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Brent Williams' Apartment Blog

Thoughts, comments, and ideas about the overall multifamily industry, as well as a property-specific focus on resident retention and apartment marketing.

Are Your Amenities Running Blind?

Are Your Amenities Running Blind?

Mary the resident moved in 10 months ago and was absolutely wowed by the fitness center.  The leasing consultant, Jeff, smartly keyed in on this being one of the primary deciding factors in her new home, and was able to leverage that incredible fitness center reaction into a lease.  Congrats!  Fast forward to today:  Did Mary begin her enthusiastic plan to start using the gym?  Did she even step foot into it once since she moved in?  We have absolutely no idea, and because  of our complete lack of knowledge, Mary slipped through our fingers on the renewal.

This is the fundamental problem so common with community amenities – according to our latest research, only 15% tracked amenity usage, and of those, some responded by only tracking visually, which is an extremely inaccurate way to keep record.  I realize that implementing a system to track usage would cost money – no debate there.  However, consider the data that could be obtained!  Consider these three enormous benefits of tracking your amenity usage:

1)      Your renewal process can be custom tailored to exactly how the resident actually used the property.  Imagine how much more effective the sales approach could be if you knew that Mary the resident used the fitness center every day, OR how much information could be gleaned by the fact that she didn’t use the fitness center.  If we remain ignorant about our residents actions with our community, then our ability to renew our residents is dramatically reduced.

 

2)      Beyond using the data in a reactive way, showing how an amenity was used, we can use the data in a proactive way to modify how it is used going forward!  First, the data can tell us if the amenity is simply not getting used in any meaningful way, or if it is only being used by the same 5 people every day.  Once we know the usage patterns, we can work to identify the cause and potential resolutions to the lack of usage.  For example:

 

Awareness – It is not uncommon for people to forget the benefits they have access to.  So programs to increase awareness may be helpful.

 

Access – It may be an issue where the times the amenity is available is restricting the ability of the residents to actually use it.

 

Additional Features – It is possible an amenity needs more programs to increase its utility, such as swimming lessons at the pool.

 

Issues With the Amenity – Although I’m sure everybody does periodic inspections of the amenities, it is possible something is going on that isn’t obvious, and usage data may tell a story.

 

Amenities are often perceived much differently when it comes to the initial sale versus the renewal.  For the initial lease, amenities are seen in an aspirational way.  For example, when I move, I’m going to finally start working out and getting in shape!  However, for a renewal, an amenity is graded much more heavily on actual usage.  If I have been at a community a year and still haven’t worked out, then it is harder for me to pretend that I will suddenly start to do so.  Therefore, the value for that amenity drops dramatically upon renewal if it hasn’t been used, which means our strategy can’t just be to make an amenity available, it also must include ensuring the amenity is actually used.

 

3)      We spend an incredible amount of money either developing new amenities or repurposing old amenities, and yet too many companies are not using the data available to them to make informed decisions.  Rather than using a gut feeling, supposed “trends”, or relying upon market comps to dictate amenity capital decisions, using first-hand data from actual usage could be the best guide going forward. 

 

Ultimately, not gathering usage data is like driving a car without speedometer – it is driving the community without really knowing how it is performing.

What do you think?  Are you tracking amenity usage, why or why not?

 

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  • Ceyan Birney

    What systems (software, Internet of Things hardware, etc) have been helpful to track amenities useage as you suggest? More importantly, with dashboards that provide the insights meantioned in the article?

  • Great question. I think the first question is whether someone wants to just track, or track usage along with access control. At the most basic level, card access systems will store that type of data, but there are much more sophisticated systems out there. Some fitness equipment itself also tracks usage by person for a really granular look. Also, retailers use beacons to track shoppers movement throughout a store, so something similar could be used at the community if they have a dedicated app that can implement that type of code.

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