Nowadays, we can order groceries and food with three clicks on our smartphones, board a plane using a QR code and order packages online in no time from companies like Bol.com or Coolblue. That convenience, but also the insight associated with working digitally, should also become common practice in the real estate market, argues Jan-Willem Jeucken, Regional Manager Europe at Yardi.
“We also want the ease of use and customer journey that companies like Uber, Gorillas and Amazon offer,” Jeucken proposes. “The strange thing is that we use this kind of easy-to-use technology at home, but when we are at work, we still send each other Excel files and the like. We don’t really work together on a single platform. Even though technology can provide that connecting function. Uber itself does not own any taxis, but you can easily book a trip from A to B via the platform. In just three clicks. It’s incredibly convenient. On top of that, Uber receives data on its journeys and can take actions based on them. But it can also use its platform to offer new services, such as from bikes and scooters to food delivery under the brand Uber Eats. However, those kinds of platforms are only 10% reliant on technology – 90% is vision and creativity. Concepts are built on top of those platforms. Concepts which, based on data, you can then refine, improve and expand.”
Thinking in this way (digitally) provides real estate parties with opportunities. Jeucken: “In profitability of real estate properties, because you can track it exactly. But you can also create a similar customer journey by offering additional services. That requires thinking, not in terms of bricks and how often you rent them out but taking a broader view that is more common in Britain and the United States, the tenant is, after all, the end customer. If your client is a busy young professional, they need a beautifully styled and furnished apartment that they can move into immediately. With a reception area in the flat where they can work or bring in shared services. By placing sensors in the building, you can then find out exactly what the footfall is, who is using what and how you can improve your service. A company such as Greystar in America, for example, is already doing that very well. Instead of bricks, you have data. And based on that data, you can make the apartment complex more attractive and therefore earn more from it. You follow people’s needs and habits and build services around them. That results in a much more satisfied client than if you just send them an invoice every month and only get involved when there’s a problem.”
“This, too, is value maximisation,” Jeucken believes. “Customers are also willing to pay more if you make things easier for them or offer something unique. Look at parties in student housing like the Student Experience in Amsterdam. This principle applies not only to residential but also to retail and office properties. Those who know who their tenants are in their building can use this information to further perfect their concept with additional services. By creating an experience in a shopping centre, for example, or by looking at how visitors shop, and adjusting the format accordingly. Boundaries are becoming blurred in real estate. Residential units, shops and offices are becoming interconnected, sometimes in the same building. There is then value in knowing that I live at 27a, do my shopping at Albert Heijn around the corner and often get my crisps and coke there. Because then you can offer me similar products right at my front door and I’m fine with that because it makes things easier for me.”
Improved customer journey
Real estate also has a customer journey with data, Jeucken concludes. “As a real estate party, look at how you can improve that customer journey based on data in order to create added value. Again, this is only 10% reliant on technology and 90% on vision and creativity. Important pillars for success are vision, leadership and the will to truly change. These are the keys to a successful digital transformation that goes beyond just focusing on the bricks. I sometimes feel that the real estate market in the Netherlands is doing too well. Why would you want to innovate? I am happy to engage in a discussion about the usefulness and necessity of doing just that. Furthermore, if the market takes a downturn, you may be left with real estate that has less or no added value for that client, or because you can achieve better profit maximisation. Living, shopping and working are services that overlap with each other. Housing, for example, is then the service you offer. Not the bricks themselves, but fine living. Once you realise that, how can you design the service concept in the best possible way? That’s the challenge for real estate parties. Don’t see bricks as an end, but as a means.”