Technology Implementations Today, Avoid Budget Busters in 2018

Overwhelmed leasing team members were creatively dealing with package management by stacking packages to clear out enough space to get to their desks and start the day.

Sound familiar?

It’s a plight many in the multifamily industry have become privy to. There has been a spike in online ordering but a lack of space to store the overabundance of packages. Currently, Americans spend more than $300 billion annually on online retailers. Community managers, leasing agents and team members burn several hours a week organizing these packages. That organization is just so they’ll have some idea where to look when residents come to pick them up.

To end the madness, communities are adopting package management technologies as a brisk, effective solution. However, communities shouldn’t wait until panic-mode sets in to make the call. Rather than grasping at contingency funds, planning ahead by adding a line item into the 2018 budget to implement a technology that best suits community needs will be a true life saver.

There are five options available to create more efficient package management. When evaluating which is the most appropriate solution for your community, keep in mind factors like your community size, accessibility, possible locations and even your renter demographic.

  1. Package Logging Software: Through this service, residents receive text and email reminders that a package has arrived. This eliminates the steps in which residents call to check if a package has arrived, or a community team member calls the resident to notify them that it’s in. This is a solid option for smaller and midsize communities. It is cost-effective and allows for near-immediate implementation. However, some of the existing hurdles will remain. This solution still requires some staff involvement and doesn’t allow for round-the-clock package retrieval.
  2. Software-Driven Package Rooms: This service remains cost-effective, further reduces staff involvement and allows residents round-the-clock access to retrieve their packages. Residents receive a text and email with a one-time code and their signature is required for entry into the package room. However, privacy and security isn’t as thorough with the packages on shelves rather than in lockers.
  3. Smart Package Room Systems: This is a more technologically savvy version of the software-driven package room and features similar benefits.  Camera footage of those retrieving packages is available to assist with accountability. Licensing fees might also be a little higher. While it offers a high level of security, it still isn’t quite as secure as a package locker system.  Technology innovations are moving towards greater security.
  4. Digital Package Locker Systems: The most convenient solution. It has the highest level of security, greatest privacy and the least amount of staff involvement. It also serves as a 24/7 amenity. This solution is also a future-proof solution, with the capability to incorporate any technological updates into the existing framework. While this solution has the highest upfront capital expenditure, the ROI in staff time saved and resident satisfaction can cover the cost within the first year.
  5. The Full Package Package Management Solution: eCommerce trends are shifting. Residents are ordering more, bigger items and looking to ship items to their friends or family and want an easy way to return items. A key solution is combining the convenience and security of locker systems with the flexibility and size of smart rooms. With lockers installations that can be customized to fit any aesthetic or configured in a variety of ways, this comprehensive solution is primed to meet any future package management needs a community may have. Consider a new comprehensive package center for your residents with secure, easy-to-use lockers next to a smart room with a commercial grade freezer for all possible shipments that need refrigeration, custom shelving units to fit packages of any size or even tables equipped with packaging materials for every carrier. With this solution, the options are truly limitless.

Online package ordering is increasing nearly 10% each year and the trend, if anything, is increasing. If your community team can handle the influx, that’s fantastic. If not, we recommend budgeting now and planning ahead for one of the above solutions.

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Tiny House. Big Impact.

Tiny housing making big impact on combating homelessness in America

Affordable housing and providing access to quality housing is a vital social responsibility for the multifamily industry and something that is near and dear to the heart of Package Concierge, especially founder and CEO Georgianna W. Oliver. As such, we wanted to share with you this blog from Andy Helmer, CEO of Shelters to Shutters, a national non-profit working to help combat homelessness, on how our industry can make a difference.

The fight to end homelessness in this country is a massive undertaking. About 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness each year, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. Alleviating this problem in a meaningful way will surely require a multi-faceted effort involving federal, state and local governments, non-profits and the private sector.

Tiny homes have become a solution to homelessness. Here’s one possible component of the solution to this giant issue: tiny homes. Across the U.S., organizations are using tiny houses and apartment homes, which typically range from 100 square feet to 500 square feet, to provide shelter for the homeless.

For instance, the nonprofit American Family Housing recently opened Potter’s Lane, a 16-unit community in Midway City, Calif., to house homeless vets. The property features 480-square-foot apartment homes made from energy-efficient shipping containers.

Across the country, in Newfield, N.Y., the nonprofit Second Wind Cottages, relying heavily on donated materials and volunteer labor, built a community of 12 tiny homes that house homeless men. Residents pay rent as they are able to help defray the community’s operating expenses.

Other examples of similar communities include the Tiny House Village in Seattle and the Community First! Village in Austin, Texas.

Advocates of these developments note that they are comparatively cheap to build, and constructions costs often are further mitigated through the use of materials and labor supplied for free by area businesses and residents.

Can the multifamily industry incorporate tiny apartment homes for the homeless into their communities? It’s certainly something to think about. With its ample resources and vast supply of creative and intelligent people, the multifamily industry should not be shy about stepping up to the plate to help address this critical issue, and tiny apartment homes might be one way to do that.

Another Piece to the Puzzle

Shelters to Shutters (S2S), a Fairfax, Va.-based nonprofit, offers another way for the apartment industry to reduce homelessness. S2S currently works with 23 apartment management companies – including such large operators as

How tiny would your tiny home be?

