Buildings don’t engage people, companies do: Is real estate approaching tenant engagement apps in the wrong way?


PropTech Advice


Freddie Pritchard-Smith


January 8, 2024

Buildings don’t engage people, companies do: Is real estate approaching tenant engagement apps in the wrong way?
Tenant engagement applications have boomed in the last six years.

And, having owned and run a tenant engagement app (TenX) company before co-founding Trustek, I’m more than familiar with the challenges of selling, adopting, and maintaining this “silver bullet” of tenant focused property technology.  

Unfortunately, despite truly excellent products out there on the market, we see tenant engagement apps approached in the wrong way by occupiers, operators, and owners who want to create communities around their building.  

So where do things go wrong?  

Understand: Tenant communication platform or tenant amenity platform?

A simple question that is often overlooked is, do you have a benchmark of the current customer experience in the building? Without understanding the current customer feedback how can you accurately measure the success of the implementation of an experience app.  

It is essential to have clarity of purpose from the outset, but part of the challenge here is the naming of the technology. Buildings don’t engage people; companies do and so the actual reason for a tenant app is either to communicate with people, provide an amenity, or both.  

Traditionally, building managers have the contact details of one or two people within a company, with building updates filtered down to all employees via them.

Apps are a great way to upgrade this process by providing building managers with an easy and direct way to communicate with a large proportion of building users. The same applies to company-wide comms, in both directions. Apps can be used to convey a wide range of information from staff events to ESG strategies. Polls and feedback platforms can also be leveraged to gain company insight and actionable data.  

But it’s unlikely a high volume of building users is going to download an app for that singular purpose.  

The toothbrush test, the need to use something twice a day, is an excellent means of determining whether building users will download and use an app. This is where an amenity app comes into play.  

The most common ones are apps that successfully integrate access control and desk bookings; everyday activities where an app negates the need for access cards or additional software logins.  

Select: The right choice for the right reason

The tenant experience app market is complex and nuanced with over 40 apps available and 146+ hybrid-work booking solutions globally that could also fit within the TenX app bracket.

And this marketplace can be hard to navigate.  Apps are not one-size-fits-all so, level of service (at every stage), integrations and branding must all be considered alongside evidenced case studies of similar buildings and scenarios. It is important to regularly refer back to the app’s defined purpose to ensure it is not being lost amongst promises of solutions for challenges that may not exist.  

It is worth exploring, too, any overlapping app functions, for example issue reporting.  The procurement of an app is often siloed to one or two departments, but connecting the dots between teams can result in more efficient processes (and potentially save money too).  

Our Verified Marketplace can help with the Select challenge. Through clear, data driven, evidenced reports on each product, you can easily benchmark products against one another and be confident in the knowledge that the PropTech company you’re exploring is actually doing what they say do.

Deploy: Work collaboratively with the solution provider

Anyone embarking on a tenant engagement app journey must ensure they work closely with the app provider to put in place a watertight training programme for those orchestrating the app’s functions and output, as well as support and easy guidance for users.  

What shape this support takes and how long it lasts will have been determined during the procurement phase. And, whilst it is to the app provider’s benefit that the implementation is as smooth as possible, it is essential the project manager behind the app’s deployment keeps on top of this pre, during and post launch.  

Measure: Not everyone will download it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not working

One of the highest examples of monthly active users we’ve ever witnessed for a tenant engagement app (not including mobile phone access control) is 65%. The industry average is around 30-35% of monthly active users.

But that does not mean the app isn’t working. And anyone embarking on a tenant engagement app journey must successfully manage expectations.  

At regular intervals the apps performance must be benchmarked against the intended outcomes in the initial understand phase. Is it performing as expected? If not, what are the barriers? What improvements can be made internally or by the solution provider?  

It’s important to remember that an app, as a stand-alone product will not deliver; it’s functions and content need to be nurtured to ensure successful ROI.

The untapped potential of a tenant experience apps

Supporting tenant (and visitor) journeys and experiences in a centralised place is more important than ever as the return to the office continues to evolve.  

We’ve seen apps done extremely well and witnessed the benefits. But we’ve also seen them fail due to lack of clarity around purpose, poor deployment, and lack of ongoing management.  

Anyone embarking on this journey must therefore thoroughly consider every step of the process to ensure a successful app (and an engaged community) from the outset.

What next? 

1. Explore Tenant Engagement Apps on our Verified Marketplace to give your understanding of the products out there a headstart >
2. Read our latest app case study at Eden, New Bailey > 
3. Get in touch. We can help at all stages of the product lifecycle > 

Freddie Pritchard-Smith


Freddie Pritchard-Smith

Freddie has a foundation in commercial real estate having worked for over 10 years with some of the most prestigious landlords in the Central London office market such as LaSalle Investments, Shaftesbury and Blackstone. Back in 2018 he pivoted his career to build and launch a tenant engagement mobile app and smart building platform call Savvy. Savvy deployed in 15 numerous buildings across the country and is used by thousands each day as well landlords like Derwent London and Clearbell. Freddie’s background in both real estate and technology enables him to understand the nuances in both commercial and technology development processes. It also drives his passion for seeing underutilised proptech succeed and ensure that any technology provides an enjoyable experience for customers

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