What does it mean to futureproof?

Futureproofing is a process of exploring trends to create a future in which your business will thrive and succeed. For us at Sklar Wilton & Associates, it’s the outcome of our proprietary Disruption Audit which uses a STEEP framework to look at socio-demographic, technology, economic, environment, and political trends affecting businesses.

This process helps executive leaders understand where their business and brands sit within their industry and society today, and move forward to build strategies that will help them succeed wherever the world is going. Sometimes, that means creating the future that will help their brand succeed.

With the massive disruptions taking place in today’s world – a global pandemic, an economic crisis, extensive travel restrictions – futureproofing is both valuable and required. The pandemic caused an unprecedented amount of change as well as an unprecedented use of the word ‘unprecedented!’

Planning for the future is an inexact science but having helped so many brands in so many categories plan for and create their own futures, we’ve discovered a lot of guiding principles.

 

Every brand needs a unique approach to disruption and innovation.

As with most things, there is no single method for understanding the present and creating the future that works for every brand. For some brands, an engaging and self-reflective one-hour session with disruption experts will set them on their way. Other brands need experienced facilitators to guide small and large teams through multi-day, online Disruption Audit workshops. Similarly, some brands need to work slowly and methodically whereas other brands need to act quickly. For example:

  • With the onset of COVID-19, some brands were immediately impacted. Airline travel halted. Hotel reservations were canceled. In-restaurant dining disappeared. These businesses needed to pivot immediately. Planning for a future one, two, or five years away would be too late.
  • Over the last several years, self-checkouts have been slowly arriving at stores, sometimes appreciated by customers and other times begrudgingly rejected by customers who preferred more personal service. COVID-19 has shown that a transition away from face-to-face services is being met with increased approval and more businesses might be inclined to consider self-serve models over the next five years. How might retailers plan for this future?

 

The scope of disruption analysis is broader than you realize.

We’re used to thinking about what consumers want, need, and buy. When we know which brands they buy, who they buy it for, why they do and don’t buy certain brands, we can get a pretty good understanding of what they might need in the future. But that’s not enough. And it could even lead us down the wrong path.

Consumer behaviour and business processes are highly dependent on society, the economy, politics, the environment, and so much more. An effective Disruption Audit helps brands see the far horizon and monitor the catalysts that will make their world change.

 

Brands need to dig deeply and broadly.

It’s not enough to look at trends within your own industry. Yes, home phones were decimated by mobile phones. But, bookstores, newspapers, travel agents, bookkeepers, recruiters, and translators are all being decimated by self-serve, easy to use, and much cheaper digital services. Drones are taking over delivery services, 3D printing is taking over replacement parts, and AI is even affecting the beverage industry and the food industry.

No matter your industry, every brand needs to look to every other industry to keep up with trends that could ultimately end up affecting their business. To better help our clients, we’ve partnered with Trend Hunter to help ensure we’re always connected to what’s new, whether big or small. In future proofing, one never knows what small activity or innovation could be the leading indicator of a new trend. It’s imperative to see things at ground level while always keeping an eye on big systemic areas like economic change and socio-demographic trends.

What’s next?

No one wants to be the next Kodak or Blockbuster. If you’re looking for systemic ways to proactively address threats and opportunities, let us help you with a Disruption Audit. Whether you need a short presentation to get you started or a multi-day worksession, we’ll help you and your team better assess the future landscape of your world and create an aligned view of the future for your industry, your category, and your company. With this aligned view of the future, not only will you be better equipped to futureproof your brands from potential disruption, you will also highlight opportunities for disruption themselves. 

Be the disruptor, not the disrupted!

 

Ready to learn more?

See how we used our Research Decision Wheel to help Sport Chek identify insight needs and come up with a winning strategy. Or, learn how we helped our health and beauty client identify key target groups, determine product positioning, and predict the size of the potential audience.