3.12.20

The Propcast: Driving Efficiencies in Real Estate

In this episode The Propcast talks to David Fuller-Watts from Mallcomm, and Ben Chesser from Coniq about driving efficiencies in real estate.

Click here to listen to Episode 9 

The Propcast by Louisa Dickins, Co-Founder of LMRE the leading Global PropTech recruiter brought to you in partnership with UK PropTech Association, The UK PropTech Association is a membership organisation to drive the digital transformation of the property industry. This show will focus on connecting the Proptechs, real estate funds and VC’s globally…and get everyone talking about innovation of the build to rent environment.

3.12.20

About Our Host

Louisa Dickins

https://www.linkedin.com/in/louisa-dickins-ab065392/?originalSubdomain=uk

Louisa started her career in property working at a well-known estate agency in London. Realising her people skills, she moved over to Lloyd May to pursue a career in recruitment. She now is a Director at LMRE, who are a specialist recruitment firm driven by PropTech and recruitment professionals, and Louisa oversees their 5 core areas. Louisa co-founded LMRE and provides a constructive recruitment platform to the new disruptors in real estate. Louisa is also on the board of Directors at UK PropTech Association (UKPA).

About LMRE

LMRE believe there is a better way to recruit. LMRE focus on a more comprehensive, client led focus delivering exceptional talent to the right place at the right time. They are passionate about the industry and passionate about people's careers. LMRE spend time with each client to become and an extension of the business, and their transparency and core values help them grow with the sector. LMRE simplify recruitment and innovate with our clients and evolve the people driven, PropTech community.

 

About Our Guests

David Fuller-Watts

https://www.linkedin.com/in/digitaltbm/?originalSubdomain=uk

David is an experienced Senior Business Development director and IT specialist with leading edge experience in SaaS technology solutions, product development & digital marketing strategy in both Europe and the USA. David has worked in the real estate sector for over 15 years, and leads the product development of the award winning PropTech platform Mallcomm, used by more than 350 commercial real estate destinations to manage communications, operations, retail and community engagement. Mallcomm as a 360-degree integrator for managing and engaging real estate communities, tenants, operators, suppliers, shoppers and other stakeholders. The product transforms a user's experience of the space, creates loyalty by connecting people to places whilst delivering efficient operations, significant budget savings and valuable insights.

 

Ben Chesser

https://www.linkedin.com/in/benchesser/?originalSubdomain=uk

Ben is an experienced CEO with a passion for market changing disruptive technologies. For the last 15 years, Ben has focused on bringing the rigour and measurability of the online retail world into offline businesses, helping retailers and shopping malls understand the true value of their customers. Ben founded Coniq in 2014 to make the advanced tools for the retail giant readily available to every business in the industry. Coniq is today recognised as one of the fastest growing customer engagement and loyalty software companies in the world, by following Ben’s founding principles of putting the customer first, Coniq’s loyalty programs continue to deliver ongoing sales growth for clients.

 

Resources mentioned

LMRE website www.lmre.co.uk

UKPA website www.ukpa.com

Coniq website www.coniq.com

Mallcomm website www.mallcomm.com 

Insights from this Episode

  • The mall space is evolving really fast right now and the need for technologies is on top of everyone's agenda – Ben Chesser
  • We believe that technology really has the potential to drive down the costs of operating a shopping centre – David Fuller-Watts
  • (Those who are thinking) about digital in the future, they've now jumped the top of the agenda. Because if you don't do that, you don’t survive, so it's accelerated and shaken out the industry incredibly – Ben Chesser
  • I always like to say that Mallcomm solves actual real problems, problems that people actually have a need solving. It's not technology for technology's sake – David Fuller-Watts
  • We're not doing projects to win prizes or tick boxes, we really want to impact the businesses we work with and not a lot of vendors don’t do that – Ben Chesser
  • It's about who you integrate with, how we get connection, what type of technology you can use… and any of those different types of connections, all at the same time – David Fuller-Watts

 

Episode Transcript

 

Louisa

Hi everyone and welcome to the Propcast, my name is Louisa Dickins, co-founder of LMRE and board director of the UKPA, and I shall be your weekly host. Each week for 30 minutes, we will be connecting the VC, PropTech startups and real estate professionals globally, and assist in bridging that famous communication gap we tall love talking about. So, sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Propcast, today we'll be talking about how PropTech can support clients drive efficiencies through better property management and communications. We will be speaking with David Fuller-Watts who is CEO and Head of Product at Mallcomm and then Ben Chesser, founder of Coniq, so welcome to the show.

