Rental Trends: Managing Your Digital Premises

 

Mobile and Tablet Optimized Web SitesThe Mexican restaurant at the iconic New York New York Hotel & Casino offered the perfect analogy to what I had experienced at RealWorld 2012, the annual RealPage user conference.

Outside Gonzales y Gonzales Restaurant, the faux streets of New York City bustled amid the backdrop of bakeries, cafes, and restaurants. The brick-and-mortar-style buildings of an era long ago are a fitting reminder of the bold physical presence that Gotham City represents. Brightly colored awnings and shiny windows beckoned customers inside.

One could even imagine that the upper stories were apartments for the shopkeepers who for six or seven days a week balanced running a business with a ledger book and serving a demanding clientele. At street level, the proprietor greets customers and keeps the sidewalk clean with a few whisks of a broom.

It was hard to visualize a laptop inside the turn-of-the-century facade, but what became clear to me was RealPage CEO Steve Winn’s keynote address from a day earlier. Winn told nearly 1,200 attendees that multifamily property owners need to look beyond their physical premise as a means to attract and retain residents and focus on digital technology.

Outside a property’s four walls, today’s multifamily “shopkeepers” can extend their reach and better compete in a rapidly changing industry with a strong foundation that supports front and back office applications and a powerful digital presence.

“You’ve been managing your physical premises for years,” Winn said. “Now your digital premise, which used to be confined to office personnel, is extending out and touching your prospects, residents, and suppliers directly.”

Winn’s remarks highlighted the second day of RealWorld, where property management professionals gathered to network and learn about the latest trends and strategies in the industry. Throughout the two-day event, industry experts offered solutions for better prospecting and lead capturing through a more personal online experience.

There is no question that the demographics of the apartment industry are changing, and that leasing techniques once the norm a decade ago may have run their course. Quality amenities, a modern unit, and street appeal still speak volumes, but fortifying a solid online resident community takes good technology.

Lease management software enables property managers to handle day-to-day administrative functions so they can spend more time in the field bolstering customer service and focusing on generating and capturing leads without leaving the storefront.

Digging down a little deeper, a strong digital presence through advanced website technology that’s fortified with search engine optimization offers a helpful tool for originating, capturing, managing, and closing leads or prospects.

A property that successfully vies for top position in search engine results and manages Internet listing services and ever-changing Google search strategies will attract more leads, according to the experts. That means more people can find your properties through organic search and you capture more leads at the lowest cost.

What’s more, having that technology easily adaptable to the mobile market is more attractive than a cheerful welcome mat…unless it’s digital, of course.

Websites that are built with mobile in mind and perform equally well whether on a smart phone, desktop, or tablet are catapulting the digital premise to new levels. According to a study published by long-time Wall Street analyst and venture capitalist Mary Meeker, the number of consumers accessing the Internet on mobile devices will surpass desktops by 2014. In some sense, that’s like the pocket calculator nudging out the 10-key.

An apartment community’s physical structure is confined to the concrete, bricks and siding that embed it on the landscape. A top-notch digital presence, on the other hand, has limitless boundaries and can reach more potential residents and keep existing ones.

Technology is changing the face of today’s physical premises, beyond what a clean sidewalk and a friendly face can offer. So you better make sure your website, and leasing office, both have great curb appeal.

 


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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