One in 5 smartphone owners are using apps like Foursquare, Facebook Places, Loopt, MyTown, and Gowalla to “check in,” according to the latest ComScore report. What’s checking in? If you arrive at a café, a conference, or your favorite beach, then whip out your phone and use one of the above-mentioned apps to broadcast where you are, congratulations: you just checked in.
Those who regularly check in say they do so to find out if friends (who also check in) are nearby. If you check in with the Foursquare app, you can see user recommendations of places other user have checked in to. Some businesses give special deals to those who check in at their location, too.
Additional details from the study on checking in, which assessed the behaviors of smartphone owners in a March 2011 study, are revealing. Of the 16.7 million people using check-in services on their mobile devices, about ¾ do so using a smartphone device.
Over 45.5 million people in the United States owned smartphones in 2010. So if 1 in 5 of these folks are checking in, 9.1 million U.S. residents—3 percent of all U.S. residents—are out there, checking in.
What does this mean for the multifamily apartment industry?
As the national rental vacancy rates fall—between 2009 and 2010 the rental vacancy rate fell more than an entire percentage point, to 9.4 percent in the fourth quarter, according to the Census Bureau—it’s clear more Americans are looking for apartments and more Americans will be using their smartphones to do so.
Multifamily managers don’t need to be too worried about check in apps transforming the rental landscape. Because while you might be able to reward people who are checking in – by offering them a gift certificate to Starbuck’s or $10 off their first month’s rent, for example—you won’t incentivize it, won’t cause them to visit your community. That’s because checking in is “after the fact.” When folks check in, they’re announcing what decision they’ve made.
But it’s true that more people are using smartphones, and that more people—mainly the tech-obsessed—are using smartphones to check in while they go about their lives.
Here are some tips to be sure you reach these people:
1) Have a mobile-optimized version of your website. These versions will display your information in a user-friendly way on the screen of a smartphone. Hire an app developer and you’ll be on your way.
2) Realize some users might check in to different communities they visit just to keep track of everything they’re seeing. Putting a small reminder in the lobby to trigger people to check in will help establish your company’s presence and credibility if a prospective renter does so; having a check-in option on your company’s mobile-optimized app is also a good idea.
3) Monitor whether check-in apps that allow you to broadcast photos—such as Color —take off in your area. Photos on check-in sites are a powerful and free way for your apartment to get publicity, and for prospective renters to connect with others who have visited the apartment.
Already using check-ins at your property? Let us know about it!