Tenant Experience (TEx) platforms have been an increasingly common component of the office world over the course of the last half-decade or so. These applications provide a range of functionality for both landlords and occupiers, and tend to be positioned as a perk to occupiers to increase leasing effectiveness or retention. And while experience apps are present in office, retail, and multifamily properties, they tend to be most predominant in the office world.
While tenant experience is frequently discussed as interchangeable with tenant experience platforms, the reality is that these are two separate things. Tenant experience itself is just that: the quality of experience that occupiers have while using a property. The apps or platforms, on the other hand, are just one of many tools landlords can use to improve tenant experience at their property.
In order to provide clarity into this rapidly evolving, increasingly important field, we developed this report to explain the core value proposition of most tenant experience apps, and collected notes on the top tenant experience platforms out there today. We also gathered information on what landlords can do to augment and boost their property tenant experience, either instead of or in addition to these purpose-built applications.
As we mentioned above, tenant experience platforms and tenant experience as a concept are interconnected. This relationship is represented by three spheres nested within one another.
The biggest sphere is the tenant’s experience. This is the sum total of everything that impacts a building’s occupants during their time there. Consequently, this includes:
Location, transit, and parking
Cleanliness (and, more recently, sanitation)
Services and amenities
Services and amenities
That last bullet, services and amenities, is the middle sphere, and is where we focus when discussing tenant experience platforms. Services and amenities are a clear priority for landlords in recent times, and this is no accident. According to Leesman, a workplace consulting firm, there are 13 “super drivers” of workplace satisfaction. Of those, only the bolded ones are directly controllable by the landlord, barring edge cases and other unique circumstances:
Individual desk provision
Informal work areas/break-out zones
Learning from others
Relaxing/taking a break
Small meeting rooms
Tea/coffee and other refreshment facilities
Sometimes, these are only under the control of the landlord in common areas, such as a lobby or the shared conference room in a flex space building. And out of the bolded list, some, like noise levels and toilet facilities, relate to expensive decisions made during construction or renovation. This leaves decor, tidiness, breakout rooms, and refreshments as the options most possible for landlords to impact on an ongoing basis. With the exception of decor, each of these is an amenity or service, making the landlord focus on this niche within office management easy to understand.
It also makes it easier to understand the popularity of office tenant experience platforms, the innermost sphere in our diagram. Many tenant experience platforms allow occupiers to reserve amenities and services like breakout zones, conference rooms, on-demand cleaning, or even food from local vendors. However, we are careful to define tenant experience platforms separately from the broader world of tenant experience apps, which could be defined so broadly as to include touchless access, community-only tools, visitor management systems, and beyond. Platforms, on the other hand, tend to bundle many services together, or else provide a method to integrate with dedicated providers within these areas.
Core tenant experience components
This brings us to our discussion of the main functionality most tenant experience apps include.
The foundational function for many platforms is the inclusion of a news or newsfeed feature. This allows property managers, dedicated community managers, and in some cases, occupier space managers and/or users to share updates pertaining to the building, surrounding community, events, and beyond.
In line with a news function, in-app messaging allows different stakeholders within a building to communicate with one another. This could range in functionality from occupier space managers communicating with their property management or maintenance staff, sometimes via a discrete ticketing system, to different tenant employees networking with one another, to property management staff polling their occupiers on new features or services.
Access control has been a focus of intense attention over the last year and a half due to the groundswell of interest in touchless entry due to COVID-19. But helping occupiers get into their spaces was a priority even before the outbreak, as a clear method of reducing friction at the workplace. Some tenant experience platforms offer access control, occasionally as an integration with a major partner like Openpath.
Tenant experience apps frequently include an event registration function. This allows space users to book entry to a range of events, both those planned by building staff and those planned by occupiers.
Amenities like breakout rooms are important to many occupiers as indicated by the Leesman research. These spaces, and others such as conference rooms, recreation spaces, and workout rooms can be either within tenant suites or shared between them. Regardless, having an easy process for reserving space within these rooms is important for reducing competition between employees or, even worse, different occupiers.
