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How The Biggest Property Companies Are Really Using Technology And Data

PropTech has taken off in 2017, data is the new gold and technology more generally is having a huge disruptive impact on every area of business and society.

Though the term PropTech is credited for having originated in Europe, the use of these solutions to manage commercial properties is gaining momentum worldwide.

Three of the U.K.’s largest property owners outlined how they are embracing technology and data to run their businesses.

Hammerson Group Head of Multichannel Sophie Ross — Landlords can show people where to buy a better shirt and profit from that

How The Biggest Property Companies Are Really Using Technology And Data
Hammerson group head of multichannel Sophie Ross

Hammerson group head of multichannel Sophie Ross said the ability to capture data is a new weapon in the arsenal of shopping centre owners. 

Previously retailers were cagey about providing footfall data to landlords, but now owners can use beacons to measure exactly how many people were in their centres and where they were going.

“Footfall is all about bringing people in to the centre so I know that if I can get more and different retailers in, and that increases footfall, then that will increase sales. So having good data on footfall is really interesting.”

It is influencing leasing strategy, she said.

Ross said Hammerson has seen big benefits from launching apps for its individual centres. People who use the app are more likely to visit Hammeson centres and spend money there, as measured by people redeeming offers pushed through the app.

She also said the app is helping it to encourage people to visit a broader number of stores, again increasing dwell time and the amount the average visitor spends.

The company’s app has a section called Style Seeker, which allows the user to take a photo of an object and to find a store in a Hammerson centre selling something similar to that object. For instance, the user could take a picture of a shirt and find a store selling one that looks like it, or even take a picture of a chair and buy an item of clothing in the same colour.

“We know that when people come to our centre they have a track — they park in the same place and go to the same three or four stores,” she said. “Style Seeker shows them what’s available in other stores and gets them off that track.”

AXA IM Real Assets Head of Leasing James Goldsmith — How tech is affecting occupiers is more important than PropTech

How The Biggest Property Companies Are Really Using Technology And Data
AXA IM - Real Assets head of leasing James Goldsmith

For James Goldsmith of AXA IM, while developments such as PropTech software and smart buildings are important, they are subservient to the more general trend of technology affecting how office occupiers run their businesses.

The rise of technology companies and the use of technology such as artificial intelligence in the workplace has fundamentally changed offices, with occupiers now prizing flexibility and space that can increase productivity.

“Businesses are needing to be much more collaborative and innovative, and much more flexible,” he said. “The business cycle is shorter and big businesses are needing to act like small businesses. If you talk to companies, they want more adaptable spaces and flexible leases. The flexible office sector is increasingly targeting big corporates so these companies have the choice not to take long leases anymore.”

As for how this affects offices themselves, Goldsmith said multi-let offices need to have brilliant WiFi connectivity and phone reception throughout, rather than just within individual offices. AXA’s 1.3M SF 22 Bishopsgate building will have its own app to allow companies in the building to collaborate.

Businesses are looking for space that increases productivity by making workers feel good, he said.

“People want to go to work and finish the week feeling energised and like they’ve learned something,” he said. “People have portfolio careers now, so running events that can help them learn new skills is important and attractive to occupiers.”

Aberdeen Standard Investment Deputy Head of Asset Management Stephen Walker — There is no rush to be an early adopter

Brent Cross Shopping Centre

In terms of PropTech solutions for property owners, it can seem like a new one is invented every day.

Aberdeen Standard’s Stephen Walker said solutions that allow the collection of data, once the data set becomes big enough, can become tools for predictive analytics as well once patterns become apparent.

But he said Aberdeen Standard is waiting to see how technology in the sector progresses before adopting a single platform across its entire portfolio.

“We’re looking at solutions that can prove a return on investment and help us do the simple stuff better,” he said. “We haven’t rolled anything out across our entire portfolio as yet though. It is a sector that is moving very quickly and there is a risk of committing to something too soon, that could easily change in the short term.”