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A Year of Tech Revolution in the Marketplaces Industry

December 3, 2021

Technology has transformed the marketplaces industry drastically this year, making it easier for landlords and tenants to coordinate operations, negotiate leasing deals, serve existing shoppers and target new ones. It’s happening in all corners of the sector.

Sophisticated building management systems use sensors to capture data and use analytics tools to predict occupant needs, whether for health and safety, lighting, security, elevators or heating/cooling. Technology also provides insights about how tenants and customers use their space. And tech can capture and analyze sustainability data like waste production and energy consumption as the industry aims for net zero carbon emissions, reduced operational costs and better returns on investment in assets.

For one thing, in-person meetings no longer slow projects down. Handshakes are still, important, but a slew of tech platforms make deals happen faster and with less friction. They also can make the development process easier to manage. “The ability to use technology to effectively share documents, share onsite what is going on in real time in monitoring the construction … eventually will impact pricing in a very positive direction for us, which makes things easier to build and more affordable for our tenants,” NewMark Merrill president and CEO Sandy Sigal told Commerce + Communities Today. “We think we are really good at knowing what good sites are, and we think we are really good at knowing what is going on because we have done it forever, but the reality is our instincts are often wrong, and technology has solved that problem.”

RELATED: Data sharing between tenants and landlords

Artificial intelligence is fueling a lot of the progress. Machine learning complements human expertise to make traditional industry practices of measuring traffic and serving customers even more efficient. For example, cameras and other sensors can track customer activity, and software can process that data to help landlords and tenants make informed decisions. And landlords can tailor rents based on the data, Pathr.ai founder and CEO George Shaw told Commerce + Communities Today. “When landlords understand how people move through physical spaces, they can make those spaces more intelligent,” he said.

Landlords and retailers also can use artificial intelligence to extract knowledge from millions of leasing documents to develop a full picture, including data on compliance, critical dates, due diligence and risk mitigation.

Consumer-facing tech is crucial, as well, making omnichannel shopping more convenient for customers, for example. Centers are rolling out platforms that integrate online and in-store inventory so shoppers can see everything for sale at a center or within a portfolio of shopping centers online. Centennial and Primaris are among the landlords using such platforms. Thanks to Primaris’ offering, participating retailers can use their stores as warehouses to redistribute their merchandise to be closer to where their shoppers live, Primaris director of retail and digital strategy Marco Biasiotto told Commerce + Communities Today. “Then, once we begin to really elevate and fine-tune this, we’ll be able to show what merchandise a retailer has available for same-day or next-day delivery in its trade area.”

Another omnichannel key these days: curbside pickup. E-commerce tech firm Adeptmind, for one, launched a program to enable retailers to track online purchasers as they drive to shopping centers and meet these customers at the curb in a concierge manner. “The whole idea was: We don’t want shoppers to wait; we don’t want shoppers to have that need to dial someone or call someone inside the shopping center to say they are there and ready to pick up their order,” said Adeptmind managing director Jesse Michael. “The goal was to have a person actually walking out with the products as the shopper is driving up and just making that a very extremely convenient experience for them without a hitch.”

At North American Properties’ Colony Square, a mixed-use center under redevelopment in Midtown Atlanta, a content management system controls 45 digital assets, including touchscreen elevator displays, interactive and noninteractive LCD kiosks and a large-format LED display that streams concerts, sporting events and other content in the 10,000-square-foot green space called The Plaza. Managers can access the cloud-based system from anywhere.

RELATED: An entirely touchless drive-thru on the horizon

These systems elevate the customer experience and create a sense of community that draws visitors, North American Properties digital and innovation manager Jay Yu told Commerce + Communities Today. In turn, Colony Square’s success as a gathering place attracts shoppers and diners and powers leasing for office, residential and retail space alike. While there are opportunities to sell advertising on some of these tech assets, such as the elevator displays, the developer’s ROI comes chiefly through the effect on leasing, Yu said. “We paid for all this technology through capital from our redevelopment at no cost to guests or to tenants.”

By Brannon Boswell

Executive Editor, Commerce + Communities Today

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