Digitisation gives business the edge in the new normal

As the retail world now faces a far more challenging environment than it did at the start of 2020, technology and digitisation have emerged as essential to future strategies. Lauren Grieco reports.

At the start of this year, the real estate industry could not have imagined the monumental shift that was about to disrupt daily operations. Overnight, people could not set foot outside their homes rendering offices, shops, restaurants and most public spaces around the world unused for the first time in recent memory. Conventional investment and business models became obsolete, along with paper communication and in-person meetings. Every type of destination where people usually came together to socialise had to adjust to a new normal. 

What is more, as we approach the end of the year, another wave is mounting. Many companies are experiencing déjà vu while those who have made bold changes by implementing digitisation strategies are reaping the benefits.

Digitisation can increase an organisation’s resilience to crises. While the mainstream expectation of digitisation strategies is an increase in a company’s productivity, this is not the only reason to move towards digital. The Covid-19 pandemic has been, first and foremost, a challenge in maintaining productivity. If a company can keep its operations impervious to the unexpected, then it can take the next step and consider measures which encourage sustainability no matter what future challenge it faces.

Throughout 2020, digital communication has proved to be indispensable to property managers in sharing information and collaborating with tenants. They could rapidly update occupiers of new measures, even as those measures evolved continuously. Once destinations were able to open their doors again, interactions between tenants and consumers had to be carefully managed to comply with health and safety regulations.

A property’s ability to achieve operational excellence between its occupiers and services is intertwined with the efficiency of its communication strategy and ability to build strong relationships with these stakeholders. 

Interaction with consumers

More than ever, an owner and operator must achieve a higher level of collaboration with tenants to provide uninterrupted service and deliver a safe shopping environment in combination with the experience its destination’s customers expect.

As Marrit Laning, managing director fund management at Redevco and chair of the NRW (Dutch Council of Shopping Centres) explains during a webinar, available on-demand at Mapic Digital hosted by Chainels as Global Partner: “The traditional metrics that we would judge retail on are probably going to change a lot. It’s no longer about sales but about true interaction with your consumers and the impact that is having.” 

Seamless and direct communication with all stakeholders may sound like a time-consuming task but proptech company Chainels has simplified things with its tenant app. By accessing a single portal, centre managers can create a transparent dialogue with tenants, both informing and receiving feedback on diverse topics organised into workflows.

Property managers can connect with all tenants, check statistics to know exactly who is reading messages and send reminders to individuals or organisations who are not. Making sure a message reaches all tenants is important because on average, 30% of them are uninformed of important information resulting in both low tenant engagement and satisfaction.

The Chainels team has been involved in a wide range of assets, from cities (BIDs) to mixed-use destinations and shopping centres. From properties in major urban areas such as London and Amsterdam to other schemes in European cities such as Warsaw, and Prague as well as in Latin America, Chainels has helped owners and operators cope with the unique challenges they are facing. It should come as no surprise that the company has experienced a 300% increase in engagement since March.

Streamlining processes

The Chainels app is about more than communications, though, it is about interaction. With diverse workflows, property managers get feedback through surveys, receive maintenance requests through ticketing as well as reporting store turnover and safety and security services. These modules make a difference in streamlining formerly time intensive processes, for example gathering store turnover and performance KPIs can cause a loss of an average of 96 hours while one maintenance issue can require up to seven follow up emails and phone calls until it is resolved. 

Recent additions to the tenant app – two modules in particular – have been especially useful in tackling the challenges exacerbated by the pandemic: video conferencing to stay in close contact with colleagues; and footfall data to inform about an area’s recovery performance. “We need to use tools to learn about the true value of these square metres, about the interaction that’s taking place in those places and what it means to the consumer and then you can relate it back to the retailer and their business model,” explains Laning. 

The hardest part of going digital is actually setting it up. Onboarding is a key part of the process for Chainels, ensuring that tenants know how to use the app from day one. According to Anna Dafna, deputy chief executive officer/chief financial officer of Atrium Poland Real Estate Management: “Chainels enables us easier and faster communication with our tenants and gives tenants space to share their feedback.

Our tenants enthusiastically welcomed the app – within a month almost all the tenants activated their accounts and the majority of them still remain active users.“ Then landlords enjoy the ease of engaging a tenant community in one platform.

Get started at chainels.com to take charge of the new normal.