Being able to virtually walk through an office space, and see the view from its window, for example, is becoming a new reality, as customers have shifted towards a more digital-savvy lifestyle during the 2020 global lockdown.
As such, property companies are being advised to adopt a multi-channel approach, expanding on and improving their online offerings.
“It’s constantly changing,” explained Robert Thomas, Director – Head of Agency at CORE – said during Day Two of Cityscape Summit 2020. “I have been here since 2006; before the days of property portals when you still had printed media and were calling someone up. That’s shifting and I’m glad it has gone digital!”
He explained that most companies today need to reach their customers via other channels, whether through their own SEO, online campaigns, LinkedIn or other forms of social media. And with the new generation coming into the workforce as they graduate and become senior managers, they have been brought up with a digital mindset, where everything starts with a Google search.
“I am sure it will keep changing and moving and the portals will get better,” Thomas said. “The technology will get better.”
Behnam Bargh, Director at CRC, echoed similar thoughts, as he said the first impression of a commercial property for a client is looking at the picture of the property. In that sense, portals become very important in a customer’s journey when looking for an office, retail space or warehouse.
“This is just the start, it will evolve further, and we have seen a huge shift from people searching from their desktop to their phones,” he explained. “It is a journey that we just started a few years ago and it will evolve for the better. It also reduces the barrier of entry for other real estate [companies], making it into a bit of a playing field in terms of competition.”
Matt Gregory, CCO at Houza, added that he is currently in talks with various companies that have 360 views and walkthroughs of properties – a trend that emerged around seven months ago.
“People want to walk through and see the view, what facilities are there, and we have to develop our site to include all of that,” he noted. “It takes the landlord to want to invest in that as well, but there is a resurgence in that now. It used to be an added cost… now it is necessary.”
A shift towards fitted and furnished space is also taking place when it comes to offices while, in retail, there has been a rise in cloud kitchens and more community-oriented malls.
Boutique businesses are said to have performed better than larger brands, and an emphasis on building quality has become more imperative.
“Building management is critical and it is often overlooked,” Thomas said.
Bargh agreed, adding that managed buildings are better looked after, and service is increasing in importance as well.