Every so often there is a profound shift in the way real estate professionals do business. Property managers find themselves at the leading edge of one of those changes today. The source of this change, as is often the case, is new technology – or perhaps more accurately, a powerful new use for an existing technology.
Touchscreen interfaces have been around for at least a decade. Their role as property marketing, leasing and resident messaging systems, however, is much more recent. Forward-thinking property owners and managers are just beginning to realize that there are tremendous benefits from deploying large touch-sensitive panels to their leasing offices and to their properties.
These wall-mounted or tabletop screens, often with diagonal measurements of 40 inches or more, do a number of things to help streamline the leasing process and increase resident satisfaction.
Getting Eyes on the Prize
First, touchscreens grab the attention of tech-savvy students and their families. Using eye-catching graphics and a custom-branded, gesture-based interface, they entice prospective residents to step closer and tap, pinch and swipe their way around a property on an informative, interactive digital tour.
Photos, floor plans, video and other content help the visitor understand everything your community has to offer. In many cases, a physical property tour is just a formality at that point and may not be needed at all, saving you valuable time. Integration with your property management system lets visitors see real-time availability information as well – and this integration frees your team from having to continuously update your data.
Second, touchscreen users can save the things that interest them from their digital tour (a particular floor plan, a photo of the inviting resident lounge, etc.) to an online profile. That “guest card” information is automatically added to your property management system, again saving your team significant time. This also prevents the data entry errors and lost leads that happen to even the most conscientious leasing teams.
Hear ye, hear ye! (And see ye!)
Touchscreen systems also serve another, equally important purpose: They are a digital town crier that helps residents connect with each other and with the many events that you sponsor or that are taking place around campus. Yes, there are many apps and websites providing this kind of information, but they all lack one very important thing: a shared experience. Seeing a group of students with their heads down reading about an event on their phones provides zero feedback to others. Seeing a group of students reading about an event on a 55-inch panel in a common area – and reacting positively to what they’re reading – is great feedback and often a powerful incentive to get involved.
Your Digital Concierge
There are other ways that a touchscreen interaction system enhances the resident experience as well – all of them easier and/or more fun on the big screen. Interactive area maps, curated by your team, help residents zero in on the best local shopping, dining and entertainment options. Especially for students new to the area, these plot points on the map – effectively recommendations from your staff – can be very valuable.
Package delivery notification is a helpful service that can be provided through the touch panel. News/weather headline crawls and community announcements help keep residents informed and engaged.
Touch and Go
Smaller, portable touchscreen units give leasing agents the ability to seamlessly transition from a digital tour on the large screen to a physical property tour. Ideally the units auto-synch whenever a web connection is detected, ensuring that availability details and other important content is always current.
If your property is continually striving to be more environmentally friendly, a touchscreen marketing and messaging system can help with that. Whether prospects and residents are reading from the screen or having the information that interests them sent to their mobile device, you can eliminate printed marketing pieces, event flyers and virtually any type of paper-based communication you used to use. Not only does this help your community be greener, it also saves you money.
While touchscreen systems provide numerous benefits, it may be that the best is yet to come. The availability of real-time, GPS-based local transit information is one recent innovation that has multi-family property owners and managers excited about where the technology is headed.
— Tom Schek is the founder of CopperDot, a copywriting and marketing content agency. He previously served as marketing director with Engrain, a Denver company specializing in touchscreen marketing, leasing and messaging systems for real estate.