Self-Guided Tours: Ready for Prime Time?

“Make no mistake: Among prospective apartment residents, the demand for self-guided tours is real. More and more of them want to experience a potential new home on their own terms and without having to interact with a leasing associate (especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic). Some multifamily operators are beginning to take notice, but the apartment industry as a whole has yet to fully embrace self-guided tours.” 

Full article featuring Vice President of Property Operations – Southeast, Dionne Van Druff, here.

The Island Now – Mineola Celebrates Modera Metro Mineola Opening

In the news, Mineola celebrates Modera Metro Mineola opening.

“The Mineola Board of Trustees attended the ceremony along with Mill Creek officials and Long Island business leaders. The project, built on land purchased from Corpus Christi Church, was approved in 2016 as part of the village’s plan for revitalizing the downtown area.”

Find the full article, here.

GlobeSt. – AI and Automation Are a Win for Multifamily

“Multifamily organizations are using artificial intelligence and automation not only to boost smart-home technology efforts but also assist prospects and recruit/retain high-performance associates. Artificial intelligence and automation are familiar buzzwords in the multifamily industry, but tech implementation is hardly widespread” Modera Cap Hill is taking a leap in implementing conveniences for our residents, to name one of our communities working towards these technology advances.

Full article listed on GlobeSt.com, here.

The Power of a Brand – Using Technology to Help Define It

By Samantha Chalmers and Paul Willis

It used to be that a company’s brand was defined by its colors, a logo and perhaps a catchy tagline. As the definition of a brand has evolved, it now represents company values, contains a mission statement, and perhaps most notably, conveys an expected level of customer service.

Much of that has been spurred by technology, which has prodded the rental housing industry to reassess the way brands are defined. The way an organization embraces technology now largely reflects their brand, which now defines whether the company is considered innovative, customer focused and known to make life easier for their residents.

“There’s no debating that technology has become the differentiator,” said Faith Aids, Vice President of Marketing and Branding for Laramar Group. “Residents and employees expect it to be on autopilot these days, and instant gratification truly means instant. If you can find efficiencies with tech, it gives your team more time to wow your residents with personalized touches, such as handwritten cards.”

Laramar recently utilized tech to refresh its brand, because, according to Aids: “We realized we had a great story, culture and morale – we just had to frame it up in a nice package.” In an effort to leverage the history of its existing 30-year brand but infuse new energy, Laramar made a concerted effort to better highlight the company’s unique culture while adding specific values that support innovation.

Those efforts, which included the development of a tech fund to help find and vet solutions for specific onsite challenges, are designed to attract top talent that will thrive in an innovative environment. Laramar’s dedicated focus to technology also includes the implementation of business intelligence, a new ticket system for support, consistent customer relationship management and new learning management systems.

Aids notes that happy, engaged team members often equate to happy, engaged residents. Tech provides the needed flexibility for onsite associates to be more connected to the resident experience. As such, Laramar’s rebranding efforts feature a brand discovery workshop, employee surveys, competitive audits and extensive online research of the most cutting-edge apartment trends.

“An attractive brand doesn’t use technology to replace humans; it uses tech to make the lives of the residents and their onsite teams easier,” said Chase Harrington, President and Chief Operating Officer of Entrata. “While AI and automation are cutting-edge concepts and can stand alone in many instances, they should ultimately be used to enhance the human experience. Apartment operators can truly separate themselves by offering technology solutions that genuinely bolster the living experience.”

With each new development community, Mill Creek Residential conducts a survey shortly after move-in to inquire about what residents like and what they believe is missing at the community.

According to Kaitlin Purple, Brand Manager of Digital Marketing for Mill Creek Residential, today’s renters have higher expectations for a tech-savvy experience and are often more focused on receiving routine communications in a hyper-personal way.

Consistency is key, Purple says.

“I think the biggest thing is making sure your voice is equipped to infuse your brand into every touch point of technology,” Purple said. “Whether that’s the software customers are working with, a text communication or an ad banner that prompts customers to Google our name, each touch point has a chance to impact brand voice. We have a chance to showcase who we are through those touch points and want to deliver a consistent message.”

