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Artificial intelligence and multifamily . . . are we in?

Artificial intelligence and multifamily . . . are we in?

It’s no secret that the multifamily space has been slow to adopt new technology. We were among the last to adopt revenue management software, for example, or to recognize the charging freight train of reputation management and social media. We resisted. We felt the pain. We finally embraced. We reaped the benefits.

The good news? As the industry has become both more competitive and an increasingly attractive investment, we are also seeing less resistance to change than we’ve seen in years. As a result, the technology options are overwhelming for operators – requiring more focus and assets devoted to the business of culling through what to deploy.

And now, technology utilizing artificial intelligence is knocking on our doors. Will we continue to wait, or will we take advantage?

The National Apartment Association recently published an article on the subject in UNITS magazine, which you can read here. The general perspective of the article is that real estate is an industry that can benefit from AI, but these technologies are still early and multifamily isn’t behind the curve. Hurrah!

So, what is AI? In one of its simplest forms, think Alexa from Amazon. She can answer your questions, search for you and even order your favorite products. Alexa is constantly adding skills and “learning” your preferences. She’s certainly not aspiring to be “human,” as some AI platforms are, but she’s a pretty good speech bot and very easy to use. If you don’t use Alexa and are curious, here’s a complete list of all the commands to date.

Here in multifamily, artificial intelligence could be used for a variety of useful purposes to improve the renter experience. The tools emerging first seem to be both online and phone conversation chat bots.  AI carries traditional chat options forward in pretty significant ways. Rather than a purely rules-based interaction, an AI-powered chat bot responds to natural language. This provides a much more familiar and – well, natural – experience for the renter. At the recent Apartment Internet Marketing conference (AIM) this May, there was a great example of this from industry supplier Respage, premiering their new chat bot (which you can see more about here). It is very simple, very powerful, and helps renters navigate a property website more quickly utilizing existing data combined with AI.

Also featured at AIM was a session on AI in marketing, featuring speaker Thomas Prommer (the managing director of technology from HUGE, Inc., which works with clients on digital transformation through the lens of technology). It was a truly informative session speaking to the possibilities of automating manual marketing processes including customer analytics, lead nurturing, pricing and sales with AI, and included some great examples from the hospitality industry. Below is a powerful graphic demonstrating the impact of utilizing AI applications.

 

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Another very cool potential application for the renter is from Houzz, an online home improvement marketplace that features Pinterest-style photos of home interiors and exteriors. They are employing AI with an algorithm that identifies the furnishings or products in the photos, shows them how they would look in their own home, and tells them where they can buy these items. You can read more about how it works here.

You get the picture . . . we haven’t yet even scratched the surface of how AI might help drive our businesses forward. Whether you’ve already jumped into the AI pool, or are thinking about it, it’s a field that could revolutionize the way we interact with our customers. Take a look here at 20 buzzwords you need to know as you’re learning how to swim.

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