By Georgianna W. Oliver, founder of tour24, the on-demand platform that automates the process for apartment tours
Technology is transforming the way we exist. From retail, to banking, to construction, every industry has undergone enormous technical evolution over the last 20 years. It doesn’t really matter what business you are in, advances in high tech have boosted efficiency and reduced costs. But for some industries (especially real estate), technology can create an enduring and long-lasting connection to customers.
Leading property owners and managers are attracting and keeping residents by using technology to create the experiences today’s residents want, especially as we grapple with the impact of COVID-19.
These five leading-edge technologies create an enjoyable and seamless experience that differentiates properties, delights residents, boosts occupancy, and creates profitable referrals for property owners and managers. It’s interesting to observe that these technologies offer great utility in both the pre- and post-COVID-19 realities.
- Smart Phones: In real estate, as in other industries, efficiency and innovation are driven by the near-ubiquitous proliferation of smart phones and smart phone apps. Renters want things instantly, and they want to do things themselves. Self-service, on-demand solutions, and high-touch efficiency set new standards for customer satisfaction in rental communities. Not only has smart phone technology forever changed how property managers communicate with residents, but the physical environment has had to adapt too. Visitors or potential renters receive a text with a temporary code to enter the building when the doorperson is “virtual.” The impact that grocery, Prime, and restaurant delivery had before has greatly expanded, from nice-to-have to necessity in today’s pandemic environment. Door Dash delivery people must have a place to park. Uber drivers need a waiting area near the main entrance of the building. Amazon packages or IKEA deliveries require ready access to the service elevator area or automated locker solutions.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI): Today’s renters rely on their smart phones, social media networks, and internet platforms to find a place to live. Third-party listing sites, like Zillow Rental Manager, Trulia, Rent.com, or Apartment list, provide property owners access to a wide selection of audiences. Pattern recognition software can use information gathered from internet behavior, or from Alexa or Siri, to develop accurate profiles of potential residents. From these profiles, property owners and managers can create interactive content, from self-guided, solo tours of the property and neighborhood to an online experience that feels real, whether driven by personal preference or by “shelter-in-place”. Both can be shaped to an individual’s interests and needs based on how the person interacts with the application, from property viewing and rental application through resident screening.
- 3D Video: Online and on-premise guided tours are a must in today’s real estate industry. Whether it is an online video or a self-guided tour, beautiful experiences presented efficiently are a must. Taking high-end photography to the next level with 3D video helps renters imagine what it would be like living in a certain building or neighborhood Shot with a 360-degree panoramic camera, like the GoPro Max or the Insta360-One, 3D walkthroughs that highlight the features of a property, from amenities to detailed layouts, can entice viewers to spend more time engaging with the property. RoundMe is one of many virtual tour applications that allow users to create, upload, and share 360-degree panoramic photos and multimedia content of real spaces. Matterport,an all-in-one 3D capture platform, proposes creating a “digital twin” of properties with a single scan, turning listings into immersive experiences. Visionary property managers extend the power of 3D video by following up with self-guided tours. These welcoming, in-person tours use a smart phone as the “key” and “tour guide” for a visitor at the property, creating convenient, IRL (In Real Life) experiences that the youngest and fastest growing segments of the rental market prefer.
- Virtual Reality (VR): While we tend to think of virtual reality users as mostly gamers, commercial uses are gaining experience with this leading edge technology for marketing and operating uses. For example, with VR, you can “virtually” stage any apartment, connect with a resident on how appliances operate, or create a library of step-by-step troubleshooting tutorials, saving both resident and property manager time and frustration. VR devices range from the inexpensive Google Cardboard to the costly Oculus Rift. Samsung’s Gear VR headset and Sony’s PlayStation VR are well-recognized across the general population. In real estate, business uses for VR are at an early stage, but the possibilities are exciting.
- Smart Homes and Internet of Things (IoT): Billions of physical devices around the world are already connected to the Internet. Turn a lightbulb on or turn down the heat with your smart phone—that’s the Internet of Things. Protect access to a deck or patio with a motion sensor or open the drapes remotely—that’s IoT. Smart appliances, smart locks, digitally accessed lockers, meters, and smoke detectors —not to mention entertainment, are all part of IoT, a technology that saves time, money, and makes people feel safer. Recent developments in real estate include robot furniture, an idea at the intersection of the growth in IoT and the reduction in square feet of affordable apartments. Robot beds, consoles, and tables are controlled with a smart phone application that with a click turns a console into a headboard or slides a bed out of the wall.
In today’s super-connected, technology-dependent world, practically any industry can benefit from being hyper-connected and high-touch with customers. In the throes of this pandemic, virtual business does not have to stop. For now, the dependency that Millennials and Gen Z have to their devices and the Internet is a readymade solution to the enforced physical separation of COVID-19.
The key to growing your business is to create multi-dimensional relationships with today’s technology-dependent generations. Take cues and ideas from real estate pros and create new and original ways to deploy these five trending technologies to create efficient and seamless experiences for customers. The benefits of these connections are brand loyalty, repeat sales, and client referrals.