Innovation is Key in Property Retail Space

Knowledge is power and intel is something of a crystal ball that ensures competitive advantage by underpinning meaningful decisions that correct the imbalances of the past whilst preparing for the future.

As a leading property services provider in Sub-Saharan Africa, Broll is doing research on a truly African scale. We have transformed research from simple “number crunching” to innovative storytelling that enables us to embrace technology whilst providing our clients with invaluable insight into the retail, office and industrial property sectors. This is based on the comprehensive database of buildings under our management as well as the Broll Broking database of actual deals concluded in various markets.

We not only specialise in converting property data into market knowledge but also provide context for behavioural change. We have spread our wings to embrace the reality of an African customs union that could completely transform the economic landscape.

At the same time, we focus on market specifics that will enable property professionals to embrace local dynamics as well as global shifts. The most obvious example is the retail sector where South African companies are reaching into Africa.

Even though Africa definitely lags behind international trends, technology is completely changing behaviour and, hence, the relationship between retailer and consumer.

In the past – and sometimes still in small towns in Africa – every community had its owner-run general dealer who knew his community intimately. He knew what was needed and what wasn’t and chatted to his customer. His store was a gathering place to socialise as well as shop.

In effect, this savvy shopkeeper collected data and used it to enhance the shopping experience. He identified future demand, adjusted his purchases and planned for potential change.

Today, Broll fills that gap, using increasingly sophisticated technology to collect and process consumer data at lightning speed. This allows both us and our clients to fully understand property phases and bubbles and equips all across the value chain to spot emerging trends and adapt strategies accordingly.

A case in point is retail. We find ourselves in an era of big box retail where a shop is essentially a warehouse with shelves, price tags, no storekeeper and the odd disinterested attendant behind a counter or on the showroom floor.

This is already a far cry from a few years ago when suppliers invested in brands that represented quality and good service and carried a ‘signature’ or point of difference that inspired customer loyalty.

Malls have become dehumanised, reflecting high-tech consumerism that has fuelled online shopping. Money is spent on ‘STUFF’ that’s not needed or used and customers know the price of everything but the value of nothing.

The turning point will come when consumers stop buying STUFF and start looking for quality and service at fair prices.

Our intel tells us that this is already happening. We’ve seen established retailers fall into administration, witnessed empty stores and cowered under the power of online retail. Our researchers see that the roles of stores are dramatically changing. Now, consumers not necessarily come to a store to purchase but to engage with products and embrace brands.

Armed with research, we need to persuade both landlords and asset managers to embrace this evolving reality. Instead of defining success according to revenue directly generated in store, we need to adopt new strategies that transcend core retailing and create a new way of shopping.