 

David

Hi Louisa, happy to be here.

 

Ben

Hi, thanks for inviting us.

 

Louisa

So David is a technology specialist and has worked in the real estate sector for over 15 years, and leads the product development of the award winning PropTech platform Mallcomm, used by more than 350 commercial real estate destinations to manage communications, operations, retail and community engagement. David moved from the UK to the USA in 2018 to establish Mallcomm across North America and return to the UK in February 2020 to continue the global growth of the business into new verticals and new geographies. Mallcomm as a 360-degree integrator for managing and engaging real estate communities, tenants, operators, suppliers, shoppers and other stakeholders. The product transforms a user's experience of the space, creates loyalty by connecting people to places whilst delivering efficient operations, significant budget savings and valuable insights. The platform has been implemented in over 300 destinations in 22 countries so far, and it's actually used by over 300,000 users, so welcome to the show.

 

And now for Ben's introduction. Having worked for over 10 years as a consultant for some of Europe’s largest retail brands, Ben founded Coniq in 2014 to make the advanced tools for the retail giant readily available to every business in the industry. With a clear mission to demystify technology and put the power back into the hands of marketeers, Coniq was born. Fast forward and Coniq is today recognised as one of the fastest growing customer engagement and loyalty software companies in the world. The Coniq platform powers over £1billion worth of sales annually for its customers, with more than 20 million consumers shopping at 1,800 brands in 24 countries worldwide. By sticking to Ben’s founding principles of putting the customer first, Coniq’s loyalty programs continue to deliver ongoing sales growth for clients. During his 20-year career, Ben has helped executives to simplify complex technology to work for them. After graduating with Cambridge University, Ben was managing consultant at Oliver Wyman, working with top retailers and technology companies. Ben is also a member of the Across Advisory Board, working with leaders to fast forward the adoption of technology and get the industry ready for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow. So thank you both for joining me, probably the best way for us to introduce both of you would be to tell the audience, what is the connection between both your businesses? How did you both meet each other? Maybe Ben, if you want to start off.

 

Ben

Thank you for that flattering introduction, it sounds like a bit of a love story but we’ve known each other for a while as businesses, we've both been in the sector focused on the mall space, retail destination space, for at least the last six or seven years. I think what’s change and what brought us together was two things. One is the realisation that the landlords or the operators want this kind of technology, but they want the providers to work together, and we can't rely on them to put us together we have to do it ourselves. We figured out if we're going to give the landlords an easy solution, we have to build it for them by co-operating, and then secondly is realising that the mall spaces is evolving really fast right now and the need for technologies is on top of everyone's agenda. So it makes sense to co-operate now.

 

Louisa

And David, I loved to hear a little bit more about how your product supports clients to drive efficiencies? That is the main topic of today.

 

David

Yes thanks, just to echo Ben's point here, we've been aware of each other for a long time in the retail real estate space and at Mallcomm we've always prided ourselves as being able to connect multiple different stakeholders within that property management sector. So whether that's retailers and tenant engagement, security teams, operational teams, asset teams, to be able to really facilitate that communication from a business to business part of the process. And then also, of course, working in retail we're focused on business to consumer and the verticals and because that's where a really good connection with Coniq came up, very much focused on them, and really complimentary to what we offer to our customers. And really what we're doing to support our customers right now is, we believe that technology really, and this has never been more important that technology has the potential to drive down the costs of operating a shopping center. So what we do is automate a number of processes that are required of the center management teams, to allow the owners to maintain the service levels that are expected, potentially on a slimmed down or even remote-working management operation. So what we're trying to do is ensure that we capture the valuable data, and really enhanced attendance experiences and optimises that experience with them.

 

Louisa

And I'd also love to hear from Ben as well, a little bit more about your product and if you could introduce it to the audience?