As a corollary to events, some apps also include payment functionality, often through an integration with a processing partner. This could serve various functions, for instance, allowing occupiers to actually pay their rent within the app, to allowing individual space users to pay for classes and other events, to allowing for add-on services like extra cleaning.
Tenant experience apps typically allow for some element of client branding or whitelabeling. While this is often connected to the branding of the platform itself, it allows landlords a chance to distinguish themselves and their properties against their competitors.
Dedicated TeX providers
Founded in 2018, HqO is one of the larger tenant experience platforms. It offers a range of services focused around the “HqOS” system, which includes a dedicated experience platform, data reporting dashboard interface, “Headquarters” backend, and marketplace where users can identify other PropTech solutions for their buildings.
HqO recently completed a $60 million Series C round and has a number of high-profile clients including Hudson Pacific Properties and J.P. Morgan’s asset at Spitalfields Market in London.
Lane, founded in 2014, is an experience platform that offers most of the standard TEx features as well as enhanced customizability through the ability to create custom building workflows, for things like maintenance orders or cleaning. Lane is currently marketing specific solutions to landlords of flex space, as well.
In 2020, Lane acquired eServus, a tenant engagement tool that allowed users to buy discounted tickets, memberships, and services. That year, the company also completed a $10 million Series A round, and began a partnership with the asset manager Nuveen to provide services to Miami’s 1.8 million square foot Waterford Business District.
Equiem is a TEx platform that offers the familiar core services with an emphasis on analytics. Founded in 2011, the company breaks their offerings down into a more standard “Equiem Core” and a more advanced “Equiem Plus” offering. Equiem also offers a COVID-19 occupancy monitoring and analytics product, a built-in E-commerce solution, and a flex space solution.
Equiem acquired property management software Vicinitee in 2021 and office space listing platform JAGONAL in 2016. Lincoln Property Group, the major landlord, itself invested in Equiem in 2021, with plans not only to serve as an investor but also as a user of Equiem’s experience platform.
Spaceflow, founded in 2018, is an experience-oriented TEx platform that puts an emphasis on monetizing buildings. It does this by combining a payment solution with a concierge that can help occupiers find local restaurants and businesses, or book cars and spaces if set by the landlord.
Spaceflow client buildings include THE ICON, Allianz’s flagship property in Vienna, with 950,000 square feet of office space. Spaceflow also recently announced a new offering, called Flow, which helps landlords track their ESG measurables.
Originally founded in 2015, Comfy is a workflow-oriented TEx platform. It also allows individual occupiers to control their climate, if buildings are properly equipped.
Comfy became a Siemens company in 2018, and that large conglomerate was already in the process of rolling out the company’s tenant experience platform to 100,000 employees by 2020. Other clients include Salesforce and McDonald’s, and of all the platforms in this report, Comfy is the one most aimed at workplace teams.
Building Engines is a property management and TEx tool that offers a wide range of services stretching beyond just tenant experience. Founded in 2000, the company includes the standard TEx platform features as well as additional offerings like insurance and inspection software.
Many of these functionalities were implemented via acquisition. Real Data Management added building measurement features, Ravti added HVAC management software, and Synlio brought RFP automation. Building Engines also acquired AwareManager, a property and portfolio operations platform. Leading clients of Building Engines include Physicians Realty Trust, which has several hundred properties within its healthcare-centered portfolio.
Office App is a modular TEx platform that breaks its services down into a number of modules, like wayfinding, loyalty & rewards, or parcel lockers. Many of these features are integrations to dedicated providers. Office App was founded in 2014.
Office App is used by a range of major companies, such as Dell, LaSalle Investment Management, and Blackstone. Its modular functionality could make it useful for landlords who are scaling their operations.
While a retail-oriented platform, Mallcomm, founded in 2000, also provides an office TEx solution. This includes the core TEx solutions as well as a crisis management component.
