A question I often get asked is how relevant online marketing and portals are for large buildings.

Andrew Miles

Often this is phrased as a sweeping statement: “I only work on the largest instructions, therefore I don’t think online marketing is relevant to me.”

This has always seemed counter-intuitive and backward-looking. Tenants are doing their research online for virtually everything else nowadays, so why would they stop when searching for real estate - and why should they stop above a certain floor or unit size? Sometimes people just get attached to old ways of thinking.

At Realla, we’ve always thought that online, including portals, is an important part of the marketing mix regardless of the size of the building you are letting or selling. This is one of the pillars of why we founded our business - and now we have the data to prove it.

In response to a specific request from a global agency, we took a deep dive into all the activity on Realla’s commercial property portal in the past six months for office buildings. We found that large office buildings are searched for and viewed heavily, with no tail-off in size.

The data shows that 0 sq ft to 5,000 sq ft office spaces are viewed slightly less than in proportion to the number of listings on Realla (0.9x), spaces from 5,000 sq ft to 10,000 sq ft are viewed slightly more than in proportion and 10,000 sq ft-plus office spaces are viewed even more (1.34x).

Even if you look only at the largest office spaces, those of 20,000 sq ft-plus, they are viewed more than the number of listings would imply (1.28x).

The drive to online

The slight under-representation of sub-5,000 sq ft space in terms of page views is, we believe, due to the ferocious marketing activity of the serviced office operators and brokers in this segment, which increases competition for traffic. However, the data clearly shows that tenants research and view properties of all sizes online.

We now have institutional landlords enquiring regularly about marketing large commercial properties on our platform across all asset classes, many in excess of 20,000 sq ft. These landlords are now expecting their buildings to be well represented online, as a complement to other marketing activity. This is true even in segments (for example, larger central London offices) where nearly all prospective tenants are represented.

Commercial property search is moving online, with no exceptions

Commercial property search is moving online, with no exceptions. The drivers for this are simple. Tenants want the most transparent information on supply, especially when they’re making a very large investment. They want to be able to ‘deep dive’ on the properties they like, viewing immersive 3D tours and other media, which online obviously facilitates.

With insightful information at their fingertips, tenants can shortcut their search to get to the handful of properties that suit them.

London skyline

Source: Shutterstock/Sven Hansche

The largest offices are also the most frequently searched

Similarly, tenant representation agents can shortcut some of the most tedious aspects of their job to focus on the highest-value activities, such as providing expert professional advice and facilitating complex deals. Far from being an optional extra, a strong online presence, easily searchable, is a competitive advantage in a world where much of the industry still does not pay enough attention to this.

It’s time to put to bed the myth that online marketing and portals are only relevant for small commercial property. The data simply doesn’t support it. If you ignore this, you are missing building exposure, enquiries and - ultimately - deals.

Andrew Miles is co-founder of Realla