 

Ben

Sure, so what Coniq provides is a digital engagement platform we call it, so its landlords and retailers connect with the consumers through digital channels. That can be email. it can be apps, push messaging and most of the time that manifests itself in loyalty program. So we let consumers and shoppers join a loyalty program and get an app, and that provides the connection and also provides the data back to the businesses running the malls.

 

Louisa

Okay, and since going back to David's point, technology is on the forefront of most of real estate's agenda, the market in terms of technology is becoming more saturated, and there's more competition, in terms of your product, what differentiates yourself in the market, maybe David if you could go first?

 

David

I always like to say that Mallcomm solves actual real problems, problems that people actually have a need solving, it’s not technology for technology's sake. And that mantra has really served us really well in a sector which is traditionally been relatively slow to adopt technology. And we believe we have a suite of services that can deliver savings on resource, just as a recent example in terms of just closing, reopening, reopening surveys, auditing stores to make sure that they're COVID, compliant, physical inspections, face to face meetings are all very time consuming and resource heavy. And even when people try and move that and start to use technology, maybe they start to send emails and handle it for email, but actually all that does is it moves that challenging, time consuming and resource heavy activity just online. What Mallcomm actually offers is a streamlined process and a connected environment, which means that we connect with multiple different providers like Coniq, to be able to deliver real value to our customers. And I think that's really what differentiates us.

 

Louisa

And also, can you give me an example of maybe a client that you both work together on, almost like a case study, and how you've had delivered what made their lives easier?

 

Ben

So the trick is, the partnership is forming now in a sense of truly integrating product, and the reasons it’s formed is that we worked on other clients together, but not in a fully integrated way. So what we saw was, I think we were kind of expecting the landlords to lead the charge and say your products have to be integrated, and they haven't, so David and I got in touch to do it ourselves. So it's kind of been born as we speak this free innovative partnership.

 

Louisa

So we'll wait to see what happens. And Ben, what's Coniq’s USPs in the market compared to some other businesses?

 

Ben

It was interesting listening to David’s answer as I think we see the world in a similar way. So Coniq, we're 87 people, all we do day in day out is build and deploy engagement and loyalty programs for malls, so we know the space very well, our technology tool is build specifically to do this. So it’s a specialist product, specialist team, and that counts for a lot in an industry that's not like very many others. And then secondly, I echo exactly what David said, we don't do vanity projects, we've got 20 million shoppers, we have 15/20% of the sales in the mall going to our program. So we're not doing projects to win prizes or tick boxes, we really want to impact the businesses we work with and not a lot of vendors don’t do that. There's quite a few startup businesses that do really cool, exciting things, but they don't scale.

 

Louisa

I’d love to hear a little bit more about what you have seen pre and post COVID, since retailers or most industries, most businesses have been hit. What’s changed with what the retailers are looking for? David, you want to go first.

 

David

I mean, I think from a consumer perspective, the retailers are just looking to get back to normal. I mean, that's a fairly obvious statement, but being open is the first step to actually being able to deliver a really good service. What they're actually trying to do though, is make sure that they can deliver that service in a really safe way, I don't think this is going to change that much certainly in the next few months, for probably the next couple of years. So what we're doing is trying to work with retailers and our retail partners to make sure that we can deliver them the tools that they need to be able to manage, and to be able to make sure they can handle digital, like virtual queuing, and be able to facilitate the communication between themselves and the operational teams on site, that actually mean that they can get real value and make sure that they can stay open, and be as compliant as possible.

 

Louisa

No doubt you've been busy getting everything ready for the open during Christmas, getting ready for those queues.

 

Ben

Just to jump in, so I echo what David said in terms of where they want to be, I think there's been a fundamental change in industry, certainly the shopping centre, shopping mall industry, where I would say three or four years of evolution happened in six months. So there's been a shake out, the suppliers that were not very efficient or forward thinking have already closed, and the other ones are putting projects that were long term, we need to think about digital in the future, they've now jumped the top of the agenda. Because if you don't do that, you don’t survive, so it's accelerated and shaken out the industry incredibly.

 

Louisa

And so what trends are you seeing across Europe within developers? We've touched on retailers, even small mall owners, are there any correlation between countries then?