Mallcomm’s retail-oriented platform could make it a good fit for landlords who offer mixed-use properties. This is the use case at Warsaw’s Elektrownia Powisle, a mixed-use district where Mallcomm is used for office, retail, multifamily residents, and tourists alike.
Smarten Spaces is a TEx platform with an emphasis on space, desk, and workforce management. Founded in 2017, it also offers an IoT implementation.
Smarten Spaces has a particular emphasis on hybrid working models, and also offers co-working management software. This could make it a particularly good fit for landlords looking to expand in these alternate lease structures.
The Europe-focused Locale, founded in 2005, provides all the standard TEx features as well as a key tracking system and a content management system (CMS for landlords to publish their own content.
Locale works with a range of large European landlords including M J Mapp, with 900 properties, and also provides Locale Life, a service package which can provide placemaking, classes, and additional support.
District is a community-focused TEx platform with several noteworthy features in addition to the typical ones. It offers the ability for users to make profiles, to encourage social networking, social media integrations, and a skills-based browser for community members.
District was founded in 2017, and markets a scalable platform that can range from plug-and-play simplicity to a fully branded, white-labeled implementation. This could make it a good solution for smaller landlords looking for an easy tenant experience solution.
iOFFICE, founded in 2002, includes the base TEx platform features as well as others, like maintenance management, inventory management, and move-in management. Teem, Hippo CMMS, and ManagerPlus are brands through which iOFFICE offers some of these services, and were previous acquisitions.
iOFFICE was acquired by Waud Capital Partners, a private equity firm, in 2018. Unique amongst the platforms on this list, iOFFICE markets itself as an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS), and focuses on space use nuts and bolts, like scheduling and analytics, as opposed to community events or reward programs.
TEx platform HILO has an emphasis on networks. For occupiers, this means a community directory and in-app food ordering, It also includes a reward system for occupiers to receive incentives from host properties and community partners.
With this emphasis on networks and community, HILO could be a good platform choice for landlords who are heavily invested in another management suite or already work with different amenity providers, and are consequently not looking to make a complete pivot.
Rise Buildings was founded in 2016 and offers the typical TEx solutions broken down into the four categories of Access, Operations, Engagement, and Advanced Solutions. Rise also offers some proprietary hardware, like occupancy sensors and physical access control and room booking kiosks.
Rise Buildings was acquired by VTS, the leasing and asset management software provider, in 2021 for $100 million. One noteworthy Rise-enabled property is The Old Post Office in Chicago, which is managed by JLL and contains over 2.5 million square feet of space.
Popular TEx features
The tools above are all dedicated tenant experience applications, purpose built for maximizing occupier satisfaction. But they are not the only options landlords have when looking for ways to add a perk to their repertoire. The tools discussed here can fulfill many of the core functionalities of tenant experience apps, or augment them if both are provided.
Messaging services, with Slack a prime example, offer some of the functionality of dedicated tenant experience apps. Slack allows users to create multiple different channels, for instance, for events, maintenance requests, and beyond. It also allows for users to initiate one-on-one or private group conversations, such as between all occupiers on a certain floor.
According to research from Building Engines, 75 percent of office workers are comfortable using messaging as their primary means of office communication. Starting by offering a messaging service could allow landlords to capture a major component of what most purpose-built tenant experience platforms have to offer. Be sure that whatever messaging tool you choose gives users the ability to create their own private and shared chat channels between their own contacts throughout the building.
Within real tenant experience platforms, access control is often handled by an integration with a third party provider. This allows the TEx company to focus on doing what they do best and not developing a whole different kind of competency. But access control, together with touchless access, has become so integral to the user experience of many TEx platforms that anyone seeking to offer a platform-like functionality should be sure to enter into an access control partnership of their own.
Scheduling apps, like Calendly, allow multiple calendars such as Google or Outlook to feed into one bookable interface, with open slots that update as times are booked either through the calendar front end or on one of the synced calendars. When an event is booked, the guest receives a calendar invite of their own.
