Have you ever looked at the lights in Piccadilly Circus, or the Walkie-Talkie, or a high-tech shopping centre like Trinity in Leeds and wondered about the work that must go into developing and maintaining them?

I have – so this week on the show I’ve tracked down a guy from the company who owns them.

Craig O’Donnell is head of information systems at Land Securities. That’s the company that owns stuff like the lights at Piccadilly (plus a ton more – look at the full portfolio on the website, it’s seriously impressive). LS is in the top 50 companies in the UK, so Craig’s in a pretty good position to comment on the current landscape and what’s around the corner.

craig o'donnell

One of the things I wondered was – since these big projects can take years to develop and build, how do they make sure they’re not outdated when the ribbon’s cut? He answered that and plenty more.

We talked about:
•  The difference between the London office market and the wider retail market;
•  What’s disrupting retail;
•  Land Securities’ iconic property portfolio;
•  How spending habits have changed since the financial crisis in 2008;
•  What’s so special about Trinity in Leeds;
•  The technological leap involved in bringing street food into shopping centres;
•  How things like parking and space can affect a retail development;
•  Driverless cars and the VIP experience;
•  How to ‘predict the future’ when it comes to customer experience;
•  The Internet of Things and what it can offer;
•  And the virtues of ‘adolescence’.

Craig O’Donnell on…

The future of shopping centres:

People are looking for an experience. They are not just going into buy something, again, they are looking to have something to eat, go to the cinema, possibly a bit of bowling. Have that full family day out.

The importance of Wi-Fi:

Wi-Fi is one of those utilities that is a basic human right these days.

The fine lines in data harvesting:

We have got to find that fine line between that creepy and cool as well, that we are not harvesting too much data that is going to then become creepy. We want to give data that will help the retailers understand their customers better and will help the consumer have a more seamless journey throughout the shopping experience.

The future of bricks and mortar retail:

I think retailers will hold less stock. They will invest in a physical store to create that experience, and it might be that if I go and they don’t have the size of my shoes in the colour and style that I want, that they will say well why don’t you go and have something to eat at one of our partners across there. Here is a 15% discount, come back in an hour and the shoes will be here for you.

People Tell Richard Stuff: Episode 21
Craig O’Donnell, Head of Information Systems, Land Securities

Craig O'Donnell, head of information systems, Land Securities