Tech Trends in Retail

Tech trends in commercial real estate: Data, web mapping, and geolocation

Commercial real estate (CRE), like all industries, is continuously evolving to keep up with the influx of new technologies. Implementing these new tools allows companies to stay ahead of the curve and provide clients with the best resources available.

Those who work in CRE understand that this industry requires quick judgement. To ensure sustained success, CRE professionals must be making well-informed recommendations that benefit all parties.

At Metro Commercial, we use geographic information systems (GIS) technology to make important real estate decisions with confidence. Using the most accurate and up-to-date data, advanced visualization techniques, and the best software available, we can advise our tenants and property owners on how to optimize their real estate strategies. This consists of identifying suitable markets, analyzing store cannibalization, and demographic reporting. Let’s take a closer look.

Data aggregation

Industry professionals are using data to provide deeper insights into market statistics, property specifications, ownership history, and more. For years, Metro Commercial has been building a proprietary database of retailer and property locations, sale and lease comparables, demand generators, and major local employers to better understand the markets we serve. This information is fundamental when answering common questions like “who are the major players in this market?” or “what retailer or shopping center is driving traffic in the area?”

Our skilled team of analysts is adept at compiling this information through web scraping and data extraction techniques. In the past, manually gathering information like store locations would take a considerable amount of time and it’s not a sustainable or efficient process in today’s fast-paced environment. Now, our GIS department is capable of gathering thousands of data points at once with precision and accuracy.

Once the data is gathered, keeping it organized and easily accessible is a challenge in itself. Our structured query language (SQL) database has been well-thought-out and structured so we can easily filter and retrieve information based on specified criteria, such as retail category, sales volume, and more. Since all of this data has rooftop accurate coordinates, it can be easily mapped for a comprehensive visual.

Interactive web mapping

All datasets eventually become outdated. For the Metro Commercial GIS department, anything over three months old needs to be refreshed. Continuously adding and updating data is a never-ending process that requires as many editors as possible.

Through interactive mapping and web applications from Esri, our primary GIS provider, we have created a system where thousands of features can be edited simultaneously by any number of users throughout our four offices. This process is the foundation for keeping our datasets as comprehensive and up-to-date as possible. Having the ability to funnel all of this research into one shared workspace increases efficiency. If technology has given us anything it is the ability to work smarter, not harder.

We have also seen a growing number of retail brokers and clients embrace web mapping for touring purposes over printed maps because of their practicality. Many of our presentations are now guided by these digital maps and are easily accessible through an app on a smartphone or tablet. The ability to track your current location in relation to where an upcoming site of interest is and the surrounding retail, office, and residential concepts provides our clients with a seamless experience.

Hard-copy maps will always have their uses in real estate but web mapping has become an equally important facet for real-time data visualization.

Geofencing and geolocation

Traditionally, demographic and psychographic data for a property or potential retail location have come primarily from set radius rings or drive times using U.S. Census Bureau data. Defining trade areas by time and distance presents many problems that can misrepresent data for the viewer. Today, geofencing and geolocation have emerged as accurate and effective tools for better understanding a property’s true trade area. The more accurate the trade area, the better the demographics represent the potential customer base.

According to PEW data, over 80 percent of adults in America own a smartphone. Hundreds of millions of smartphone users provide endless amounts of data on their very own shopping habits. Several companies over the past decade have taken advantage of this insight and begun marketing mobile data to answer the essential commercial real estate questions: “how far are customers willing to travel in order to get what they want?” and “what specifically is bringing them back to a certain shopping center or retail destination?” Placer.ai is a great platform for anyone looking to analyze a property or better understand how the mobile data process works.

Geofencing refers to the drawing of a virtual boundary around an area or property. This boundary can then be used to identify devices that fell within the specified polygon. The devices that are identified then reveal the history of that device, where it was before, and what time it entered the property. These insights can tell us where these visitors typically spend their time, what retail category they are most often shopping for, and so much more.

We find this type of modeling to be most effective when working with existing shopping centers. Having the ability to clearly visualize which surrounding cities provide the highest density of visitors or analyzing how foot traffic fluctuates on an hourly basis can change the way a property is managed and marketed.

At Metro Commercial, technology is constantly making us rethink our approach as we test its boundaries every day. From obtaining data to sorting and utilizing it, it is important to keep up with the latest trends in order to arm our clients with all they need to make the right decisions.

Copyright 2019 Metro Commercial Real Estate, LLC