By Diana Mosher, Editor-in-Chief
Imagine prospective renters being able to point a smart phone at a top floor of your multifamily high-rise and have it provide a list of the vacant units, the rents being charged, and even visuals such as access to a video tour of the building. This technology is already in the works for hospitality buildings, according to futurist Jeff Martin, a former Apple senior executive who currently serves as Founder and CEO of Tribal Brands, the first company to successfully drive over $2 Billion in mobile-based revenue for the entertainment industry.
Martin addressed members of the multifamily industry during the closing general session at this year’s NMHC Operations and Technology Conference in Dallas. His presentation was so compelling that an overwhelming majority of attendees chose to stay in the Hilton Anatatole’s pitch black ballroom even after a Dallas power outage shut down the visual aspects of his presentation.
Martin reinforced a recurring theme touched on throughout this year’s conference: the world is changing rapidly and new technologies are not only being introduced all the time—they are growing exponentially. Apartment companies that don’t adopt new tools will be at a disadvantage because consumers want them right now. Definitely keep an eye on what the 22- to 35-year-old demographic currently expects from other places where they do commerce.
“By three years from now those brands that can’t be triggered by turning on a phone will be in the dark,” warned Martin. But don’t stop there. Now, more than ever before, continually thinking ahead to “what’s next” in technology is a critical part of doing business.
Martin also touched on the importance of tapping into residents’ virtual social networks to create brand loyalty at apartment communities. Residents should be able to see who has similar likes in music and movies and find each other through shared interests, said Martin, who also touched on the notion of linking registry tools with merchandise to enable friends and family to help furnish a resident’s apartment in a virtual environment.
The conference also touched on a number of interesting trends already in the making. For example, the fastest growing demographic in video game sales is 65 years and older. It’s folks who are enjoying Wii because they have trouble lifting the bowling ball or they want to play with their grandchildren.
Conference speakers also delved into the savings that can be created as a result of embracing technology. “Maintenance has been the poor, red-headed stepchild [in terms of technology],” noted Alexandra Jaciw, president of Buckingham’s property management arm, who has resolved to change that stance at her company. “Technology on the key side is near and dear to my heart from an efficiency and security standpoint—especially in student housing,” she added.
Industry wide, more and more apartment service requests are being communicated by residents online. In the not-too-distant future labor standards will be better informed by providing every member of the maintenance team will a QR code reader. For each service request the management team will have a better idea of how long it should take. Having four excellent maintenance specialists rather than five who are performing below expectations can save 20 percent of total costs.