Minding Your Three Storefronts: It’s All about Choice for Apartment Residents
As with most enterprises, multifamily property management is not an “either/or” business. Residents want—no, residents demand—it all. They don’t want Internet service or video services, they want both. They don’t want access to the pool or a gym, they want both.
The same goes for how residents and prospects interact and conduct business with your leasing staff. For more than a decade, property management companies have maintained two storefronts to serve their residents better—the bricks and mortar leasing office and a web presence, typically a property web site and a resident portal. Each channel supports the residents’ needs in different ways—a personal touch when needed, after-hours service requests, floor plan browsing, or making a rental payment when the office is closed, for instance.
But more and more, companies realize that a third channel is becoming just as critical—the mobile storefront. In a recent consumer survey, the number of smartphone users in the United States grew by 60 percent in 2010 from the year before. In the U.S. alone, there are 63.2 million smartphone users.
In fact, according to International Data Corporation, in Q4 2010, 100.9 million smartphones were shipped worldwide—representing an 87.2 percent year-over-year increase. As a comparison, 92 million PC units were shipped in the same period—smarthphones are now outselling PCs.
So-called “m-commerce” is rapidly accelerating as smartphone users download apps, browse the Internet, scan QR codes, and download/watch videos while shopping, including looking for an apartment.
As the mobile environment becomes ubiquitous, it moves property management another step toward a fully functioning, full-service 24/7 leasing office. Residents are demanding this technology, but also voicing the importance of keeping all their options open. Mobile doesn’t replace the leasing office or a web presence—it enhances and increases options for interacting with residents and prospects.
Unlike some technology trends, the demand for mobile options cuts across all generations. It’s not just for younger residents. Mental barriers to executing a lease, renewing a lease or making a payment online no longer exist. It’s now the norm.
With emerging mobile technology come multichannel marketing opportunities. If they haven’t already done so, property management companies need to include all three storefronts in their marketing plans. Consistent branding is more critical than ever. Incorporating all channels into a marketing strategy helps unify your brand and, ultimately, make the sale.
It’s important to stay relevant to your customers. Since interaction via a mobile device is more personal, property management companies must interact with prospects and residents on their terms. Take that into consideration when developing your marketing initiatives. Instead of distributing printed brochures, let prospects take a virtual tour online of your model and the property. Make leasing information available for download via mobile devices during an in-person tour. Give your leasing agent an iPad that she can use to check on unit availability immediately while the prospect is still on property.
So, here are a few tips for incorporating the third storefront into your marketing strategy. Keep in mind that:
- Mobile technology is more personal—interact on your customers’ terms
- Instant access to information and quick downloads reign supreme with customers
- Be creative in delivering customer service on the fly through multiple channels
- Unify your brand in all channels—present a consistent customer experience
- Use technology to gain immediate feedback from residents—and make adjustments in your approach as needed
Employing three cohesive, brand-consistent and customer-responsive storefronts may seem a bit daunting at first, but it is an important step to establishing the 24/7, full-service leasing office. An emphasis on being providing around-the-clock availability equates to better customer service, better renewal rates, and, ultimately, better for your business.
How are you using technology to stay relevant to your customers? Have you included all three storefronts in your marketing plan?