The pressure is on for commercial landlords.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created uncertainty in every aspect of office marketing and leasing. When will tenants start touring again? How can landlords get their spaces in front of brokers and clients before they commit to doing a physical tour? In a world that once relied on handshakes, lunches and in-person rapport, where do leasing teams start?
As The Real Deal previously reported, dozens of tech companies are now competing to sell landlords and brokers on 3D digital models of their spaces. And for good reason.
In a recent survey, a staggering 82 percent of New York tenants said they’d feel uncomfortable taking an in-person tour of an office. Reaching those work-from-home brokers and tenants is now the make-or-break mandate for every commercial landlord in the country.
But many of the nation’s largest landlords — from Tishman Speyer to Brookfield Properties, Empire State Realty Trust, Hines, Oxford Properties Group and RXR — have already found the solution.
“We thought we were just building a modern marketing suite,” said Nick Romito, the CEO of leasing and asset management software giant VTS. The company recently launched VTS Market — a digital marketing suite and broker-facing listing site that’s fully integrated into VTS’ market-leading leasing platform.
“Unbeknownst to us, we were actually building a remote marketing and leasing platform for the post-Covid world,” he said. “We realized that what we had built let people virtually experience a building and interact with the owner of that building like never before.”
VTS now manages more than 60 percent of national Class A office space and 65 percent of the Manhattan office market. It has become the system of record for landlords to manage their inventory. The new VTS Market platform dramatically expands its capabilities. It means that landlords who already use the software can create a fully realized digital marketing campaign for a vacancy with the push of a button.
“Digital marketing doesn’t have to be difficult or intimidating,” Romito explained. “The reason our platform is being adopted so quickly is because it is built into a system that owners of commercial inventory already use every day. All of the communications and negotiations on a transaction, from lead to lease, can happen without ever leaving the platform.”
VTS Market starts by producing a virtual tour. VTS’ in-house production team creates high-quality digital photos, videos and 3D renderings, giving a broker or potential lessee a realistic virtual tour of a property as it is and as it could be.
But Romito noted that digital marketing means much more than virtual tours. It allows for data-driven decision-making and lets building owners make informed decisions. That requires data, of which VTS has plenty.
“We have the data,” Romito said. “We have the inventory. We are in this really special position of being the system of record. So we don’t have to scrape websites or hire telemarketers to call around and ask what’s available, like everybody else. We already manage the listings.”
The platform enables landlords and brokers to design unique marketing strategies for their properties. That allows, for instance, owners to see how to most effectively market pre-built versus raw space, or open plan versus traditional floor plates. And because VTS provides landlords and leasing teams with real-time analytics, such as number of page and video views, it is easy to proactively adjust a marketing strategy to maximize impact.
Having the best market data in the industry means that VTS can also provide comps that take away the guesswork.
“We can show you everything that is happening in the market,” Romito said. “It’s a unique view of the entire commercial ecosystem, and it’s going to up-level every part of the process.”
In addition, it has simple tools that make owners’ and brokers’ jobs easier. VTS allows leasing teams to easily identify and share listings with tenant rep contacts directly from the VTS platform in response to inquiries. VTS also emails new listings directly to its extensive network of tenant rep brokers, so they’re always in the know when listings become available. Additionally, tenant rep brokers can search the VTS Marketplace for listings that meet their clients’ requirements, save them and share them directly with clients, with their own contact info added for free.
“This is the perfect tool to lease a piece of space in a world where no one is comfortable going and seeing it in person,” Romito said. “There is no better way to market space when people are working from home and cannot physically go take a tour, or sit down and have lunch with you to hear why your building is so great.”
In an increasingly digital world, it’s never been more important to be on the cutting edge of the commercial real estate industry. The pandemic hasn’t temporarily altered our world; it’s flung us toward the future that was already coming.
“Digital marketing is here to stay,” Romito said. “We didn’t have a crystal ball, but we have created the platform that the market needs right now.”