All of the above are slated to become hot-button topics in the apartment industry in the coming years. But one challenge that continues to transform and will never go away is the ability to reach potential renters and fill apartment communities, according to a panel of experts at the 2018 Entrata Summit.
While the manner in which prospects absorb information continues to change, in addition to their expectations, the industry’s creative methods to reach them have to keep pace, as well.
“We are not in the business of renting apartments,” said Stephanie Furman, managing director of technology services for Greystar. “We are actually in the business of curating lifestyles and creating experiences for people. I think that’s been the biggest change and that’s due to companies like Amazon.”
As Amazon continues to enhance the living experience with various smart-home features – an Alexa microwave is said to be on the way soon – apartment renters have loftier expectations for in-home technology. Apartment communities able to meet those expectations are future-proofing themselves in many ways.
“Digging down deeper into the various lifestyles, we have to look at what services make their lives more convenient,” said Jennifer Clince, chief operating officer of The Collier Companies. “We’re also seeing an increased demand for immediacy in customer service, so amenities features such as package lockers fill that need. There are a lot more channels to navigate than there used to be.”
Due to these advances, jobs onsite continue to morph. The need for administrative strength is being replaced by the need for customer-service professionals. That recreates the dynamics of on-site teams and, if implemented properly, gives something of a concierge feel to many communities.
Advancements designed to make life easier for the on-site team are well in the works, as well. As an example of predictive maintenance, a refrigerator will have the ability to diagnose when one of its parts is about to fail. It can essentially pass along its own service request, and the maintenance team will have the part ordered and can replace it immediately. Appliances with IP addresses are soon to regularly enter the market, as well.
The way apartment operators analyze data also continues to evolve. Plenty of numbers are available, but the challenge is finding the ability to put them together into something that can make a positive impact.
“There is so much data out there, and you have to decide on which key metrics you actually want to measure,” Fuhrman said. “For instance, something that might be valuable is to measure the average time it takes to answer the phone at your communities and what impact that has in securing prospects.”
Clince said data is at its best when it can be used to make “fact-based decisions” with regard to pricing, staffing sizes and investment determinations.
While virtual reality and drone delivery are still a few years from making a pronounced impact on the industry, the panel believes they will be a prominent factor soon. VR can be used by prospects to get a sense for being in an apartment home and on the property, while drones likely will soon be used for package and food delivery.