 

Ben

Interesting question, I think that they're facing slightly different problems, because the way different governments have approached COVID but I think the end result is the same. Across the markets, we work with in Europe and Middle East, US is slightly different, but I think how they react is different. So everyone's putting technology higher agenda, they're radically or rapidly trying to build the foundations of digital business. So the e-commerce version of a mall is becoming very apparent in most markets. But to do that, you've got to have a customer database and understand e-shopping. So that's gone on to the agenda. What’s different I think is the approach, in southern Europe where we run through a lot of programs, they work phenomenally well, consumers really engage with digital platforms. In UK, Germany, it's a bit harder, the consumers are a little bit more hands off, a bit more distant from digital engagement, but it is happening now faster than ever before. And then you also see a difference in the way that the operators work. Some parts of Europe are more keen on trying to build technology themselves, which I would say is not a good idea but that's my personal opinion. In other markets, they're much more open to partnering and they want to be faster.

 

Louisa

You might go back to the point you made about UK and Germany, basically less into digital, do you know why that is?

 

Ben

So the UK, e-commerce penetration is very high, but consumers are a little bit harder to convince to engage in digital technology and digital products. Maybe they've been saturated by it. I think it's more interested in the culture, but I do think the last six months have changed that, it's changed in a long way forward.

 

Louisa

Yes, interesting. David, what trends do you see across Europe?

 

David

I think for us is a lot of it's about the speed of implementation, we’re certainly seeing a lot more adoption, we're seeing people are craving digital solutions to be able to help them work remotely, just communicating online, we're all doing zoom calls, we’re all doing virtual meetings. And the way in which shopping centers and building their operating is no different to that. So it's about how can they get the tools they need as fast as possible and actually how can they consolidate all the tools into the best user experience. So we're doing a lot more integrations now than we perhaps were two years ago, where companies were looking for maybe best in class for everything and they were having multiple different systems and had lots of big teams that they could help support all of these different systems. And now actually, they're streamlining, they want better efficiencies, they want to make sure that they know where the data is. And data is also very, very important I agree with Ben on that. It's become, who owns the data? Where is it stored? How is it being facilitated? And how can we get not just the data, but actual real insights from it as well. And how is it actually helping me run my business more effectively? I think that's really, really important.

 

Louisa

And in terms of integrations, how have you both found that over the past eight months, maybe Ben if you want to go first?

 

Ben

So echoing David's point, there has been change in the market, where like I said earlier, I think they've gone from wanting to test different technologies and different in different malls and see what works, without really thinking “how is this going to play out in the long term?” The conversation now I would say is a lot more mature from an IT point of view, they want solutions from partners that know what they're doing, that will just definitely work and deliver. That means we have to be integrated. So exactly the same with us, we've put much more resource on to building API's and SDKs so that we can integrate the players, we've invested in integrating with the big SaaS providers that you have to integrate with the function. Because the clients are expecting that, and then working with clients like Mallcomm, we're trying to find partners who are mature their technology, their confident in how it works, it just works and you don't have to worry about whether it's going to deliver.

 

Louisa

Finding the right partners must be quite difficult. And David, since your business recent expansion, how have you found that integration?

 

David

I mean, actually, as Ben said we probably spend just as much time developing our developer portal for processing integrations than we have on the front end of the system. It’s become a really important part to have, and our customers are very educated and really want to see that fully rounded solution where they can get the benefits from it. And it's not just about integrating, it's about ability to integrate. It’s really very important to future customers of ours, to make sure that we have everything in place already, which is almost expected now. There's not so much a case of, “How much will it cost to integrate with this partner?” as Ben said, they don't want to manage the process. It's about who you integrate with, how we get connection, what type of technology you can use, and that might be some anything from us integrating with Coniq from a loyalty perspective, whilst at the same time we're integrating from a building management system, or food ordering system, and any of those different types of connections all at the same time.

 

Louisa

And outside of integration, another big thing on lots of businesses minds I brand and engagement, it's top of a lot of business agendas, and definite increase in recent years. Why is that Ben?

