The world has changed quite a bit in the last few years. Even one of the slowest and most conservative industries, commercial real estate, has changed. It’s not that the CRE industry is all about innovation and experimentation. It was forced to change and become more flexible.
We all know that the office buildings as we know them are a dying breed. The workplace though is thriving! It’s the traditional office building that is dying. The modern workplace is developing and adapting to the new needs of working professionals.
The new workplace is all about providing outstanding space to work, collaborate, and all in between, bundled with exceptional additional services.
From day passes and short-term collaboration spaces to mid and long-term offices. From meeting and event spaces to food & beverage and concierge services. From gym and wellness services to daycare for kids. The list of great services that are now part of the modern workplace is endless.
That’s amazing for those who use the space. At the same time, it’s a huge operational and technological challenge for the people managing the space – landlords, coworking, and flex space operators alike.
How do you enable and streamline booking of on-demand spaces and services at scale?
Let’s explore how we can streamline this!
One way to approach the challenge is to rely on a best-of-breed booking platform, specifically built for flex spaces. Stepping on a solid foundation will allow you to unlock all screens and let users book on-demand space whenever they need one.
Imagine a user who wants to book a desk for a day or a meeting space to brainstorm with their team for a couple of hours.
Let’s examine all the places where a user may search and book a space or a service:
On average, 70-90% of all bookings that a typical coworking and flex space facilitates in a given period of time are done by residents of the space – members/tenants. That’s why, when you’re considering how to optimize your booking process, you should arguably place a bigger priority on your existing customers and community!
Arguably, your top priority should be to allow your member community to book any type of on-demand space and services easily from an easy-to-use web portal.
Most of your bookings will always come from your existing community (members, tenants, etc). That’s why you should provide an outstanding booking experience to your members, first.
Next in line is offering a great booking experience on mobile. On average, about 10-15% of your bookings will come from the mobile app (if available). This is a big enough percentage point to invest in an outstanding app.
Whether that’s an existing member or a new user, people should be able to easily find and book spaces whenever they need them.
Feature-wise, the mobile app is not very different from the member portal. It should offer a simpler, mobile-friendly interface to interact with the workplace and book the right services.
Some of the best on-demand booking platforms also offer out-of-the-box white-label booking apps for iPhone and Android.
As mentioned, on average, 70-90% of all bookings in a typical coworking space are made by the residents of the space. The rest of the bookings are coming from external users (non-resident bookings). Although 10-30% doesn’t sound like a big number, it’s usually a very considerable revenue. Most coworking spaces are very successful at driving growth and additional revenue by offering meeting rooms to external users.
For example, corporate executives might be gathering for a brainstorming session and prefer to do it outside of their HQs and they end up booking space in a nearby flex space.
Most of the time, the person making a booking will go to a vendor they know and trust. They will open their website and either try to initiate the booking directly from the website, or, call the space and initiate the booking over the phone.
Either way, the booking should be recorded in a system with all details, including the additional services that the person requires, such as coffee, croissants, and other F&B products. In many cases, there’s a contract that needs to be generated and signed for the booking. Then, usually, an invoice should be generated too and a payment to be processed. Most of the time, this process can be fully automated by the core booking platform.
The best solution for this use case from a user point of view is to build a direct integration between the public website and the booking platform. Essentially, you should build simple listings into the main website. This will ensure:
A simpler solution is to offer booking checkout pages on a sub-domain, usually, part of the member portal. These are often offered by the on-demand booking platforms as part of their offering.
Next in line in terms of popularity when it comes to booking spaces for on-demand usage is through aggregators, marketplaces, listing sites, and other space networks. There are many flavors and great marketplaces out there, such as LiquidSpace, Tally, DeskPass, Instant Offices, Upflex, Gable, Coworker and so many more. Some of them are very local, others are more global networks. Some of them are focused on enterprise customers and others are mostly focusing on freelancers, digital nomads, and solopreneurs.
They can be great channels to generate more bookings and drive additional revenue. However, managing them all is really challenging. You have to add and keep your inventory up to date, as well as synchronize the real-time availability of space.
Using a well-integrated booking platform can help with that by directly integrating with some of the most popular marketplaces, like LiquidSpace.
Another channel you can receive external bookings from is the so-called Global Distribution Systems (GDS). Historically, these were very important software solutions that enabled transactions between travel industry service providers, mainly airlines, hotels, car rental companies, and travel agencies. Nowadays, they are serving as a way to distribute your inventory to multiple channels that can drive additional bookings and reservations.
It’s a very new concept for commercial real estate. It has been developing more rapidly in the last few years due to the increased demand for flexible spaces. A few examples out there are Syncaroo and Valve.
Furthermore, we can also add the Broker Distribution Systems to the same category. For example, Valve is a great tool to drive bookings via brokers.
The best-of-breed flexible space booking systems, such as OfficeRnD Flex, are also integrated deeply with such systems.
One of the most exciting channels that are still not developed in the coworking and flexible workspace industry is booking directly through Google Maps and the like.
For most hospitality venues we can directly search on the map, find the right place for us, check its availability, and book it directly, such as restaurants and hotels. However, you still can’t do that for desks, meeting spaces, and other flexible workspace products. Surely, you should still have a really well-maintained and polished profile on Google Business so that people can find your space on the map. Hopefully, we will see the ability to book directly from the maps soon!
Of course, another future-looking option to book will be directly through AI chat platforms, such as ChatGPT and Google Bard. It’s inevitable that this will come soon! It will be really nice to have an AI helping you find the perfect spot for your next board meeting or customer meeting in NYC.
Your booking platform should be able to tightly integrate with these chat systems so that you can securely receive bookings directly from there.
To wrap it up, high-quality on-demand booking platforms can streamline your channel management, help you improve your space utilization, and generate more revenue from your flex space assets.
The evolution of commercial real estate towards more flexible, dynamic, and user-friendly spaces represents a significant shift in how we view and utilize work environments. The key to successfully navigating this change lies in leveraging advanced booking platforms like OfficeRnD Flex. This platform not only simplifies the process of managing and booking on-demand spaces but also enhances the overall experience for both space managers and users.
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