This year there has been an incredible acceleration in the adoption of digital technology, particularly in the property sector, thanks to the unprecedented impact of the pandemic. Across all asset classes, the way we think about property has become synonymous with technology.

Dan O'Gorman

Dan O’Gorman

This surge in tech adoption is new for property. Proptech has fought to be heard for well over a decade, but has often been dismissed as overly innovative or simply misunderstood.

The reality is that proptech is a game changer and the industry’s decision makers are finally waking up to its potential. Occupiers’ needs now have as much importance as those of asset owners and building managers in creating a space where people really want to be.

Allowing occupiers to view the latest building updates, book rooms and facilities, and interact with their environments and each other through a digital platform has been shown to increase satisfaction and occupier retention rates. The boundaries between physical and digital are blurring, and weaving a strong digital user experience into a space strengthens its offering, providing a frictionless experience for occupiers.

This year alone, we are seeing building teams seek digital solutions that allow a touchless experience not just for small aspects of a business but entire portfolios. This helps residents to feel at ease in their homes and arms businesses with a digital-led strategy to reintroduce occupiers to their spaces. The pandemic has also sped up social changes such as flexible working, and studies have shown that people would like to retain an element of this in future.

Need for human connection

But our research has also shown that people miss the human connection of occupying a physical space: collaborating, networking and socialising. Commercial buildings should focus on providing experiences to facilitate this.

Businesses will be seeking places offering this as the key to their success and ability to attract talent, so commercial spaces that have adopted technology will have a competitive advantage.

Weaving a strong digital user experience into a space strengthens its offering

Proptech firms, once seen as the “new kids on the block” and often only associated with start-ups run by aspirational entrepreneurs, are now seeing experienced property professionals leave traditional outfits to embrace the new ways: it seems proptech is here to stay.

At Locale, as we celebrate our 15th anniversary, our vision for proptech is coming to fruition. People expect to see it in every aspect of life: in the workplace, retail spaces and homes. The industry is now understanding the ability of proptech to drive efficiencies and often a wealth of insight, and to help create spaces tailored to occupiers’ needs.

Crucially, building managers are playing catch-up as they realise that rather than automating them out of a job, as they have long feared, technology is doing the opposite. Instead of replacing people, it is empowering them to get closer to occupiers. Building managers can finally concentrate on what really matters: customer experience.

This is just the beginning. Now proptech has people’s attention, we can focus on the next stage of innovation and challenge the status quo even further. No longer a niche sector, proptech is fast becoming a necessary part of real estate. UK companies often talk about being innovative and ahead of the curve: it is time to prove it.

Dan O’Gorman is chief product officer at Locale