With all that’s going on in the CRE tech sector, it’s too easy to focus on one app or another as being “the one” that will change commercial real estate. Truth be told, the last “app” that changed CRE was LoopNet and so far, I don’t see anything that disruptive out of the new batch of apps. Many are re-treads of what has been done before albeit with better interfaces and more functionality.
What’s more disruptive is the focus on data – though it’s about time CRE got around to doing something about that – and the changing (some say shrinking) role of the agent middleman. So here are the developments affecting those two trends that I’m watching this year.
Company-wide CRM Rollouts
Several of the national brokerages and many smaller ones are implementing company-wide CRMs for agents to use. For brokerages, it’s not about the contacts or relationships per se – unless they’re trying to deal with agent client poaching (the “don’t you dare call my guy/gal” thing…). It’s more about getting a handle on business forecasting, collecting renewal commissions and being able to create basic management reports.
Brokerages are also looking to the day they can mine CRM apps for opportunities, mix with social data or integrate with their marketing activities. So a company-wide CRM makes sense since all that can be done in an app like Salesforce (which most are choosing).
But most agents resent having to use company CRM apps especially if they have their own. They think you want to watch their every move, “steal” their clients or they just don’t like what you picked. And who wants to enter data in 2 places? I’m watching to see how all this plays out. Will company-wide CRM be the killer app that brings CRE into the 21st century or just a waste of time and money?
All those new apps out there – transaction portals, property/portfolio management, financial analysis, data tools, marketing platforms. Lucky for CRE that most developers take the easy way out when trying to find users for their apps. They go to individual agents or brokerages selling what they’ve got as the way to give them a competitive advantage.
But the same technology could easily be used by owners to market and manage their own space, run formerly complicated financial scenarios easily and analyze market conditions all by themselves. While many owners still want to out-source these functions to a commercial broker, there’s likely plenty who don’t.
With big money backing some of these developers, they’re going to have to find a market or go bust. With brokerage budgets going to CRM or back-office applications, there’s not a lot of room to pay for these new toys. Let’s see if app developers pivot and go directly to owners – and if they do, how brokerages respond.
Data Driven Apps
Major cities that have democratized their municipal data are seeing a boon in CRE app development. With entire property inventories and building related data accessible electronically, it can be used alone or mixed with data from other sources to create powerful tools for site selection, lead generation, managing regulation compliance and trend analysis – to name a few. It’s even possible that some of these apps will bring down the old guardians of CRE data (like CoStar) in the cities in which they operate. Wouldn’t that be fun?