Once upon a time, phones were only used to make calls. Then, they got smart.
In today’s world, phone calls may be the least utilized function of a smartphone. Now, we use them to navigate, watch videos, message friends, find a ride, and so much more. They are so vital to our lives that Pew Research Center says that 81% of Americans own a smartphone. What’s more is that smartphones are starting to replace laptop and desktop computers. According to Deloitte’s 2018 Global Mobile Survey, 28% of adults no longer use laptops or desktop computers, and rely solely on a smartphone for internet activity.
Luckily, most businesses – multifamily companies included – have recognized how many people are continuously on their mobile device, especially when they visit websites. Property management companies are increasingly designing their websites to be mobile optimized. This means the site automatically adjusts to an appropriate size for tablet and smartphone users. While this eliminates some of the headaches that mobile residents and prospects might face, the user experience is clunky and offers limited functionality.
Instead, property management companies are finding that mobile apps are the most effective way to engage with their residents. While your website pertains to residents, it’s also full of content for anyone else who may have interest in your company – prospective renters, investors, owners, etc. A community app is squarely focused on resident needs and includes the content and functionalities that are practical for them to have on their phone. Because apps are intentionally designed for mobile users, it is easier for residents to read, touch, and type in this channel versus your mobile-optimized website.
So what exactly should be included in your community app? According to third-party research conducted on behalf of PayLease, residents think the most important functions of a community app are: paying rent and utilities, receiving package delivery notifications, filing and tracking maintenance requests, reading announcements about the community, and reserving community amenities.
These tasks are better suited for a mobile app for the following reasons.
Apps are Faster For Mobile Users than Your Website: No one likes being held hostage by a web page that takes forever to load. Or when an online form stalls after you’ve hit “Submit.” A mobile app will work faster than a mobile-optimized website, making it easier and less stressful to complete apartment-related tasks. Plus, apps can store resident information and preferences, and allow them to complete tasks (like paying rent) in a few taps, or even on an automated schedule.
Apps Offer Residents Better Personalization: With mobile apps, it’s easier for residents to have a more personalized experience with your management company. Once residents download the app, they can customize several facets to suit their needs and preferences. For instance, residents can designate their communication preferences (email, text, calls) for interacting with their property manager. They can also get information that is pertinent to their interests and location.
If your community has smart home technology, residents can also use the same app to personalize their apartment. For instance, residents can program their lights, thermostat and locks with their phone. And if they want to grant someone access to their home without being physically present, they can use the app to set up temporary access codes.
Apps Offer Better Communication Between Residents and Community Staff: Residents expect good communication from their community manager, and mobile apps will give them real-time alerts about things that matter to them. Mobile apps enable residents to get real-time push notifications about things like a package delivery, a community announcement, or the status of a work order.
Having this instantaneous communication is even more valuable when residents are trying to solve a problem. Without a mobile app, a resident either needs to wait until they are in front of a computer to submit a maintenance request, or attempt to fill out a form on your website, which may or may not render properly from a mobile device. This might not be a big deal if you’re talking about minor things, say replacing a light bulb in their refrigerator, but if they want to report something like a leak, they want you to know right away. Mobile apps will speed up the communication in these instances and provide your maintenance staff with better details about the task ahead. Residents can utilize their phone’s camera so if applicable, they can attach a picture to the work order. In turn, orders can be completed in a timelier manner since service teams are better prepared before visiting the unit. Plus, messages and updates can be shared between the service team and the resident, delivering much-needed transparency for residents about what’s happening in their apartment.
Apps Offer Connection with Other Residents and their Neighborhood: One thing residents can’t do through your resident portal is interact with other residents. Apps can help bring neighbors together who have common interests and needs. For one, residents can use their app to invite neighbors to any kind of social activity like on-site pool parties, book clubs, or dinner parties. Other useful interactions include community boards where they can buy, sell, or borrow stuff from their neighbors. Mobile apps can also house a marketplace feature that helps them explore their neighborhood by offering discounts to local businesses and services.
Mobile community apps are really a win-win for residents and community staff and are the best way to engage with your renters. To read up on best practices for implementing an app for your communities, download our latest ebook, Connected Communities: Experiences that Drive Resident Engagement and Empower On-Site Staff.
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