Your future competition isn't who you think it will be

15 Sep 2017

In a world where Google and Facebook are making strategic moves into the Property sector, does your organisation understand the competitive risk it will face in the future? The increasing convergence of industries has seen a blurring of traditional sectors, with businesses now needing to play across multiple platforms. If Amazon can tell you what you are going to purchase next, could they automate office space leasing where they know clients have demand?

Sarah Kinsela

General Manager, Strategic Digital Projects

We are seeing major shifts in property innovation and are now having to actively respond to competition from non traditional players.

These non traditional players are all moving into the property sector with goals to build and create their own communities. These are companies with major insights into consumer behaviour, sophisticated data processing capacity and a general ability to respond and flex as their customers need.

I think these changes are really exciting and any competition within and across sectors raises the bar, which is great, because the creation of communities should not be done by companies resting on their laurels. Community is the backbone of our society, so if anything, it ups the ante for the sector to produce more sophisticated and responsive customer experiences. 

I think into the future we will see ‘smarter’ communities that are leveraging data and creating meaningful and useful customer experience be it, making life easier in terms of day to day house management admin to enabling community connections within and across communities to bridge the loneliness gap and support mental health (e.g. Go Tribe, local fitness and wellness app, with a social element where you can share your results, creates a local team of like minded workout buddies). 

Recently there have been some really interesting examples of successful start-ups disrupting areas would not be seen as their bread and butter but are part of their supply chain, for example:
  • Amazon moving into warehouse development – they recently filed multiple patents for drone towers in urban areas for warehousing stock delivered by drones 
  • IKEA and MUJI are also playing in the housing space. MUJI started as a stationary company, and now they build homes in Japan – and people buy them because the quality of the brand. 
  • IKEA has recently partnered with Sanska in Sweden to deliver affordable housing. 
For me the take home of these stories, is that all organisations built a formidable brand and then used that customer loyalty and trust to branch out. And in branching out they prototyped with their customers, for example, well before co-working was a thing, ACE Hotel informally turned its lobbies into co-working spaces to test the proposition. This is another example of a light way to test ideas.

At Lendlease we are constantly questioning - how can we be more innovative and what do our customers think? And as a response, we run ongoing ideation sessions and prototype new ideas to experience with our customers.

Over the past 18 months we have set up our internal Innovation Lab and enhanced our existing strong customer focus mandate. This has given us the space to collaborate further and try new methodologies that lend themselves to innovative outcomes.

We need to know our strengths and play to them as well as having stretch goals for change and expansion. However, it would be naïve to think we can be the best at everything and that we can do everything ourselves. This is where strategic partnerships come in. They widen our perspectives, build on our strengths and mediate our weaknesses. Working with technology partners is key to our success and we do so for a range of prototyping and enterprise solutions. However, we are dedicated to understanding our customers and the problems we need to solve as this provides us with the real intel of where disruption will go next.  

To me, customer experience is one of the most important areas the Property sector needs to continue to embrace. Understanding and responding to customers is now a basic expectation.  

When we build digital solutions we are speaking to our customers, before, during and after – its ongoing. We are building prototypes with our customers for our customers.

The research on Millennials tells us that a whole new world is here. This customer wants access not ownership, top notch experiences and to try things (and maybe never buy things). This throws all types of new potential modals at the Property sector for exploration including the question how do we give customers access to amazing, affordable homes with great customer experience, potentially without the need to buy? 

I think property businesses will be looking to partner across their supply chain, particularly because it can be so complex. From design, to construct, to sell, operate, and service. This could include the likes of technology companies that are experts at 3D printing. 

If I could offer one piece of advice for the sector on the idea of convergence – 

Never stop understanding and responding to your customers problems, don’t become so arrogant that you think you know or are your customer – ongoing self reflection is key.