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What Multifamily Real Estate Can Learn from Travel Industry’s Mobile Tech Boom

It’s no surprise to hear that the world is trending towards mobile. With Americans looking at their smartphones more than 9 billion times daily, it’s easy to conclude that consumers are glued to the their phones more than any other medium for communication. And while human interaction will always be a valuable medium for consumer communication, brands are quickly realizing their targets are most efficiently reached while on-the-go, and on their phones.

One industry undergoing this shift towards a mobile-first preference is the world of tourism. Recent data illustrates the mass movement from online/desktop or over-the-phone bookings to  same-day and spur-of-the-moment mobile reservations. Booking software company TrekkSoft published a study late last year revealing that almost half of its online bookings were made on mobile last year — a significant leap YOY, which saw 31% of bookings filed through mobile tech.

Rather than having to dig through email to find a boarding pass or room booking confirmation, simplified access to documents and communication with your host has become the new norm.

Considering the large amount of trend pieces discussing the rise of mobile connectivity and access in multifamily recently, industry thought leaders can heed advice from the tourism industry’s successes with embracing a mobile-first future.

Below, we examine the rise of mobile tech in three verticals of the tourism industry, to illustrate the impact of mobile access in enhancing the consumer experience.

Airlines

Thanks to the internet, the traditional process of booking flights – over the phone or with travel agents – has quickly fallen by the wayside. And thanks to smartphones, that experience is rapidly progressing from desktop to mobile.

A recent eMarketer study found that of the 140 million US adults that researched a trip online last year, more than 100 million did so via their smartphones, representing a staggering $76 billion in digital travel bookings last year.

The cause? Convenience.

Searching & booking flights has never been easier with online search aggregators like Kayak, and thanks to their consistent and streamlined mobile app, finding and booking flights while on your phone is a breeze. Ever been out to dinner with friends and a spur of the moment trip idea hits the group? If you’ve got a phone (and some battery life), you’re set.

Traveler’s convenience, though, comes down to the ability to access their info on-demand. Travelers consistently site the ability to access their boarding pass, ability to change their seats and update bookings as the best parts of their mobile airline experiences, simple processes that typically needed to be accomplished via an online portal or by phone. In fact, Juniper Research predicts 1.5 billion boarding passes will be displayed on mobile devices by the end of 2019 – that’s 1 in every 3 passengers.

Proactive services such as push notifications like pre-flight check-in information and gate changes keep travelers a step-ahead of the typical airport issues. Late gate change? The American Airlines app gives you access to terminal maps via your phone. Or fiddling your thumbs at the gate before takeoff? United offers a full listing of in-flight entertainment so you can choose rom-com or action for your travels.

All of these facets come together as experiences that not only provide convenience for the modern traveler, but creates a brand loyal consumer who understands the ease of flying with a particular airline. Knowing that everything you need for your travel experience can be done mobily is a gamechanger.

What does this mean for multifamily?

Airlines striving to improve upon an already-enhanced mobile experience is an ideal that the multifamily industry should be reaching for, as exemplified by the successes – and revenue generated – for travelers using mobile tech when flying.

Easy similarities can be drawn between the airport and rental experience.

Take for example submitting work orders: While residents typically have to go into the leasing office during hours, call the management office or try to catch the front door staff to let them know their sink isn’t working, providing a mobile platform to submit work orders saves residents and office staff time answering phone calls thanks to a streamlined medium for maintenance requests. Furthermore, mobile maintenance requests gives your team opportunities for proactive service notifications to let residents know help is on the way or that the problem has been remedied.

Hotels

Along the same vein as the airline industry, hotels are seeing a continued uptick on mobile reservations. A recent study found that 65% of hotel reservations last year were completed via a smartphone. And while this might not come as a surprise considering the rise of smartphones over the past decade, what is more interesting to consider is the fact that many, if not most, of these were completed on a same-day basis.

