The Smartphone Revolution: What it Means for CRE Brokers

As it currently stands, commercial real estate is a mobile industry without mobile tools. Brokers spend an average of 50% of their time away from their desk and in the field. This contradiction yields one of the biggest sources of frustration for today’s commercial broker.

A Rising Mobile Industry

Every year Mary Meeker — a prominent venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins — gives a presentation on “Internet Trends.” Considered the most important presentation on the topic, her 2016 presentation demonstrated just how important mobile has become to our daily lives.

In the last two decades, mobile technology has spread rapidly. In 1995, only 1% of the world’s population used a mobile phone. In 2014, that number reached 73%, representing over 5 billion users. Of those users, over 40% have a smartphone. That increase has transformed and created entire industries.

Amplifying this trend, people are spending an increasing amount of time on connected devices (mobile phones, computers, etc.). In 2008, Meeker learned that the average person spent roughly 2.7 hours per day engaged with digital media. That figure more than doubled by 2015, with people spending an average of 5.6 hours per day engaged with digital media. What drove the increase? You guessed it: mobile.

A recent presentation by Somo, a leader in mobile-first technologies, confirmed that people are increasingly choosing to spend more time on mobile than on desktops. In fact, the time per device has almost completely inversed.

CRE is (Slowly) Catching Up

CRE professionals typically spend a large amount of time away from their desks without access to the tools, documents, and data they rely on to get their jobs done. The result is an industry that is tethered to their desks, creating inefficiencies and frustration.

Although CRE has generally been slow to adopt new technology en masse, some agents — being the enterprising and entrepreneurial bunch they are — have found ways to get around the lack of purpose-built mobile tools for the industry. Many have opted to modify other apps to fit their needs.

Still, as long as apps aren’t built exclusively for the CRE industry, it will alway be a little bit like fitting a square peg in a round hole. Professionals are beginning to ask why there is not dedicated mobile technology to support the CRE industry when other industries have enjoyed similar support for years. You only have to look to the residential real estate industry to see mobile tools for agents, owners and buyers that would be the envy of any CRE professional. Why not commercial real estate?   

There is a wave of new CRE software that is seeking to remedy this situation. And, VCs have taken notice, pouring significant capital into the space. In 2015, real estate tech companies raised an incredible $1.7 billion.

Looking beyond the day-to-day

The rapid adoption and use of mobile devices and smartphones also has important implications for tenant relationships and tenant improvements. Understanding how tenants are using smartphones will help you better market to them, tour for them, and relate to them.

If it is true that users today spend over 50% of their online time on their mobile phone, are you planning your marketing and prospecting efforts accordingly? Chances are — especially if you’re working with a millennial crowd — they’re using their phone for social media. Are you on Linkedin, Twitter, or Instagram? If not, you might be missing a huge list of potential tenants.

Billy Fink
Billy Fink
Billy Fink is a former member of the VTS team.
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