What We Learned at 2017 NMHC OPTECH Conference

Last week, the best and brightest minds in the multifamily industry flocked to Las Vegas for the annual National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) OPTECH Conference & Exposition. The premier destination for what’s next in multifamily, OPTECH provides an accessible forum to discuss innovative trends, traditions, and technologies to move the multifamily industry forward.  

Team Updater set up shop in the OPTECH Exhibit Hall alongside over 100 of the industry’s top solution providers to network with existing (and potential!) clients, demo the Updater platform, provide updates on the exciting changes and developments at Updater HQ, and of course, pass out some goodies.

Aside from the impressive list of industry supplier partners in attendance (wink), OPTECH is notorious for its thought-provoking content, providing an array of deep dives on compelling topics, trend-setting panels, and inspirational discussions. We also took advantage of some of the great content facilitated by OPTECH. Read on for a few key learnings from some of our favorite sessions.

NMHC/Kingsley Resident Preferences Report

The opening general session of the conference took a deep dive into the survey results of over a quarter of a million apartment residents. The survey not only covered the basics of what features and amenities residents want the most, but also the latest issues facing the apartment industry. This session provided actionable takeaways to help impact decision‐making and budgeting of resources. A few takeaways:

  • Mobile optimization is more important than ever. The survey revealed that a whopping 40% of residents used mobile as their primary search device when researching apartments.

  • Online reviews are making more of an impact in resident searches. Seventy-two percent of those polled stated that a negative online review might prevent them from visiting a property.

  • The top amenities requested by residents (listed in order of preference) show a shift in the importance of connectivity:

    • Air conditioning

    • High-speed internet

    • Reliable cell reception

    • Soundproof walls

    • Washer/dryer

Top Marketing Pros Take on Top Marketing Trends

In this session, a few of the foremost thought leaders in multifamily marketing presented the latest on upcoming industry trends in marketing. Some interesting ideas:

  • Seventy percent of renters own pets. You can easily provide value to these residents by offering amenities such as “pet spas” (aka pet washing stations), community dog parks, or by throwing monthly “pet of the month” photo contests on social media.

  • According to a 2016 Consumer Intelligence Research Partners reports, nearly half of U.S. households have an Amazon Prime membership. Consequently, package delivery/acceptance is a major value-add for residents. If your properties do not have a 24-hour concierge, investigating the viability of the newly announced Amazon Key, or implementing a package locker system — such as Luxer One or Amazon Hub — will help you provide a much-needed resident amenity.

  • Personalization and customization: Encourage residents to make their home their own. Certain retailers, like Wayfair, provide interior design services free-of-charge – all the resident has to pay for is the furniture and decor.

  • Move-in matters. Property managers know how much work goes into planning a move – you see it all the time! Alleviate the stress inherent in moving by providing Updater for your residents. (We know, we’re biased, but don’t take our word for it!) Updater is an easy-to-use moving app to help your residents update accounts and records, forward mail, set up utilities and internet, secure a renters insurance policy, book a moving company, and more.

  • Residents in urban areas rely heavily on public transportation. Install TransitScreens in your lobby to provide a real-time display of transportation information at your specific location. Residents will love you for it.

In general, the role of the marketer has shifted. “Marketing” is often thought to be very creative and design-focused. Those elements are incredibly important facets of marketing, but they’re not all that marketers do. With the availability of analytics and statistical measurement in digital marketing today, professionals must operate as both creatives and scientists. Use these tools to plan unique, engaging programs to delight residents – but be sure to measure the results of your efforts.

Data‐Driven Marketing: Separating the Signal from the Noise  

Remember what we just said about the “science” of marketing and all of the data at our fingertips? The days of scavenging for renter data are over for multifamily marketers. But, how do we identify the right data and analyze it to make it useful? In this session, a panel of marketing data experts shared how they plan for (and collect) clean data, while implementing various data collection methodologies to drive actionable results. Here are a few things they recommend:

  • Make use of the data available – pay attention to social media, read resident reviews, reference your Google Analytics, send resident surveys, and do a deep dive into reports available on your property management systems. There’s a lot of data out there, and gathering multiple data sets to help you make relevant decisions is crucial.

  • Want to make your data more actionable and usable? Tools like Domo can help you manage, analyze, and share data across your entire organization, enabling decision makers to identify and act on strategic opportunities.

  • Millennials, millennials, millennials – they’re all we hear about these days – and they are a major topic in terms of targeting residents in the multifamily space. But, they’re not necessarily the only market to target. Be sure to analyze your data and identify your ideal renter. Then, deploy strategies to target them in the best way possible.

  • Studies show that customers make an average of five different touch points before making a decision. Implement multi-touch attribution in your marketing strategies to analyze what efforts are driving the most conversions and providing the most value. Make sure your property is visible in many different channels (on social media, via SEO, SEM, listing sites, review sites, etc.). Be nimble!

Integration Now! Overcoming Tech’s Greatest Challenge  

Over the past two years, more data has been created than ever before. Therefore, we need to make systems as simple as possible to encourage productivity and efficiency. Getting all your tech systems to talk to each other and work together seamlessly is one of the greatest tech challenges. During this session, industry technology experts reviewed best practices for getting technologies to effectively communicate with each other in order to drive the results you expect from your investments.  Here are a few of their recommendations:

  • In general, there is too great of a variety of services for one vendor to do everything, so it’s incredibly important for integrations to be in place. As an industry, we must continue building a community of people and organizations who trust each other, want to make a difference, and want to make technology function more efficiently.

  • Enter the Multifamily Information Transaction Standards (MITS). NMHC worked with apartment managers in the early 2000s to create MITS, but they only went so far. So, NMHC is reactivating and improving MITS to promote industry standards and provide a network of industry-approved vendors.

All in all, it was an incredible show. OPTECH never disappoints. We look forward to all of the original, leading-edge content and networking opportunities next year in Orlando!