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CBRE leads the way in commercial real estate with location intelligence

Real estate is all about location. A geographic information system (GIS) provides location intelligence. So it would make sense that when CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate firm, decided to lead the industry in a digital transformation, they incorporated GIS into their strategy.

Commercial real estate development and operation of existing buildings generate economic benefits, including the creation and continued support of jobs. How the industry proceeds in the next year as we recover from the pandemic can set the foundation for its future success. A lot of firms continue to depend on legacy technology systems which could hamper progress and their ability to innovate. Not CBRE.

I recently had a conversation with Naz Ali, the senior GIS manager for CBRE Canada. We talked about the company’s GIS journey and how it has provided a competitive advantage for brokers and clients. What started out as putting dots on a map turned into full-fledged use of ArcGIS where they access different types of data to supplement their own and perform spatial and demographic analysis. The intuitive power of maps combined with the analytical power of a GIS can unlock trends, patterns and opportunities that cannot be detected in tabular data alone. This allows them to deliver actionable insights and assist their clients in making informed business decisions. And this is all done by Naz’s team in-house - no need to hire outside consultants and the additional time and cost that would bring.

Because commercial space availability can change on a dime, speed of information makes all the difference. CBRE created Dimension, a groundbreaking application powered by ArcGIS that enables users to turn data into compelling visual stories. It has transformed how clients select office, retail and industrial sites, recruit employees, and choose vendors and tenants. With the use of this GIS-based application, win rates go up and brokers use the platform during client presentations more than any other technology except for PowerPoint. To find the perfect site, Dimension combines aerial photos, competitor locations and census data to visualize market share and trade areas. Instead of just looking at one store location at a time, brokers can analyze their clients’ portfolio and evaluate the whole store network in a market. Losing customers to the competition costs money. Knowing the types of products, promotions, and services that will attract profitable customers in a trade area can help create customer loyalty. These are some of the ways CBRE uses GIS so their clients can map their way to better sites and tenants.

“Location intelligence at CBRE is our competitive differentiator. With our sophisticated technology that is built on the ArcGIS system along with our market knowledge, we are mastering markets with custom demographics and helping define trade areas for market potential and competitive threats. At the same time we are improving market analysis and strengthening our client relationships,” says Naz.

For clients looking to relocate their offices while keeping employee commute times in mind, CBRE created a commute optimizer tool, powered by ArcGIS. This tool creates an interactive map that allows executives to pick different locations and instantly see the average commute time and distance for their workforce. A task like this would normally take hours of work designing and printing paper maps, but with the commute optimizer, changes can be made with results available immediately on a single screen.

CBRE has taken GIS-based maps with data-rich location insight to create stories that speak to client’s business needs. 

Naz and her team have also combined location and psychographic data for site selection projects. In a recent craft brewery project, they pulled aggregated data from massive mobile data to dig into the psychographics to understand and analyze a potential location’s foot traffic and trade area. Heat maps showed where target customers were spending their time. Being able to create a custom trade area is a more effective and accurate way of understating customer patterns, as opposed to more traditional means such as drive time or radius range. Using other data such as average household income and percentage of millennials, they were able to select a site that would attract their target customer.

That’s right, GIS can also be used for retail science!

CBRE uses a variety of ArcGIS apps, including dashboards, web maps and story maps. Dimension is so widespread and accessible that there are employees who aren’t even aware that they are making use of GIS! When I asked Naz about their future plans with GIS, she listed a few: having more layers available in Dimension, 3D maps, and some custom applications for their brokers. Suffice it to say that GIS has been a crucial part of their digital transformation and will continue to be as CBRE stays ahead of the competition. 

Want to find new competitive insights in your business? Win with geo using these 10 free lessons on geospatial strategy and location intelligence by Esri Canada’s director of management consulting, Matthew Lewin.

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.