“This means the mentality and buying behavior of today’s traveler has shifted significantly as a result of mobile bookings,” said Nick Ostdick of DCS Plus, a travel technology company.  “No longer are travelers booking hotel accommodations days or weeks in advance. Rather, the flexibility and agility of mobile booking apps allow travelers to complete major bookings in the moment, which means travel companies must operate on a more lean, streamlined basis to meet the real-time needs and demands of their customers.”

A recent study found that 74% of hotel execs confirmed that engaging customers and creating customer or brand loyalty via mobile booking platforms is a significant element of their overall content and marketing strategy.

The mobile experience doesn’t stop with the booking & check-in/out process. Requesting items to your room (towels, pillows, etc.) can now be accessed through all major hotel apps. Apps such as Hyatt Hotels even allows residents to request an Uber from their hotels and connect their devices to in-unit entertainment. Providing a variety of consistent avenues for communication has given hotel chains and brands opportunities to engage with customers on a more personal level, and in the process, create loyal customers.

What does this mean for multifamily?

Connectivity and streamlined access to their homes – whether temporary (hotels) or indefinitely (apartment) – for communication has become not only a request, but a necessity for the hotel & multifamily industry.

A relatable example, booking amenity spaces. We’ve all seen the sizeable logbooks at properties tracking who’s using the outdoor grill space each weekend. Leaning on a mobile app to allow residents to book, alter and make special requests for parties taking place in the space gives back valuable time to onsite staff and a digitally-trackable ledger of who is using the space.

Another timely example: Rent payment. Thanks to mobile booking, bypassing the hassle of standing in line to check-out at the end of a hotel stay has never been easier. Why not cut out the staff and resident annoyances associated with accepting paper checks for rent each month? Give residents the ability to manage their rent payments while on the go.

Homesharing (Airbnb & VRBO)

Employing a mixture of the multifamily and tourism industries, the somewhat recent introduction of homesharing services such as Airbnb and VRBO has been a hot topic of conversation in the apartment industry. Brands at the forefront of these short-term living space rentals offer consumers new ways to see the world and make money, thanks in large part to a mobile-first approach.

For example, when Airbnb released a new update to its app back in August 2016, it announced “The newly updated Airbnb mobile app has personalization at its heart.” The update employed an innovative matching system designed to understand travelers’ preferences and then match them with the homes, neighborhoods and experiences that meet their needs. This, paired with a sleek and easy-to-use interface, took the app over the threshold of just a shrunk-down version of their online browser experience, and created one of the best experiences – and a one-stop-shop – for travelers to book and manage their reservations.

And the results prove its success. A mobile travel trends study published by Hitwise late last year showed that Airbnb was the most-installed mobile app in the United States last fall, across both Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

Maybe more important than the app’s updates is Airbnb’s commitment to ease of communication between travelers and their hosts.

With more than 100k messages being sent on mobile per hour, messaging is the most engaged feature within the Airbnb App. Apartment communities should take notice of the app’s commitment to providing a sleek, in-app experience that streamlines communication.

What does this mean for multifamily?

For anyone who’s experienced a reputable Airbnb host, they can attest to the ease in which it takes to ask a question or get in touch with the host. But can all multifamily properties say the same for a resident’s experience when trying to get in touch with management?

Finding hours in the day to get in touch with management over the phone is not always easy, and questions don’t always crop up between the hours of 9-5. Giving residents a mobile platform to contact management about questions regarding move-out terms, a building’s pet policy, issues with the parking garage or any other varieties of community questions allows properties to meet their residents where they are – on-the-go – and cut down on valuable time lost fielding phone calls or residents visiting the home office.

Or, take for instance, the AirBnb host’s job in getting the temporary tenant into their unit. Within the app, hosts can give detailed directions on how to get into their building. On the other hand, guests or authorized entrants like food deliveries many times need to visit the front desk every time to be buzzed in, usually via a phone call first to verify with the owner. Using a mobile app, residents can check-in their guest before they even arrive, saving the front desk’s time from having to call up.

Considering the widespread success of the recent mobile-first approach within the travel industry, those apartment communities willing to evolve with the mobile-first tastes of renters and provide a streamlined approach to apartment management will find it a successful formula in retaining a healthy amount of renters, year over year.

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