The future of the retail environment is set for a major shake-up, according to a new report by Ryder Alliance.

Spearheaded by Australian practice i2C Architects in partnership with global firm Ryder, the report looked at shopping centres across Australia and New Zealand, and some parts of Africa and Asia.

The report concluded future spaces will be geared towards more mixed-use environments for shopping, entertainment, education, and community. This comes as the modern consumer will be more creative, technology-led, and socially conscious, creating the need for more informative and connected spaces.

Anthony Merlin, co-founder and managing director of i2C, said the emphasis will not solely be on sales from products and tenant stores, but rather on creating and nurturing a relationship with the consumer that transcends the store.

“The experience a customer has is likely to dictate the centre they choose to visit, and this experience is influenced and enhanced by key factors such as technology, health and wellbeing, sustainability practices, community ties, and mixed-use offering,” he said.

Accounting for approximately 46 per cent of total retail space, ‘Retail Trade’ is the single highest private sector contributor to employment in Australia. In 2019, total retail sales made through Australian shopping centres was estimated to be $114 billion, equivalent to 7.4 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product.

The report found that while previous shopping centre tenants used technology in purely logistical and transactional ways, modern-day entrepreneurs will leverage technologies in a way that allows them to interface and communicate with consumers.

Information and data collection is at an all-time high, and with the retail sector continuing to evolve and harness their information and data use, insight and predictions into their customers preferences will drive sales and influence consumer behaviour. Customer data is then used to influence tenancy mix, leasing strategy, and shift patterns in foot traffic accordingly.

Findings also discovered that smart speakers and voice shopping technology is likely to be the next big thing in the retail world next to sustainability, as customer demand for eco-friendly and ethical products is only forecast to grow.

Finally, the future of the shopping centre will also see it geared towards the town centre experience; becoming a meeting place within the suburbs that offer retail outlets, hotels, office towers, entertainment options, and residential spaces. This model is already being explored across Australia, with Chadstone welcoming a hotel integration and apartments being built atop shopping centres at The Glen.