These apps are typically used for busy professionals to schedule meetings, such as in a sales setting, but they can be useful within offices, as well. Each reservable breakout or conference room could have its own associated Calendly page, allowing employees of many different occupying companies to reserve space without the risk of double booking. This could make managing shared amenity spaces much easier for landlords who provide things like conference rooms and focus spaces outside of private tenant suites.
Video conferencing services
Employees in practically every industry have become very familiar with Zoom and its competitors over the last two years. But while these are most strongly associated with work meetings and webinars, they are also a valid option for landlords to use for a variety of purposes.
Note that Slack added video call functionality several years ago, meaning that if you decide to work with that technology, you may not need to find something else for video calls.
Games and other interactive solutions
Gamification, the process of applying concepts and approaches from the world of gaming to other areas like education and business, is also applicable within commercial real estate. For landlords looking to boost their overall tenant experience, this could be represented with a variety of strategies.
Reward systems. Reward systems employ metrics like points or other measurables to award gifts to users for completing certain activities. Landlords could develop a reward system of their own, awarding points for actions as simple as coming into the office or as complex as planning a community event, culminating in rewards such as gift cards to local businesses, built into the landlord’s operating budget. Other systems, like Taco (an integration for Slack), allow peer-to-peer point awards and include their own reward options.
Energy use. Some modern smart building tools allow users to view their individual cumulative energy use. Dashboards that display information like this allows for landlords to gamify energy use reduction by integrating a reward component and leveraging the common innate desire to boost metrics that are specifically measurable.
Virtual lessons. Landlords can offer on-demand fitness classes to their occupiers via a variety of methods, such as a program like Peloton or another membership. But office owners don’t need to stop at fitness, and can also offer other virtual interactive perks like leadership coaching, cooking lessons, and beyond.
Trivia and other games. The most literal opportunity within this area, landlords can sponsor and run pub trivia events, either in person or through a video conferencing platform. If in person, this kind of approach can be useful to highlight potentially underutilized amenity areas within a building.
Automation tools like Zapier are useful in numerous businesses and individual situations, and tenant experience is no exception. These tools, which rely on a “trigger-response” form of simple programming, integrate with numerous other apps (although not as often with purpose-built tenant experience platforms).
Within the tenant experience world, something like Zapier could be used to record the time and date a space user reserves a conference room, and then set up lighting and different HVAC settings to kick in five minutes beforehand. Or it could be used to automatically send a welcome email to people who sign up for a shared messaging platform for the first time.
A longer-term strategy landlords could choose to take is to promote a healthy mix of uses at the property. Office buildings that include other uses, like a gym tenant and several restaurants, are much more attractive to many occupiers than ones that are full of only office suites.
This can be particularly useful in two different scenarios. One, in rural and suburban settings where mixed-use could fill a big community need, and two, in urban settings where workers are less likely to come with cars. According to Harold Hunt, a research economist at Texas A&M University’s Texas Real Estate Research Center, “If you don’t have a car, it’s nice to have everything you need — retail, office, residential space — nearby.”
Providing transit options
Access to offices is a frequent source of friction for occupiers. Landlords can respond to this by providing transit options of their own. The most efficient way to organize this would most likely be as a “last mile” solution to augment existing public transit options. Offering micro-mobility infrastructure, like chargers for e-scooters or a hub for commuter bikes networks, is one relatively straightforward option for landlords to take. They could also elect to include a service like TransitScreen, which displays public transit information in the lobbies of buildings.
One-off solutions vs purpose-built apps
While purpose-built platforms make implementing experience functionality easy, implementing the ad hoc solutions above comes with several challenges. For one thing, they typically do not allow for as much custom branding and white-labeling as purpose-built experience apps. For another, managing so many different app accounts can be cumbersome compared to the centralized nature of a tenant experience tool.
On the other hand, for landlords who know they only want certain dedicated tenant experience functionality, it can be efficient both in terms of time and money to go the “a la carte” route. For instance, if the only services a given landlord wants to offer is touchless access, partnering with an access control provider alone could be easier.
