The modern renter is more tech-savvy and digitally based than ever. Yet when searching for an apartment, 40 percent of prospects are unable to find a link to apply and 43 percent of current renters are unsure how to pay rent online, according to an Entrata study.
That means the apartment industry not only has to incorporate technologies, but also ensure they are convenient, user-friendly and intuitive for prospects and residents alike – regardless of their digital prowess. The quicker marketing teams can incorporate relevant technology into their processes, the more rapidly they’ll fill up their communities, as discussed in the Apartmentalize 2019 session Technology + Marketing = Winning Combination for Apartment Renters.
“In order to meet the demand of ‘I need it now,’ we have to look at our departments and make sure we continue to grow and transition to be the most productive we can be,” said Lauren Gummelt, National Marketing Manager for Lincoln Property Company. “We have to work even harder to communicate with prospects and renters and refer back to our culture and core values.”
Prospects want quick answers during their search, which has led to a rise in self-guided tours and chatbots. Residents now expect strong connectivity with the bandwidth to utilize voice-activated smart-home devices, tech-related features that allow the capability to work from home, and convenience-related facets such as resident portals to pay rent and submit service requests.
“Leveraging automation technologies designed to enhance the human experience is where multifamily can win,” said Chase Harrington, President and COO of Entrata. “By offering residents technology solutions that make apartment living as easy as possible, we’ll see increased resident engagement and higher adoption rates.”
For instance, 72 percent of residents now pay online at Lincoln Properties. Princeton (66.1) and Dolben (65.2) have also experienced accelerated rates as the industry continues to lean digitally.
As marketing teams continue to vet these technologies, one challenge is to find relevant products that integrate with the existing property management system. Disparate systems will only create an onsite headache that outweighs any benefits.
“If it doesn’t integrate, I don’t want it,” said Sara Graham, Director of Marketing for The Dolben Companies. “My job is to make my onsite jobs easier, so we find platforms that do that. We are testing a platform right now and the partner said that it definitely integrates, so we rolled it out. And guess what – it doesn’t integrate. Word of advice: If it doesn’t work, stop it.”
The panel also indicated that securing buy-in from the onsite team during the training process is crucial. Testing too many new technologies at once or too suddenly can create onsite chaos, and communication during the rollout process is vital, as well. That being said, teams should continue to test tech tools until they find the proper fit and remain on the lookout for further advancements that can help shape the resident experience.
“This is the antithesis of ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,’” said Sara Greenough, Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of Princeton Properties. “Don’t be afraid to keep trying things. Be nimble and don’t be afraid to change gears.”