“One stop shop.” “All-in-one solution.” “Full stack.” These are all expressions of the same business trend from different eras. Companies have long understood the value of packaging services in order to offer a more complete, and therefore enticing, solution to customers. While the trend is not new, it seems the idea has started to gain momentum in the tech age. Gone are the naysayers that preach about how companies must stick to their core competencies. Netflix is making movies. Amazon is making retail stores. Snapchat is making camera glasses. Facebook is making VR. Alphabet (Google) is making…well, everything, including cities with their new Sidewalk Labs.
The same thing goes for commercial real estate technology. VTS stands for “View The Space”, which was originally a digital equivalent to a walkthrough. Now, they have become one of the most highly adopted tools in the industry by providing a CRM for brokers, portfolio management for landlords, a marketing solution for tenant reps and a transparency tool for owners and investors. They also just merged with their competitor Hightower in case you have been living under a rock the last few months.
Another great example of this is RDM. They were pioneers in the space with their flagship software RealAccess, a way for landlords, investors, brokers and managers to manage their portfolios. Now they offer measurement solutions and floorplan drafting tools. Everything is compiled on a single cloud-based location for seamless inter and intra-team collaboration.
While RDM could have dismissed visualization technology outside of their wheelhouse as a portfolio management solution, they understood that the most important thing is to make a better solution for the end user, even if that means having to create features vastly different than what they created before. They have also taken the inclusive approach to help integrate other softwares into their system. This creates a “one screen experience” (another for the list) that can ultimately save time and decrease hassle for subscribers. Instead of forcing them to use every RDM service, they address the inevitable switching costs and hopefully spur adoption.
There are a few driving forces behind tech bundling. One is competitiveness. Technology lacks the barriers to entry like distribution and manufacturing scalability like many traditional industries. Newcomers need only to copy code in order to offer a competing solution. By having more of a user’s tasks and files in one place it disincentivizes flight. The term “walled garden” is being used a lot. It was coined to explain how internet service providers were able to limit access to certain parts of the web, but now has come to mean creating services that only subscribers can access (like the aforementioned Netflix produced movies).
Another reason is data. Advances like machine learning are able to make difficult observations about obscure correlations. This means that “big data” is not only about the size of the set, but also the number of columns and complexity. Seeing how a user interacts with multiple processes can yield high level insights that can refine the processes further. Good data begets more good data.
While creating a complete solution sounds like a no-brainer, there is a fine line to walk. Customers are leary of giving up too much control to one service provider. Rightfully so. Microsoft had a chokehold on personal computing in the early days by making hardware that would only run their operating system, which would only run their applications. This ultimately lost them favor with many users and exposed them to an antitrust settlement the effectively split the company up. CRE industry competitors like CoStar and Xceligent have seen strong adoption, partially due to many brokers and property owners not wanting to have only one option for listing their commercial space. Competition is always good for consumers, especially unsatisfied ones.
So, branch out, you commercial real estate techies. Step out of your comfort zone and create not what you want, but what makes a better experience for your user. Create all encompassing solutions to our problems. Just remember to put yourself in our shoes. Walk through your solution as someone that doesn’t know your product as much as you and doesn’t have time to learn it either. When we give you more of our process, don’t lock us into a subservient relationship. If we are allowed to leave freely and chose to stay, our love will be genuine. Deepdown, both technology and user really want to love each other… at least until something better comes along.