If a landlord is looking for the easiest way to stitch together several different tools into a home-brew tenant experience platform, they should accept the limitations discussed above, and then think about what functionality they really want to offer. In most cases, starting with a building-wide Slack team, engaging an access control provider to allow touchless (phone-based) access to the building, and setting up a set of Calendly pages for the various amenity spaces throughout the building is probably the quickest way to success. These tools replicate much of the core functionality of many TEx platforms, of course, without the branding and consistency of experience that those purpose-built solutions offer.
One thing to keep in mind is whether the occupiers of a building are likely to use another sizable app on their phone. For instance, many tenant experience platforms offer local food ordering as a functionality, but without the promise of a major discount, it is difficult to expect that many building occupiers would choose to use that interface and not just Google, Uber Eats, or Yelp when looking for lunch.
This is the reason why many of our suggestions here mention Slack as a great option for landlords looking to approximate tenant experience platform functionality. Many businesses already use Slack in their day to day work, so adding another team within the platform could be easier than asking them to adopt a brand-new communication app.
Measuring the impact of tenant experience
Tracking the impact of a TEx platform can be accomplished through several methods. The best information would be a measurable increase in tenant retention rates, increased leasing effectiveness, or rent premium. From there, landlords could consider the costs of leasing or re-leasing spaces versus the cost of their TEx platforms. However, this is difficult information to acquire, since platforms are by definition so integrated with other services and building experience factors. According to research from Cushman & Wakefield, highly-amenitized buildings exhibit an 18.3 percent rent premium versus the submarket average, but understanding how much, if any, of this comes down to experience platforms is hard to determine.
It can be much easier to directly survey building occupiers and ask them what they like and what they don’t like, simultaneously acting as a check on TEx platform value and helping increase effectiveness in other areas. Most platforms include functionality to accomplish this kind of communication natively, since they have a lot to gain by highlighting their own successes. Typically, platforms will allow managers to perform simple polling of individual space users, but for landlords looking to go beyond that to a more advanced level of opinion analysis, dedicated surveying platforms like Typeform can be useful to ask branching, conditional questions at a cost-effective price point.
Another important metric to track, that is also a little easier to measure, is average engagement with an experience platform. For instance, HqO touts a 40%+ app engagement rate at Jamestown’s Ponce City property in Atlanta, which has over 2,000 users. There is no right or wrong “acceptable” number for average engagement, but a tenant base that includes hundreds of employees utilizing a platform each month is certainly a positive ROI indicator.
Beyond these measurable figures, landlords should be aware of the impacts to branding that many TEx platforms allow. For platforms that are fully white-labeled, this could help landlords establish a consistent reputation across buildings and markets. And in cities where landlords operate a whole portfolio of properties, many TEx platforms could allow their occupiers to access services across buildings, such as gym spaces or conference rooms in buildings that they do not lease space in. This can help tie a portfolio together, both in terms of branding and experience.
Choosing the right TEx platform
To choose the right platform, landlords should answer three fundamental questions.
What do I want to achieve? How much of the TEx value proposition is already handled by a dedicated property management software? What is the ultimate goal of introducing a tenant platform, like increasing retention?
What systems do I need integrations with? Different TEx platforms have different integrations to things like facility management, IoT, and amenity services. Landlords should be sure to understand what they would like to integrate before moving forward with the extra layer of a tenant experience platform.
What am I willing to pay, and for what? Landlords must understand not just the dollar price they can pay, but also what they need out of that expense. Do they only need the platform itself, or will they need help creating posts and events to fill the platform with content?
There is an entire universe of tenant experience platforms out there. In this report, we explored what services TEx platforms tend to offer, over a dozen of the largest platforms currently in use, and a number of options that landlords can use to supplement or home-brew their own tenant experience platforms. We also discussed measuring the impact of a TEx platform.
TEx platforms come in all shapes and sizes and while some might be a better fit for certain landlord types and portfolio sizes than others, the principles that TEx platforms embody, namely communication, community, monitoring, and access, are critical ones for landlords to master.