 

Ben

I think the property sectors change from being estate agents, landlords, their job was to build something and someone else's job was to turn that into value for consumers. At least in the retail space, they're becoming a little more consumer facing. So Westfield are building a brand, they're pushing their own brands and stretching it further I think the retail sector, particularly the landlords, the good ones are becoming platforms in a sense they're saying what can we do across the board to help retailers to serve the retailers businesses basically That can be building own brand, their own audience, they're having better tools, embedding data, they're having better marketing of their own shopping centre. So brand comes up to the front, they have to be in some sense consumer facing.

 

Louisa

And David, what have you seen in terms of brand and engagement so far?

 

David

I think particularly from a retailer's side, they want to be engaged within the brand in their own ecosystem as well, 90% of our platform is white labeled to our customers own brand. So whether that be Savills Insights, or whether that be Mall of America Attendant Hub, it's a tool that they see in their own brand that they have familiarity with and that's really important to deliver that expectation. And of course, coming from that means that our customers want their platform to just work. They don't want to put their brands onto something that doesn't work, is unreliable, might go down, because actually they're putting their brands out there and saying, this is our platform and we believe in it.

 

Louisa

Yea, and the big question coming up which our audience is looking forward hearing, is it just about driving revenue at this time when physical real estate is a lot of pressure? Ben, would love to hear from you.

 

Ben

No it’s not about just driving revenue. This year has made us all look really carefully at efficiency, cost control, and then also getting revenue back on target, so where it should be at this time of year. But I think when we're in conversations with senior members of the bigger and the highest performing operators, it's absolutely about planning for the future. There's been a shock to the industry, some of that will go back to normal but a lot of that won’t go back to normal, so it's about planning for the future, how will the industry look in 3/5/10 years’ time? And how do you as a mall operator stay relevant? And by that, I mean, when a brand is choosing, does it sell in your mall, does it sell online or just sell in an airport or through a reseller? You want to make sure you're top of that list? And that's not just about chasing tomorrow's revenues.

 

Louisa

And, David, would you agree with Ben?

 

David

Yes, absolutely. I think the industry's had such a big shake up and it's been around, how can we run our businesses better? And I think they will start to take that into the future, and then plan for that. How do we look at not taking things for granted. And that's looking at how we can bring in the changes that we've had to make now and bring them forward into the future.

 

Louisa

This leads us on well to our next question, and maybe delve a little bit more into what you just said. What are the specific measures that real estate take to drive loyalty and retain their customers then?

 

Ben

That could be loyalty to the brands or loyalty to the consumers?

 

Louisa

Talk about both!

 

Ben

They all fit quite nicely, you haven’t got the consumers if you haven’t got the brands, and you’re not going to have brands without the consumer. So consumers, this is our specialty, this is where we focus. So it's about being relevant for them, it's about creating a dialogue between the mall, not just the retailers but the mall operators and the consumers, tell them what's happening, give them relevant news. Most people when they come to a mall only care about, let's say, 10% or 15% of the brands, we don’t want to all shop 150 brands when we go to the mall. So it's making sure that they know about the relevant information for them at the right time. And I think for retailers, the tenants, they want to have the right shoppers. Footfall now is hard to drive, so you want to make sure it's the right footfall and coming for the right reasons, so in a safe environment, etc. And then you got to share data with the brands, this is absolutely key. The brands want to know as much as they can about those shoppers so they can target them better. They're getting all this data online about how people shop for the retailers online, there needs to be something comparable offline.

 

Louisa

And David, what are the specific measures that you think will drive loyalty?

 

David

Well, I think it's a really interesting point is because from Mallcomm side, we look at both consumer loyalty and brand loyalty as well. And in general, any PropTech solution looking at occupier engagement and occupier loyalty has to provide specific measures and specific facilities to streamline their processes and make it as easy as possible for the brand. But as Ben says, footfall is really hard to come by. But again, some of the things that we've seen from some of our customers, Mall of America for example in the US, are finding that although footfall is really low, actually spending was up. And then how do we measure that and using tools like Coniq, how do we actually measure that to drive that loyalty into those customers so that they’re getting the right customers spending, going to the right stores, going to the right brands. And then how do we then get that data back to the retailer so that we can support them to make sure that is catering to those people

 

Louisa

And it's the time of year where we're all doing our wonderful board meetings, our fun forecasting. What's next for both your products for 2021? It's been a hell of a year 2020, but what do you guys got planned? Ben if you go first.

