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BECG hosts PRCA Property, Construction and Infrastructure Group event on "Why the real estate sector needs to embrace technology to thrive"

BECG was pleased to host key industry leaders at the PRCA Property, Construction and Infrastructure Group event, held at Colliers International's Marylebone office on Tuesday 20th November.

“We all know that what we justify (paying) for the shoes that we buy, the shampoo that we use, the watch we wear, the cola we drink, is not really about having the commodity, it’s about having the experience. The opportunity for real estate is really to start thinking about that in a more active way, just leveraged by technology.”

That was the view of Neil Burton, Greystar’s Consumer Strategy & Brand Lead when BECG and the PRCA invited him to speak at their recent discussion event on “Why the real estate sector needs to embrace technology to thrive.”

Bringing together communications professionals from across the residential and commercial real estate sectors, the event, moderated by myself as BECG Board Director and PRCA Property & Construction Group Chair, discussed a wide range of topics about the kind of technology currently available in the industry, and how agents, developers and marketers alike would have to adapt to the needs of the tech-savvy consumer in order to thrive, or even survive.

Neil was joined on the platform by Andrew Lloyd, Founder Member of the UK PropTech Association and Managing Director at sector data provider Search Acumen, who said that the pace of change is faster than at any time in his 17-year career in PropTech and data.

“The difference now is that the technology and change is being driven from outside of real estate. The world itself is being turned on its head by a lot of what is coming.

“Businesses and companies within our space, such as the legal profession, housebuilders and developers, are starting to think about how they can use tech to make their businesses more successful, and also what their consumers are expecting them to be able to do.”

Despite pockets of innovation, real estate is still a traditional sector, and there are some ways of working and dealing with customers that have not changed for decades. It was noted that if the sector’s big businesses feel that they will not need to innovate, they would be wise to remember some other industries that felt like that in the not so distant past - the music industry, publishing, the newspaper industry and London’s black cab trade – if you sit back on your laurels and think that you’ve got the market pinned down, you may well fall foul of innovation that is coming down the track. Look at the impact WeWork has had in the commercial space.

If we do have a complacent property sector, then change is happening whether it is embraced or not. Amazon and Samsung, both big players in the tech sector, have announced recently that they are making moves into residential property. Firms like these have a completely different appreciation of the customer, and use technology to transform and tailor the experience that each customer receives.

The gap is widening between customers experience in real estate and the experience they get with every other product they shop for, or experience. But, as Neil pointed out, because we’re in a largely restricted supply environment i.e. there more buyers than there are residential properties available, there is little incentive for real estate players to do a better job. Our speakers agreed that much of the technology that is needed to impact real estate is already available, however developers and investors are not yet sufficiently motivated by the competitive landscape, or by consumer demand, to adopt it. For those that do, the rewards can be significant.

Julius Duncan

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