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4 tech trends for 2014: big data, online reviews, renewals and revenue management loom large.

It's conference season in the multifamily housing industry, and September saw me traveling to Miami for the 2013 Apartment Revenue Management Conference followed by a trip to a property management software user's conference in Utah.

As a speaker and roundtable moderator at both, I was exposed to a broad cross-section of multifamily housing owners, marketers, technologists, pricing managers, property managers, asset managers and executives--and picked up on quite a number of developing trends, opportunities and challenges facing our industry now and into 2014 and beyond.

For those unable to benefit from either of these meetings of industry colleagues and peers, following are four important emerging trends (among many) in apartment technology.

By no means an exhaustive list, the subjects below seem to be top of mind for most apartment executives and are worthy of following in the coming months.

1 Net Promoters and Biz Intel

While an era of "Big Data" and its manipulation via business intelligence tools may not have arrived quite yet, certainly our industry seems to be headed in that direction.

Most technology firms are hard at work figuring out ways to let their customers have access to data that, to this point, was locked up inside property management and revenue management systems.

While some of the user interfaces in development already look great, what remains to be seen is how the tug of war between wanting to get at the data versus not wanting to invest heavily in (or paying to outsource to) full-time data analysts will play out.

Many vendors are certainly trying to make analytics more easily accessible to operators. One exciting prospect will be the impact of business intelligence on net promoter scores, and developing a more quantifiable method of answering questions such as, "Are my residents happy?" to, "Will my resident renew?" to, "What will satisfied residents do to help me improve my business?"

2 Ratings and Reviews

Resident satisfaction is at the heart of our industry's current obsession with online ratings and reviews.

Sure, ratings and reviews within consumer behavior broadly have shown a demonstrable impact on purchasing decisions. The problem inherent in the apartment industry is a comparative lack of ratings and reviews.

Because of slow transaction volume (compare annual apartment leases to the daily turnover in hotels, airlines and restaurants), the average number of reviews for any given apartment community is still extremely low. It will be interesting to see how our industry--particularly with our traditional customer survey and satisfaction partners--works to increase that volume to meaningful levels while maintaining an authentic view, and whether when we arrive at that point we'll still find the investment of resources into this area as critically important as we do now.

3 Renewals and Engagement

A much more obvious measure of resident engagement is likely to be found in renewal conversions and the ability of revenue management systems to improve rental rates with satisfied customers.

There's probably a great discussion to be had about how this industry prepares for renewals and whether resident engagement in the 21st century is more than simply 60- and 30-day-out renewal letters.

Technology is making the success of operations, maintenance, capital improvements, curb appeal and front-office staff amicability all the more transparent. Coupled with transparency in online marketing and apartment availability and pricing, it will be interesting to see if anyone can successfully tie all of these ideas together.

4 Revenue Management and Lease-Ups

With all of the new apartment supply coining online, it's also no surprise that we're revisiting the strategic application of revenue management to new community lease-up.

Some of the more established methods have been to mask exposure (i.e., extremely low occupancy) from the revenue management system as well as to "stage" releases of floors or otherwise pre-lease a community to reach appropriate demand levels where revenue management can work efficiently.

We're also seeing more operators "turn on" revenue management sooner after property stabilization and optimizing revenue lift, instead waiting 60 or 90 days to ease communities into full-blown, systemized operations. In short, new developments are more likely than ever to be using revenue management, and using it sooner than in years past.

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Donald Davidoff is President, D2 Demand Solutions Inc., and can be reached at Donald@imaginellc.com.
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Author:Davidoff, Donald
Publication:Units
Date:Nov 1, 2013
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