Tech in CRE

How smart building technology will revolutionize e-commerce and in-store purchases, changing demand for retail and industrial brokers

July 12, 2017

Smart building technology and retail innovations are making both e-commerce and physical retail more seamless. Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods signals a major change in retail tech integration, one that is coming even sooner than we thought. As retail technology advancements continue, the needs of retail CRE buyers and investors will shift.

What is smart building technology?

The Internet of Things is a term used to describe the connection of any tech device to the internet and/or any other device. Smart building technology is a branch of the IoT. When a building is equipped with smart technology, functions like plumbing, lighting and HVAC are connected to allow a building inhabitant to control those functions through another device, like a smartphone, from on- or off-site.

How smart building technology will modernize in-store transactions

People have already been talking for years about smart building technology in relation to our homes or offices, but recently, there have been some exciting developments in smart building technology for retail.

With smart building technology, things like returns, recommendations, sizing, stocking and merchandising will be completely automated. Stores will implement sensors and intuitive self-help screens so transactions won’t rely on human to human interaction; they’ll only require human to computer interaction. One example of this is with Amazon Go, their grocery store technology that allows shoppers to simply walk in and out with their desired items, skipping the checkout line for ultimate convenience. We can now be confident that this technology will be rolled out into Whole Foods stores nationwide, and eventually, all types of stores.

And perhaps even more importantly, these sensors will also be able to detect when a store is running low on an item and immediately restock it with the help of a last-mile distribution center, meaning shoppers will never have to wait or come back for the item they want to buy.

How smart building technology will modernize ecommerce

Retail stores aren’t the only places impacted by the relationship between smart building technology and last-mile distribution. With the introduction of new tools like Amazon’s Dash, homeowners and renters are also beginning to see the benefits. With the push of a portable button, Dash connects a user’s home to Amazon and helps keep consumers stocked with the items they use frequently, like paper towels and cat litter. In the not-so-distant future, this type of automatic delivery request system will interface with autonomous vehicles, making delivery delays a thing of the past.

But the innovation won’t end there. Some day, every building will be equipped with sensors to detect when necessary supplies are running low. These sensors will trigger a reorder without you even having to check your supply or push a button. Then, a self-driving vehicle or drone will pick that item up from a last-mile distribution center and deliver it to your door almost instantly. You’ll never have to make a shopping list again.


What smart building technology means for brokers who sell retail and industrial spaces

If you specialize in retail, especially grocery anchors, Amazon and Whole Foods’ merger means good things for your future. Smart retail technology will be introduced to grocery stores faster than expected, and consumers will take advantage of the newly added convenience, contributing to a boom in physical retail spaces.

Last-mile distribution real estate will see a boom once more innovations are introduced that allow stores, homes and buildings to stock themselves with necessary inventory and supplies through smart building technology. These advancements in stocking and shipping will allow buyers to seek storefronts with less on-site storage and many of your clients will begin to look for both storefronts and last-mile distribution centers simultaneously. Be prepared to market these properties together and make recommendations for additional properties that will benefit your clients’ businesses.

To learn more about smart building technology in an office setting, check out our blog.

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