New on #AptChat: Manager Roundtable on the Future of Apartment Marketing
Multifamily managers gathered for the most recent weekly online session of Apartment Chat (#AptChat) to discuss the future of apartment marketing. Not surprisingly, the conversation began with technology – and remained there. According to the participants, it’s not a matter of whether technology will transform what has mostly been a hands-on, person-to-person interaction: it’s only a matter of how quickly, and in what way. There was even talk of technology almost completely replacing many of the functions of leasing agents. A recap of the Q&A session follows:
What are the biggest consumer/marketing/tech trends that will impact the future of apartment marketing?
Video came up first. The participants discussed how easy it is to make videos now, and the importance of making them a central part of the marketing mix now that the Internet, and human communication in general, is drifting away from words and towards images (both still and motion). This means that leasing agents will have to practice becoming comfortable in front of a camera and “perfecting the craft of storytelling” in order to be able to communicate the advantages of living at their properties. Live video in particular is becoming popular as a marketing tool, whether it’s streaming or just “recorded live,” creating a feeling of immediacy and reality beyond traditional video. Most managers who have experimented in this area are using either Facebook or Periscope for live video, and some have started to take advantage of the new live option from Instagram.
Then one manager posited that artificial intelligence (AI) will certainly play an increasingly important role, particularly in the ability to intelligently respond to leads more quickly and accurately without a human being involved, and to process the information gleaned from them. Another chimed in that an important part of this will be implementing automation that doesn’t “feel” automated to the consumer. Said one manager: “We all need to get better at personalization beyond “Hello (IFNAME).”
So far, we have video, AI, automation, and better lead tracking/analysis. Are there roles we need to hire for that we’re not today?
All participants agreed that knowledge of technology will become increasingly helpful, and even necessary, for apartment marketers to compete effectively. They’ll need experience in two areas in particular: compelling new ways of communicating (as discussed above); and, analyzing and making use of data. Participants questioned whether PMCs will address these needs by trying to hire people with the necessary technical skills, train them up from within, or use consultants.
Whatever the case, it was agreed that lower headcounts are probably in the future, as in so many sectors of the American economy. Virtual showings (perhaps even using virtual reality headsets!), automated lead response and other innovations will almost surely lead to a reduced need for expensive leasing staff.