The scramble to answer demand for tech-enabled buildings via tenant engagement platforms has effectively just left the starting blocks. Yet landlords are already being reminded the best way to essentially “make their building come alive” is to offer a multi-faceted solution that embraces the human element along with AI.

“Using a smartphone app to locate colleagues, reserve meeting rooms and order F&B unquestionably improves convenience,” says Suzette Lamont, CBRE’s National Director of Client Services. “But having friendly and well-trained staff on hand to help employees navigate their day can make all the difference.”

Tenant engagement platforms have emerged as a new ‘must have’ for corporate occupiers and landlords. Driven by a tech savvy workforce with high service expectations, these platforms deliver curated employee experiences – from reminding a staff member to submit their coffee order when they near the office, to benefiting landlords with operational analytics that make running a building more efficient overall.

Hottest trend

Australian-based Equiem is the world leader in the field, with over 125 buildings worldwide using its platform equating to 137,000 users across 135 buildings.

It has made its clients Dexus and Investa global leaders in tenant experience, the Dexus' platform branded Workspace Dexus and Investa's Insite by Investa

“The goal of this platform for end-users is to create an amazing place to work,” says Equiem’s head of marketing David Chiapoco. “Through Equiem's platform, workers in our buildings gain access to an exclusive app experience that gives them access to convenient and useful services such as fitness classes, dry-cleaning, locker bookings, food & beverage delivery, deals, offers and more; these are all value-adds from the landlords in addition to physical facilities and amenities like lockers.”

Equiem’s success has also, naturally, sparked a global race to compete.

 “The US and UK are rapidly catching up,” Mr Chiapoco says.  “This is very much the hottest trend in those markets today - every building and landlord now want their own tenant experience app and platform.”

“The ultimate goal for landlords is to create a market leading experience in their buildings so that current tenants are inclined to renew and new tenants are attracted to move into the building as opposed to another.

“Our platform helps tenants attract and retain talented staff by offering a superior working environment and also provides landlords with a source of new revenue and data for insights on their tenant needs.”

Shifting the goalposts

Ultimately, this far-reaching technology has changed the commercial property landscape for good, Mr Chiapoco believes.

“The new differentiator in commercial real estate is tenant experience,” he explains. “Traditional parameters of leasing such as floor plates, wifi, location, air quality and end of trip are still important but no longer enough.

“Today's tenants want and demand more - and this is where a platform like Equiem exists to help deliver those expectations on behalf of our clients - the landlords.”

Tenant demand has seen other engagement platforms like Comfy, Smart Spaces and CBRE’s Host evolve from their original forms to cater to a wider range of needs.

For instance, the first incarnation of the Comfy smartphone app simply allowed employees to control office temperature. Comfy has since developed into an end-to-end solution for managing all aspects of a workplace, so while tenants can still turn down the heat around their personal space, the app now also grants on-demand control to employees and facility management teams by connecting and integrating them with building automation features, IT networks and Internet of Things (IoT) systems.

The similar platform Smart Spaces by Aviva provides a single end-to-end platform for all workplace needs such as room bookings, visitor management and asset management. Access for visitors is expedited by providing them with calendar invites and a scannable code for ease of entry. Smart Spaces also allows asset management teams to monitor building and equipment-related information such as operational status and maintenance history.

“These and other tenant engagement platforms undoubtedly improve user experience,” says Ms Lamont, who in her role is responsible for driving strategy around the development of CBRE products such as Host. “However, technology alone cannot create a truly effective and employee-centric workplace.”

Host evolved from the CBRE 360 service, the company’s original tenant engagement platform for corporate occupiers and institutional property investors.

Aimed at fostering a helpful, comfortable atmosphere, Host expanded 360’s initial concierge service offering and now blends people, training and technology to ‘create a workplace experience that places employee needs at its core’.

Global product and technology lead for Host, Brennan McReynolds points out that the market in general suffers from “an app for that” syndrome.

“There is an app for visitor management, an app for controlling temperature, an app for booking meeting rooms…Host integrates specialty technology and end-user experience features on a single platform, allowing employees to access their workplace needs from a single app,” Mr McReynolds says.

CBRE’s Host has been adopted by Charter Hall as a strategy to both attract and retain tenants. Renamed Charli, the technology rolled out at the firm’s prestigious No.1 Martin Place office complex in Sydney a few months ago and soon after at its 570 Bourke Street office tower in Melbourne.

Charter Hall’s head of office innovation Craig Rodgers says Charli’s most attractive feature is allowing users to tailor services according to their needs. “It’s like having a personal assistant in your pocket,” he says.