We talked to Michelle Buxton of Toolbox Marketing and Mallcomm about asset and property management and marketing during the pandemic.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Michelle Buxton: Fortunately, we have all remained safe through the pandemic. We have certainly kept ourselves busy with Toolbox Marketing and Mallcomm!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Toolbox Marketing and Mallcomm.
Michelle Buxton: I founded Toolbox Marketing in 2000, and it has since grown into one of the largest specialist marketing agencies dedicated to the real estate sector. In 2016 we diversified with the creation of Mallcomm, a 360 technology platform for asset and property management. Our parent company Toolbox Group now operates in 22 countries with 100 million sq. ft. of retail and mixed-use properties relying on the solution.
How does Toolbox Marketing and Mallcomm innovate?
Michelle Buxton: Mallcomm was actually created out of Toolbox Marketing’s need to communicate with retailer clients. Since its inception, Mallcomm has evolved from a tenant engagement platform for UK retailers to becoming scaled globally across the retail, office, residential, and B2C. Working with clients such as Savills, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, Oxford Properties, and British Land, the platform solves day to day property management problems and provides instant comms, data and reporting, stakeholder and community engagement, and reporting dashboards that can assist in management decisions. Adoption levels are over 95%, which is a fantastic testament to our technology and business model.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Michelle Buxton: The pandemic has affected different parts of the business in different ways. Retailers have been impacted by the lockdowns, which has a knock-on effect on their own marketing efforts, particularly around peak times, including Christmas. However, the pandemic has made us realize how important it is to stay connected through these tough times and digital engagement now plays a huge role – one that I dare say is permanent.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Michelle Buxton: One always has to make difficult decisions when running a business, so running a business during a pandemic has created a whole lot of new challenges. As a company, we have worked very hard on our staff’s welfare, from ensuring comfortable working from home practices to engaging teams and providing daily breakout sessions for outside the home activity. To date, we have not had to furlough anyone but have had to make a few people redundant.
In terms of lessons learnt, I would say that having a flexible working policy has allowed the business to continue with little interruption. Be an agile business making change an acceptable part of the way you plan and deliver a strategy. Listen to your teams and involve everyone in decision making when you can.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Michelle Buxton: I am very lucky to be supported by a fantastic team at Toolbox Group. In my free time, I love taking relaxing walks with my Cockapoo, Bodi.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Michelle Buxton: We were one of the first entrants in the market when we first launched in 2016, and since then, the technology has really exploded onto the scene. We now have many competitors in tenant engagement and property management space who all offer a similar platform for retail or office assets. However, due to the changing property landscape with more mixed-use environments, we are well placed in our business by focusing on cross-asset class features and adding additional revenue streams such as enterprise applications within security, IT, workflow management, and data and insights.
Your final thoughts?
Michelle Buxton: Technological advances and the way in which physical communities are now engaging online is very exciting. This, coupled with where we are as a business and our plans for 2021 to enter new sectors and global markets, we are very much looking forward to seeing what the New Year brings.
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