parcel of our everyday lives now, so I feel lucky and honoured to help others.
How do you see technology changing the property landscape over the next few years, particularly from a retail/leisure perspective?
The world is changing at the fastest pace ever and it is constantly accelerating. Although people will still have a fundamental need to shop, the retail property sector will be disrupted in physical terms, just like all other industries. Due to the nature of the business and what it takes to run it, this will take time, so there is no need to panic, but be assured that it will happen!
OK, so how can property professionals (whether landlords, occupiers or their advisers) best keep up with the changes you are predicting?
The best way to keep up is to invest in innovation. The good news is that that’s actually not very difficult. What is harder is getting established businesses to want to innovate and evolve, especially when that can mean disrupting an income stream that has historically been a fundamental part of their existence.
And while property people are innovating, is there a specific tech strand that they should be watching?
Yes – mobility. Think self-driving cars, but without the cars! Imagine meeting rooms on wheels, for example, or getting your hair done during your commute. This one is hard to grasp, but much closer than people think.
It sounds exciting! As do the augmented reality (AR) projects you’ve been involved with. Tell us more about how that could affect the retail/leisure marketplace.
I’m the guy behind the IKEA Place concept and I became a world pioneer in immersive tech through that. This kind of technology (AR, visual search, artificial intelligence) will totally change the game long term and be just as disruptive to retail as ecommerce has been so far.
Does that mean tech hardware will change, too?
Certainly – smartphones will disappear within the next 10 years. Everything will be available everywhere at all times through voice and visual interfaces, with no keyboards involved.
Talking of keyboards, are you a bit of a whizz when it comes to computer games?
I’ve never been a big gamer, as it takes up too much time. My one exception is football – I played FIFA on PlayStation when I was younger.
Finally, do you have any personal weakness when shopping for yourself?
Only when I’m stressed out: then I tend to spend money on stuff I don’t need, just to make me feel good again!