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Attacq’s Waterfall City. Picture: Supplied
Attacq’s Waterfall City. Picture: Supplied

“The Covid-19 pandemic has deeply affected how we use space and our expectations of it. As stakeholders across the real estate value chain look to the future, there is a growing acknowledgment that buildings must be liveable, sustainable, resilient and affordable. To deliver on that vision, digital tools are essential.”

This is how the World Economic Forum (WEF) describes changes affecting the real estate investment industry in its latest report, Driving Digitalisation: Value Creation for Commercial Real Estate.

Armed with this knowledge, I attended a virtual earnings presentation this week by Attacq, the owner of Mall of Africa, Waterfall City, Garden Route Mall and the Cell C Campus.

I asked Attacq executives how the JSE-listed landlord was using tech to reinvent the shopping experience at malls, and at what cost.

“The internal attitude towards technology and the spend on digital and tech has certainly been positive over the past two years,” said Attacq’s asset and property management executive, Michael Clampett. “The IT budget is infinite ... the amount that goes to that expense item has increased in line with our ambition.”

In 2021, Attacq launched the SHôPING app to enrich the retail customer experience at Mall of Africa. The app combines the physical and digital to create tailored shopper experiences with tangible value-adds, giving the user the best of both worlds. Attacq has seen a steady increase in the rand value of vouchers bought and redeemed. It has also seen the number of participating retailers at Mall of Africa rise as its loyalty programme gains momentum.

“The SHôPING app will be rolled out at all of our retail-experience hubs in phases and will significantly improve our shopper experience and omnichannel integration,” said Clampett.

What’s more, Attacq taps into its Wi-Fi infrastructure to monitor shopper spending in a store. This system started in 2015 as part of deploying data analytics and has been in use at Mall of Africa, Lynnwood Bridge Retail, Glenfair and Eikestad Mall.

The company says that the analytics platform with national retailers enabled it to hold constructive conversations. For example, Massmart chose to build its first Walmart version of Game in SA at Mall of Africa, based on the valuable insights it provided on its existing store, said Attacq.

The app makes sure that Attacq is delivering a frictionless service to its customers and clients.   

In 2021, Attacq also launched phase 2 of the MyBuildings app, a software management tool that streamlines operational and facilities management functions. The app, deployed in 2017, helps Attacq ensure seamless data collection from all data points — from building to company level. It uses predictive analytics to assist with the management of maintenance, risk and compliance, employee, supplier performance, and health and safety.

Attacq says its logistics and distribution centres are safe and secure urban hubs. These centres fully integrate office and warehouse requirements into a single location. The company says it has also positioned shopping malls as retail-experience hubs. It has further transformed office spaces into collaboration hubs, providing opportunities for physical interaction and collaboration in response to the evolution of the office environment.

As part of innovation and technology, Attacq plans to invest in 7MW of new rooftop solar on its existing buildings. The landlord will also enter a power purchasing agreement for 15MW from a solar farm in the Northern Cape. This will immensely reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

Attacq also digitalised its water supply network in Waterfall City and improved water intensity by 11.6%, reducing usage 15.9%. This is part of the company’s plans to make Waterfall a smart, safe and sustainable city.

Attacq boss Jackie van Niekerk wants an agile business “that can make quicker decisions”.

Van Niekerk needs business leaders that understand analytics, waste and electricity produced by the company. She wants managers who make intelligent decisions using that data. “That’s the mindset of the company that we choose,” said Van Niekerk.

In its latest report, ESG as a Value Driver for Real Estate, Deloitte says “real estate and infrastructure are closely related. For example, the real estate industry is a major consumer of energy.”

Construction of sustainable buildings using new eco-friendly materials, smart technological heating and ventilation helps the environment. “It also boosts the return of the respective real estate investment, improving investment performance,” said Deloitte.

For now, the battle over developing green buildings is a welcome move. However, property developers and landlords can tap into today’s data tools to differentiate themselves and their core value proposition to clients. What is encouraging is that Attacq seems to be taking a deep dive into data analytics to remain competitive.

• Lourie is a former correspondent for Thomson Reuters, Business Report, Fin24 and Finweek magazine. He is also founder and editor of

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