Q. Locale was founded in 2005 and working based on six fundamental values. How has the company evolved?
A. Locale was founded essentially in my spare room on the basis of providing tech consultancy. I identified that real estate was significantly behind the curve when it came to digital solutions. In our 17-year journey, we have evolved into the Locale Group – a 35-person strong business comprising three brands (Locale, Locale Look and Locale Life), providing a 360-degree solution to building and portfolio management, occupier engagement and visual communications already across over 80m sq ft of real estate in the UK. This is underpinned by an unparalleled customer experience team ensuring every aspect of the customer journey is addressed.
Applicable to all asset classes, Locale’s offering allows stakeholders to instantly access centralised information and services relevant to them via app and desktop. We connect people with the spaces they share, creating sustainable buildings and communities in the new service-driven era.
Q. Locale is a ‘ground-breaking solution’ how do you stay above the competition?
A. The key to staying ahead of the curve is collaboration. As much as the shiny new toys and expensive complex bespoke builds can be really sexy and enticing, they generally tend to be vanity projects which end up being underutilised in practice and struggle to evolve to the constantly changing needs of a building and it’s occupiers. Like any product, building tech needs constant evolution as occupier and building teams needs change.
We are firmly bedded in with our clients and are constantly looking at their needs, identifying pain points, creating new solutions and setting KPIs. The constant collaboration ensures that every new feature or service we provide directly adds value to a building and its occupiers.
In the midst of the pandemic, we launched a new brand – Locale Look. Many thought I was bonkers but it was evident that emails and posters weren’t going to be enough to entice occupiers back. We’ve created a flexible and yet immersive offering whereby we curate bespoke content for digital signage in a building. Sounds simple but it has considerable impact when you’re telling stories and sharing vital information your occupiers want to know and care about.
This year alone, we’ve released several new and enhanced features on the portal including the launch of polls to track real-time occupier sentiment, and our revolutionary portfolio data module which gives all stakeholders of a building real-time insights into a building’s performance and key trends. Teams can adapt faster than ever and deliver on occupier needs. In such a fast evolving environment it’s more important than ever to take a data-driven approach to decision making & we unlock the insights to do so.
Crucially, we also invest a lot of time in educating and training our users through our online academy. This is the key to promoting best practice and ensuring the technology is leveraged fully. Maximum input, optimum output!
Q. What challenges has Locale faced recently or in the past and how were they overcome?
A. In our 17-year history, we’ve navigated through political crises, recessions and a global pandemic, so it’s safe to say we’ve had our fair share. Firstly we’re independently owned so the priority was and has always been our workforce. Without people, we’re nothing. We’ve continued to invest in our people and bring in talent despite the challenges of recent years. It’s bolstered our offering and ensures we continued to grow. We are proud to have a genuinely diverse team with over half of the board being female.
Secondly, we’ve stayed true to our core values. Old school it might seem, but honesty and integrity are deeply rooted in our DNA and so everything we do stems from that. It’s helped us to make the crucial decisions and get them right each time.
We are never afraid of a challenge either. We like to solve problems and find creative, flexible solutions that suit us and our clients. In 2020, the pandemic highlighted the property managers’ need for fast and efficient rollout of information to large property portfolios, communicating to a variety of stakeholders such as contractors, building staff, and occupiers often simultaneously. We worked with our client MAPP across its vast infrastructure across the UK, to deliver an effective communication and management solution that could be implemented across its entire property portfolio, to ensure consistent communication and operations in what was a period of uncertainty during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Transforming the management of MAPP’s £13bn portfolio and its communication with occupiers, the Locale portal and app have been implemented in an additional 1.25 million sq ft of MAPP commercial real estate from Exeter to Glasgow, acting as a one-stop-shop for property managers to streamline communication and responsibilities from one easy-to-use platform. In a nutshell, we love a challenge!
Q. Locale has collaborated with and assisted many companies; can you describe the experience of providing expert knowledge to some of these firms?
A. We have and continue to work with some incredible names and have deployed our technology and services in iconic buildings. Our offering extends across the UK across residential, commercial and mixed-use real estate and for us everything we do is underpinned by ongoing collaboration, listening and creative problem solving.
The Shard is special as we’ve worked with them from the very beginning creating a truly valued platform in My Vertical City.
We were also the tech consultants for the Olympic Village. We aided the build of a digital platform for a PRS conversion of the athlete’s village, working with the landlord, operator, and local authority to devise a solution. The tenant portal itself included ground-breaking advances for the time including fully integrated financial deposit and payments with Qube, fully integrated personal credit check system, and marketing campaign integrations.
But the beauty of our platform and offering is that we span all asset classes – from creating digitalisation of large areas such as Digbeth in Birmingham and Royal Albert Docks in Liverpool to Manchester’s City Tower, and London’s Marble Arch Place.
Q. In your opinion, do you believe the demand for services/solutions such as Locale will increase in the future?
A. Demand will definitely increase, especially as the demographic of occupiers further shifts towards those that expect tech and on-demand services as standard. We are also seeing true digital transformation take hold in the industry driven on a number of fronts including regulation, investor expectations, and the need for operators to be more efficient and competitive.
In the immediate term, with a recession looming, we need to be mindful that service charge budgets are tight so tech solutions need to have demonstrable business value and be linked to the needs of occupiers, being sustainable in both price and delivery. While purely bespoke solutions might seem sexy, they quickly become outdated without the right product development roadmap and investment in place. So, let’s make sure we are practising what we preach and ensure tech in real estate radiates the reputation it deserves. There are exciting times ahead!
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