Working on commercial real estate, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about buildings and what makes a commercial building attractive to tenants. To answer the question, I think we can take some cues from destination retailers. For example, why would someone go to a retail store these days when products are at our fingertips online? Or, why would someone make the long drive to a destination retailer when they could easily purchase from the comfort of home? As commercial office buildings lose tenants, workers move to home offices, and millennial workers upend the expectations of the traditional workplace, real estate professionals and investors are asking themselves some of these same questions. How can they make their real estate or workplace a destination- a place where people want to go to work?
First, let’s look at the definition of Destination Retail:
Destination Retail– It refers to a particular retail store that the customer seeks out because of its popularity. It is a popular store from whom customers, attracted by its price, size, variety and ambiance, will make a special effort to buy. This store attracts customers regardless of its location.
Destination retailers like L.L. Bean with their flagship stores in Maine or REI locations across the U.S. offer shoppers the opportunity to try the products in-store, participate in product demonstrations and ‘experiences’ outside of the store, and they even create social communities like LL Bean’s “Outsiders” and REI “Adventures”. Within the stores, there are fish tanks and makeshift trout ponds where customers can try out various fishing poles and even rock climbing walls and bridges to try out shoes and gear. IKEA is another retailer that does destination retail well. In IKEA stores, shoppers have a chance to try the products before buying, relax and enjoy a meal, and imagine how the products would look in their own home environment.
Now, let’s consider the office environment. What elements can be borrowed from retail to bring home-based workers back to the office, attract new generations of talent and ultimately help keep tenants in buildings? I propose there are three:
- Transformative Atmosphere: The building must have a unique atmosphere. Whether it is a calming zen feeling or a hip start-up vibe, it must have something unique about it. The technology in the building needs to work seamlessly to allow for the best user experience. Lights should turn on and off automatically to save energy and employees should be able to adjust blinds and temperature with the touch of a button in order to maintain comfort and productivity. Employee comfort is key.
- Increased Social Interactivity: In a 2014 study in the Journal of Marketing, shopper behavior was observed via video when social interaction within a store was present. The study found that active social interaction slowed shoppers down and encouraged longer store visits1. This could also be true for the workplace where the building offers spaces that encourage collaboration through flexible workspaces that blur the lines between life and work. Some employers like Google, are famous for their comfy work areas and recreation spaces. To facilitate social interactivity, technology can enable people to locate one another in the building in order to find the best place to work together.
- Ease of Use: And lastly, building occupants shouldn’t have to think a lot about interacting with their workplace. They should be able to use their smartphone to enter the parking garage or to badge through the security turnstiles using advanced smart building technologies. Booking a workspace or conference room should only take a few clicks and going to lunch should not be time-consuming but rather, it should be enjoyable without a long wait. Smart building technologies such as room sensors and controllers and intelligent BMS systems can enable this ease of use in buildings. A destination building should free up time so people can do more.
At Schneider Electric, we enjoy working with our innovative commercial real estate clients like OVG and “The Edge” building in Amsterdam or Sogeprom in Paris with their “Ampere E+” building. Our commercial real estate solutions help these thought leaders push the envelope in real estate making their properties into destinations that attract and retain employees and make the workplace an environment where people can exercise their creativity and work as teams simply and efficiently.
- Zhang, Xiaoling, Shibo Li, Raymond R. Burke and Alex Leykin (2014), “An Examination of Social Influence on Shopper Behavior Using Video Tracking Data,” Journal of Marketing, 78 (September), 24-41.