Evolving trends in
retail property technology
Key Themes that Shaped 2023
- Jesse Michael
- Lee Jackson
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The retail property sector has witnessed rapid transformation in recent years, driven by a number of technological advancements. In 2023, JLL Digital Solutions Advisory observed three key themes that are shaping the industry: Build product vs. Buy product debate, Cost Constraints, and the Prioritization of Landlords on the Acquisition of First-Party Customer Data. In this article, we will explore these themes, their implications, and how they are redefining the future of retail property technology.
Build Product vs. Buy Product Debate: In 2023, retail property stakeholders were faced with the decision to either build customized technology solutions in-house or buy ready-made products from third-party vendors. While building proprietary software offers tailored functionality, it comes with high upfront costs and longer development timelines. On the other hand, buying off-the-shelf solutions provides faster implementation, scalability, and access to specialized expertise. Striking the right balance between build and buy is crucial to optimizing cost, efficiency, and innovation.
- Cost and Time: Organizations need to carefully evaluate the expenses and time associated with building in-house solutions against the benefits they offer.
- Flexibility and Scalability: Ready-made products may lack customization, but they often provide greater scalability and adaptability to changing market dynamics.
- Competitive Advantage: Building proprietary solutions can offer a unique differentiation, enabling organizations to position themselves ahead of their competitors in terms of innovation and customer experience.
What we witnessed in 2023:
- Decommissioning of landlord-built products: after spending significant amount of resources to build products, several groups were left with the difficult decision to terminate programs for several reasons such as: ongoing demand for unplanned capital re-investment, inflating operational expenses for upkeep, inability to maintain pace of feature set enhancements, or a loss of key stakeholder personnel / product owners internally.
- Disposition of landlord-built tools to third party providers: The recapitalization of tools in exchange for value with best-in-class providers was a method that was used to recoup capital, offset operational expenses, and accelerate the deployment of superior solutions.
Cost Constraints and Operational Expense Management: In a highly competitive market, third-party solution providers are under growing pressure to manage operational expenses effectively. With the rising costs and evolving customer expectations, retailers are seeking cost-efficient technology solutions that deliver value and enhance business performance. Technology solution providers must focus on optimizing operational expenses, streamlining processes, and improving return on investment (ROI) to remain competitive.
- Customer-Centric Solutions: technology solution providers must prioritize their customers needs and develop a cost-effective technology platform that enhances the overall retail experience
- Efficiency and Automation: automation and digitization of routine tasks can help greatly reduce operational costs and improve efficiency
- Value-Driven Partnerships: collaboration between retailers and technology solution providers is critical to identify innovative cost-saving measures, increase operational efficiencies, and drive business growth
What we witnessed in 2023:
- Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms and variable vendor expenses were under the microscope in 2023. Landlords looking to control variable expenses reduced several SaaS providers costs to lower operational expenses as the larger macroeconomics of real estate capital markets and valuations put pressure on the businesses and NOI
- Streamlining tools and maximizing value from fewer vendors/solution providers. Landlords who cut SaaS costs turned to their other providers to do more for them, expanding their feature sets and service capabilities to replace and consolidate services into less suppliers providing more utility.
Focus on Acquiring First-Party Customer Data: Shopping centers increasingly recognized the importance of acquiring first-party data to transform their digital marketing strategies. Leveraging data analytics and consumer insights can enhance personalization, drive targeted marketing campaigns, and ultimately improve customer engagement and loyalty. Retail property owners are investing in technologies that enable the collection, analysis, and application of first-party data to gain a competitive edge in the digital landscape.
- Data Privacy and Security: landlords and their tenants must prioritize data privacy, ensure compliance with GDPR and other regulations, and protect customer data from breaches
- Hyper-Personalization: first-party data empowers retailers with a deep understanding of customer behavior, allowing for highly personalized marketing campaigns and tailored customer experiences
- Collaboration with Technology Partners: collaborating with technology partners can help retailers efficiently collect, analyze, and derive insights from first-party data, ensuring data-driven decision-making.
What we witnessed in 2023:
- Loyalty emerges. Shopping center loyalty and the pursuit of owning customer data burst on the scene in 2023. From basic investment in more user-friendly CRM programs and email customer acquisition efforts, to paid loyalty programs with custom apps, and tiered rewards and offers with personalized marketing capabilities.
- Customer Data Platforms (CDP) for shopping centers. Investment in CDP’s helping shopping centers to connect multiple data sources to enhance first party data and drive more personalized and targeted marketing and engagement programs.
As we reflect on 2023, these three themes Build Product vs. Buy, Cost Constraints, and First-Party Data Acquisition – have shaped the retail property technology landscape this year. Striking a balance between building proprietary solutions and leveraging off-the-shelf products, managing operational expenses effectively, and harnessing first-party data have become imperative for organizations looking to thrive in the retail property sector. By embracing these themes, stakeholders can unlock new opportunities, drive operational efficiencies, and deliver enhanced experiences for customers in this rapidly evolving digital era.
Priorities and Outlook for 2024
As third-party vendors have been able to scale and set the pace of innovation due to their hyper focus on product, landlords will spend more time exploring and vetting third-party solutions rather than building in-house solutions. Some further expectations for 2024 include:
- The emergence of more specific use cases as the third-party vendor community continues to explore specialized applications to further enhance product capabilities
- Landlords continuing to seek more output from a reduced number of vendors as consolidation will continue in the industry
- Technology vendors will be expected to deliver multiple solutions and/or expand partnerships and integrations with other third-party partners
- Generative AI has garnered significant buzz and attention within the industry, capturing the curiosity of landlords and stakeholders in commercial real estate, which will undoubtedly lead to technology vendors creating more efficiencies in their product set
There will also undoubtedly be additional areas of focus for the retail property technology industry as we get further into 2024, and JLL Digital Solutions Advisory will continue to provide additional insights into these emerging trends.