 

Ben

Two big things, I actually had my board meeting yesterday. One is we're expanding internationally so we've got an office in Chicago and Dubai, which stretches us wonderfully across many time zones now. We're seeing a lot of excitement in the US particularly, so that's good for us. The industries slightly different but it’s taking all the things we've learned, particularly from our sector in Europe, into that environment, the US. And the other one is we just launched a new product two weeks ago, which for us is pretty cool. Normally we were tracking transactions, so how much money you spent in stores and now we're beginning to also track movement and reward movements. So we can reward shoppers just for coming to the mall because we can do geolocation. It opens up many more opportunities to understand shopper behavior, and to give really interesting data back to the landlords and the brands.

 

Louisa

Exciting, congrats on an expansion of a new product. And David, what about you, I know you have had a very busy and 2020?

 

David

Yes, we have. We were also expanding geographically, pushes into Asia Pacific during the course of 2021. Having then launched, of course as I mentioned before, into the US two years ago. We have really probably two things that we're really focused on. Firstly, we're focused on sustainability, we think that's really important, I'm really passionate about that, throughout the commercial real estate environment and supporting our customers to ensure we can meet their targets, and coming up with products and solutions that can help property owners deliver better on sustainability and global warming. And then secondly, on our commitment to deliver secure security products and operational products. So from our side, we've done a lot of work over the last 12 months on working with our customers to deliver real, fully rounded solutions. And you're going to start to see from Mallcomm a lot more of our products are coming onto the market over the next 12 to 18 months, which is really exciting for us.

 

Louisa

That's very exciting. And I can sympathize with both of you on working various time zones, it's no fun, but the price you pay for global domination guys! But best of luck with both your expansions and continued growth. And unfortunately, we're coming to the end of the podcast, but any bit of parting advice either of you'd like to share with the audience and the best way for them to connect with you? David, if you want to go first.

 

David

I suppose the only advice I’d give is, I always say this, and people ask me about it, is to work with partners who you know can deliver. I think it's very easy to choose the cheapest in these times, or choose most standard, what we want to do is make sure we choose the most connected. We want to make sure that we can create platforms that are scalable, that can deliver long term goals way past the current situations that we're in. So working with technology companies that you can partner with, that you can build long term relationships with, both Mallcomm and Coniq fall into that category. So that's really the advice.

 

Louisa

And the best way for them to connect with you?

 

David

Oh, absolutely on LinkedIn, I’m available or Twitter, on the social channels. Visit our website www.mallcomm.com we'd be more than happy to hear from anyone.

 

Louisa

Thank you so much for that David, and Ben over to you.

 

Ben

The parting advice, the thing that I'm hearing coming from the players in the industry that I think are really good, is this idea of a platform business. So looking to the future, forget thinking that the mall is a real estate business purely where it's just about renting space, it's not - you’re platform for retailers. Think about all of the ways you can help retailers sell more products or deliver a better experience, it might not be about selling products, it might be about acquiring new customers. And that's what I see the really good players doing is reinventing their business as a as a business physical platform business. I think that's a really interesting way of looking at the business as well. In terms of getting hold of me, we've got a website called www.coniq.com and happy engaging on LinkedIn, or ben.chessa@coniq.com. Am a huge fan of people picking up the phone and calling me, but it just doesn't happen very much anymore.

 

Louisa

So I run a recruitment business and lots of my team seem to resort to emails as well, which is bizarre. But thank you so much for joining us on the Propcast, everyone who's listening and feel free to connect with David and Ben, and I’m looking forward to catching up with you both after the show.

 

Ben

Thank you.

 

David

Thanks very much.

 

Louisa

Thank you for joining us this week on the podcast and a big thanks to our special guests. Make sure you visit our website www.lmre.co.uk where you can subscribe to our show, or you'll find us on iTunes and Spotify. We're all good content is found. While you’re at it, if you found value in the show, we'd appreciate if you could rate and review us on iTunes. Or if you simply just spread the word, be sure to tune in next Tuesday and I'll catch you later.

More stories that might interest you...