As technology increasingly becomes a vast component of daily lives, an apartment operator’s ability to integrate it seamlessly and effectively will undoubtedly drive value, according to Andrew Beach, Vice President of Community Technology for Mill Creek Residential. Residents will associate the tech-savvy environment to that brand and that culture. Remaining agile with the capability to adjust to each new innovation can be a determining factor of success.

“Part of remaining on the cutting edge is doing the basics very well and creating foundation building blocks from a technology standpoint that are flexible,” Beach said. “For instance, access control is something you’re always going to do, and you can build up from there. You can add that smart-home component, building automation or integrate multiple buildings. By being flexible, you don’t have to circle back to refresh those foundation blocks as you move forward.”

What can make technology tricky is its propensity to evolve on a daily basis. Onsite teams might believe they have the most state-of-the-art community in the submarket, only to see a competitor adopt a potentially game-changing tech feature a few months later. Apartment operators who constantly monitor innovation trends and solicit feedback from their residents are often doing wonders for their brand, even if they already have an appealing logo and clever tagline.

“We’re always looking to stay ahead of the game,” Purple said. “We’re always looking to test different features, and that’s one of our biggest factors. If you test half of your communities with a piece of new technology and half with another, and one proves to be more successful, we’ll immediately implement it across our whole portfolio.”

Technology has redefined the way multifamily operators are thinking about their brand. While consistent brand message is still important, technology can be used to strengthen that message and add new dimensions to an organization’s overall brand.

 

Full article is here.

Globe St. – Engaging Prospects is Not One Size Fits All

Communicating with multifamily customers in their preferred method makes the most impact and a different method could result in a lost prospect.

Attracting and securing new residents goes beyond crafting the ideal advertising campaign and a presence on effective marketing channels. As Mill Creek Residential Director of Marketing Cassie Khaing says, it’s also about engaging customers on their terms, including texting, FaceTime and social media.

“With lead generation and lead management, communicating with your customers in the way they want to be communicated with makes the most impact,” Khaing tells GlobeSt.com. “Typically, if a prospective resident reaches out via email, they want to be emailed. If they contact you with a text, they prefer to receive a text back.”

Anyone Home, which offers customer-engagement solutions, recently conducted a study analyzing leases at communities that offer a complete range of communication channels–phone, email, chat, texting and a self-scheduling tool for tours–to prospects. The study examined 70,000 leases that were signed during the past 12 months.

The analysis showed that 89% of prospects who originally reached out via phone stayed with that channel. Another 75% of emailers remained in that medium and 78% who first contacted a community through chat stuck with that channel.

Using a different method with which to communicate could prompt a prospect to take an apartment search elsewhere, Khaing points out.  Todd Katler, CEO of Anyone Home, concurs, saying prospects should be able “to trade in their own currency”.

“When prospects have the ability to contact and communicate with leasing teams in exactly the way they prefer, that leads to an incredibly powerful leasing experience for apartment shoppers,” Katler says. “It fosters continual engagement, drives more leases and creates resident loyalty.”

Mill Creek prospective residents interested in exploring the company’s communities aren’t limited to the traditional contact channels of phone calls and emails. For example, future residents visiting the website can easily contact leasing associates via text and FaceTime, in addition to email. The community’s phone number is listed in case they want to reach out via a traditional phone call. Also, prospects visiting the Facebook pages can chat with leasing teams via Messenger for quick responses.

Mill Creek also has implemented automated responses to prospective residents in mediums such as text and email. According to Khaing, these responses–which feature information about how to view floorplans, photos and virtual tours, and also provide instructions about booking a tour and applying online–give customers the immediate gratification they’re seeking. The responses also make the leasing associates’ jobs easier by providing the answers to many common questions.

In addition, Mill Creek’s websites now give prospective residents the ability to schedule apartment home tours online. According to an Anyone Home study, apartment shoppers who book tours through a self-scheduling solution convert to leases at twice the rate of those who schedule visits through traditional methods.

“In the past, a prospective resident may have ended their work shift at 2 a.m. and in the middle of the night, they would send in an inquiry about scheduling a tour,” says Brittany Wagner, a Senior Software Training Manager for Mill Creek. “Unfortunately, they would have to wait until the next morning when someone was in the office at 9 a.m. to get a response back. Now, they have the freedom to book a tour themselves at anytime from anywhere.”

The article continues with steps moving forward and what the future holds for multifamily communication.

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