We hear this myth about commercial real estate time and time again: “CRE is slow to adopt to tech.” In our experience of bringing a CRE technology platform to market, we believe this is simply untrue.
The issue is not our old-school dinosaur of an industry. The true challenge facing CRE is how well technology works. People—whether they’re in CRE or not—are unlikely to jump head first into using any tool, platform or app that doesn’t adequately meet their needs.
The reasons a particular technology may not work for you are many. The pain point it addresses may not be acute enough. You may not see the point in investing time to learn how to use it. The learning curve may be too steep. It might not be intuitive or user-friendly enough to use. Ultimately if technology doesn’t save you time, money or both, what’s the point?
That said, we predict a massive shift in CRE technology adoption in the months to come. Better, smarter and more efficient tools will enter the market that will be irresistibly beneficial for brokers, tenants, landlords and other CRE professionals. Technology solutions that capitalize on these trends will have a massive edge, gaining widespread adoption and momentum.
1. Consolidation and Single-Source Platforms
From tenant-agent matchmaking and tech-enabled brokerage to lease comps and property research, there are an overwhelming number of technologies at our disposal. Each of these individual tools provides a specific solution to one key component of the CRE process. Even when those individual tools work well, no one can be expected to use all of them at once.
“In the real estate space, if you study the behavior of the industries’ professionals, especially on the commercial side, there is simply no room or time for anyone to be using multiple tech products for multiple job functions,” says Michael Beckerman, the founder and CEO of The News Funnel.
The fewer tools CRE professionals need to use and fewer websites they need to visit to do their job, the more efficiently they can work. That’s why we predict that consolidation will be a major trend this year. Whether it’s enhancing a product through acquisition of another, integration of complementary tools or the creation of new technology solutions that consider several pain points at once, 2017 is the year of consolidation. People are looking for one-stop-shop technologies to meet their many needs.
2. Self-Service Solutions That Expedite Decision Making
Any CRE transaction requires a great deal of back and forth, especially at the beginning stages. There are requirements to identify, spaces to tour and options to narrow down. This process has traditionally been a manual and time-consuming one, requiring multiple on-site meetings and never-ending email chains.
We’ve seen self-service technology achieve disrupt other industries. Consider how Zillow brought enhanced search to residential real estate shoppers and how E-Trade empowered individuals with stock brokerage data. CRE is next.
With technologies such as Virtual Reality to tour spaces, Artificial Intelligence to learn users’ preferences and even Google Maps integration to serve up location data, self-service CRE tech solutions are on the rise. The more data people have at their fingertips, the faster they can accelerate their decision making.
This seemingly simple solution is not an easy one. Our industry has long struggled with siloed data. One-third of the industry still relies on spreadsheets for asset and portfolio management, according to a CRE innovation report from Altus Group. Those who are able to consolidate data and translate it for the benefit of self-service solutions will be the real winners in the CRE tech race.
3. Experience-Driven Apps and Tools
We’ve observed the success of technologies that prioritize user experience for consumers across all markets. Think Uber for cabs, Instacart for groceries and Amazon for… well, anything. Tap your smartphone screen and it’s on its way. No learning curve. Just what you want, when you want it.
While these apps and platforms are incredibly easy to use, the real technological feat is everything happening behind the scenes to make every transaction happen. Users don’t even realize how complex and robust these technologies are. Their go-to apps get the job done without any hassle.
Ease of use promises to be a huge differentiator in CRE tech this year. Those that consider a positive and simplified experience for every user — broker, tenant, landlord or someone else entirely — will see the fastest adoption. This means top-notch UI, compatibility across all devices and access to always-up-to-date data. And don’t forget the human aspect, too. User experience certainly includes technology, but it also covers how people behind the product interact with their users. Producing positive experiences is more important than ever in such a competitive landscape. Every step of the user experience should be considered.
What All These Trends Have in Common
You may have noticed a theme in these CRE tech trends. Technology, no matter who it’s built for or for what purpose, must take a holistic approach to meeting its users’ needs. The market is already crowded, and it will only continue to become noisier. Innovators will succeed not only by creating new technologies, but also by building comprehensive, end-to-end solutions that make people’s lives easier.