Whether within AEC, Real Estate, or Hospitality, firms operating in the built environment have become active participants in the push to create a smart, connected world. Markets have grown, and revenues have steadily risen. However, this has come with its challenges. Firstly, organizations are still using more traditional systems than in other industries. This makes the likes of cost pressures, labor shortages, and upskilling of workers more difficult to manage. However, there are several opportunities on the horizon, thanks to new trends in marketing, technology, and design. To capitalize on these opportunities, companies need to realign their business and operational processes. In doing so, they will be able to embrace the innovation, technology, and partnerships that will propel them through the next decade. Marketing Trends To date, many AEC, Real Estate, and Hospitality firms continue to use traditional marketing techniques. However, 2020 looks to be a year of change for marketing, with new trends becoming more commonplace in the marketing mix to keep firms in the game. We have more channels available than ever before and the ability to make our messages more targeted, personalized, and sophisticated. Companies can’t afford to rest on their laurels; they need to embrace new approaches and evolve their marketing programs if they are to remain competitive. To help firms break new ground in 2020, marketing will become more: Education-based – it is no longer acceptable to boast about staff, projects, or accomplishments. Education-based marketing involves demonstrating a firm’s intellectual capabilities to become a respected thought leader. Client-focused – there will be a distinct focus shift from networking to client-focused marketing. Every touchpoint a customer has with a product and brand through every channel, both online and offline, will need to be planned. The aim is to create a positive environment for every interaction upon which a relationship can be built. As a lot of business comes from repeat clients, relationship-building is key. Authentic – people are no longer happy to accept things at face value. Firms need to be open, ready to respond at all times, and can no longer hide behind a corporate facade. Integrated – there is certainly no shortage of marketing technology. Still, many firms, to date, have struggled to get the right mix of technologies. However, the rising demand for campaign integration and evaluation will put a further emphasis on the importance of the right MarTech stack in 2020. As is the case with MarTech, to deliver on many of these marketing trends, companies in the built world will need to embrace technology. It is technology, after all, that enables firms to truly engage with customers, find value in big data, and deliver exceptional experiences. Technology Trends Companies operating in the built environment have been famously behind the curve with technology adoption. However, over the last few years, the industry has started to leverage more modern technologies and begin to speed up digital transformation. There are many tools, processes, and policies that have already transformed how we do business, and in 2020 this is set to gain further pace. Many of the technologies are inherently disruptive, providing the efficiency, productivity, and safety that will drive businesses forward. Some of the leading technologies that will enable businesses to adapt to our new digital reality include: Artificial Intelligence – as industries with considerable volumes of data, AI offers enormous potential, allowing the companies to make sense of what they receive and derive real value. We have the opportunity to recognize patterns and predict outcomes. The likes of predictive design and digital twins can eliminate costs and speed the development timeline. Although, of course, good data collection is key to success.Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality – these technologies are making an impact on many industries, and the built world will be no exception. In the construction industry, the technology can be used for 3D modeling, improving designs, and detecting errors. Meanwhile, architectural firms can use it to let clients see a designed space. It allows them to feel more involved in the process and ensuring firms deliver on expectations. Robotics – much like AI, VR, and AR, robotics has the potential to solve problems in every industry. By adding robots to construction sites, companies are delivering projects faster, more safely, and with improved quality. Meanwhile, by using robots within manufacturing, custom building supplies can be created with increased accuracy and detail. Whether it is autonomous rovers that improve the efficiency of site inspections or mechanical arms that automate highly repetitive tasks, robots are here to stay and to multiply. 3D printing – offering the ability to prefabricate off-site or directly onsite, 3D printing provides labor and material cost benefits and reduces waste. 3D concrete printing will develop rapidly and start to dominate the construction industry in 2020. Meanwhile, the use of 3D printing to create models enables architects to demonstrate their designs more effectively. Design Trends With the advent of new technologies, a change in consumer perceptions, and growing environmental concerns comes a shift in the way that buildings are designed. In 2020 some of the leading design trends will be: Sustainable – there has been a drive for low carbon emissions and optimized energy efficiency for some time. This will continue with the use of better thermal performance materials, increased recycling on construction sites, and a drive to refurbish and reform. What’s more, buildings will move a step on from reducing their environmental impact, they will try to improve the environment around them. Projects encouraging biodiversity such as roof gardens will become ever-more popular. Smart – smart technology is now widely available and affordable to the general public. In 2020, architects will work more on integrating these systems into their designs. Meanwhile, in construction and engineering, firms will use these systems to collect data and inform their projects. Collaborative – technology brings us all closer together, which facilitates communication and collaboration. This fosters partnerships and the possibility for firms to tap into efficiencies of scale, leveraging geographic strengths of partners. Architects will work more closely with scientists, anthropologies, and environmentalists to ensure designs function in the broader community. Moreover, improved collaboration will drive the future of connected construction, creating systems that are more than their parts. Outlook to 2020 and Beyond Every company operating in the built environment is dealing with the challenges of low margins, increased project complexity, and fierce competition. With these pressures, firms need to be proactive in how they manage processes and operations, aiming to improve margins and profitability and add efficiencies. To do this, they will need to build a solid digital roadmap, helping to overcome operational challenges while delivering a competitive advantage. In 2020, technology will enable companies to make better-informed decisions by improving project monitoring and budgeting. The automation of repetitive tasks will increase productivity in a safe way. Meanwhile, technology will be used for remote site and personnel monitoring, ensuring workforce safety, and reducing risk and liability. Technology will continue to disrupt the built world. In 2020, firms will need to master data and use the innovations to streamline design and construction, all while ensuring that the customer lies at the heart of everything they do. And, technological advancement shouldn’t be at the expense of creativity. While tasks are being automated, time gained should be used for improved cross-discipline collaboration and interaction. In 2020, we have an opportunity to drive forward the modernization of our cities and industries. However, the modernization must be sustainable and innovative, meeting our growing demand for incredible experiences and growing concern for the environment in a smart way. 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