AvalonBay Communities and Equity Residential – to place people experiencing homelessness in onsite, entry-level jobs and provide them with housing at the same communities at which they work.

Overall, these apartment companies have moved more than 100 people out of homelessness in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, South and Texas. And they’ve gained hardworking, loyal associates in the process. The job retention rate for S2S participants is 92 percent while the average industry turnover rate, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council, is 31 percent.

S2S provides its apartment management partners with pre-screened, job-trained candidates for entry-level positions such as maintenance technicians and leasing agents. The organization focuses on the 70 percent of the homeless population who are situationally homeless due to a life-altering event such as job loss, medical or health emergency, divorce, domestic abuse or the loss of a primary income earner.

Whether it’s through tiny homes, working with nonprofits like S2S or some other method, the multifamily industry can make a real difference in the fight against homelessness. I strongly urge you to consider how you and your apartment company can do just that.

Want to learn more about us? Click here to find out – Package Concierge

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Hardwire Internet has important edge over Wi-Fi for Apartments

The world is linked by wireless Internet, but even Wi-Fi can experience some connection tangles from time to time.

While, Wi-Fi is a more popular, widely used method of Internet connection these days, don’t be so quick to bail on the good ol’ Ethernet cord – at least for the backend of your apartment community. Wi-Fi is more convenient and tops the resident demand list, but a trusty hardwire connection is immensely more secure and challenging to hack.

Convenience is a great sell, and your property probably won’t meet its occupancy goals without wireless access for daily use in your resident’s apartment homes. You have to have it. Although, when it comes to operations, nothing beats top-notch security, especially digital security, which some residents don’t realize they actually need.

The Package Concierge Premier system is eye catching at Blair Tower.As more apartment communities begin to rely on Internet connection for day-to-day operational functions, like rent payment portal sites and electronic package locker systems, property managers should consider some of the pitfalls of a wireless connection before rolling up the Ethernet cables for good:

Wi-Fi signals commonly drop with interference

Wireless doesn’t have as stable an Internet connection as a hardwire because it only works within a certain range, and is more susceptible to interference and objects blocking the signal. Any wireless user can vouch a Wi-Fi signal can get pretty feisty.

In an apartment community, if the wireless were to go out, it could disable an entire system that operates via Internet. If Wi-Fi loses a signal during a streamed video or game, it’s an annoyance. If the signal goes out at an apartment community running package lockers or a security gate system, it potentially puts residents’ safety and possessions at risk.

Wireless offers easier setup, less return on investment

A downfall of hardwired Internet is the setup and connection takes a bit more time and work to configure than Wi-Fi. However, hardwire is a vastly more consistent, and even faster, connection once it’s up and running. Property managers will get back what they put into setting up a more secure connection system for residents.

The return on investment from a hardwire connection is worth the initial time. Residents are more likely to use something that works efficiently, without many issues. Wi-Fi is quicker and easier, but will likely have more problems down the road, draining management’s time and energy and taking associates away from other important community tasks.

Not as much data protection

Since hardwired Internet is more difficult to hack, it is also better equipped to guard data than a password-protected, private Wi-Fi connection. When overseeing many different residents in an apartment community, data protection is crucial not only for the management’s sensitive and private information, but also for the protection of residents’ personal information and privacy.

Wireless encryption standards are always being changed because the connection is just not safe. With a hardwire everything is contained.

Of course, we are not suggesting to move to hardwire.

Smartphones have drastically changed the way we must think about cyber security and wi-fi capabilities.

Cell phones use wireless connection, so different resident and community apps are exclusively Wi-Fi driven. However, keep in mind, some community amenities that utilize Internet can benefit from connection via hardwire, like [Package Concierge’s] electronic package locker systems.

Wi-Fi is definitely convenient and a must-have amenity that residents demand in their homes. However, for an apartment community on an operational level, it’s not necessarily offering residents the security and reliability they need, which hardwire provides.

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Avoid a Package Tower! A Recap of Fun Shared During the NAA Learning Zone

The multifamily industry is constantly spawning fresh innovations year after year. What’s a better way to learn about some of the cool, pain-reducing apartment technology than with a little friendly competition?

At this year’s NAA Conference and Expo in Atlanta, we explored package management advancements in our Learning Zone. Participants played “Avoid the Tower of Boxes,” a hands-on experience of the common package management pain-point plaguing our industry today. We hoped to deliver that “ah-ha” moment about why things don’t have to be that way anymore.

Allison Blair discusses the importance of having a package management system in place.With the rise of online shopping, packages are towering up daily in leasing offices, and it’s only going to get worse. Leasing professionals face a daily average of 30 resident packages delivered on-site requiring significant time management. Onsite team members must stop what they’re doing to process packages, which can take at least 5 minutes per package. Add to that the struggle of finding a place to store all those packages and you’re bound to fall victim to a tumbling tower.

And so, the tower begins

Our Learning Zone attendees were challenged in a cordial tower-building battle to simulate manual package processing vs. managing packages with a package locker system. It was truly an eye-opening experience.

Teams were each given 20 boxes separated into five daily operational activities, such as maintenance requests, tours and calls. Each box had entertaining icebreaker questions written on them. Participants discussed things like “where was your favorite vacation?” and “what is one thing on your bucket list?”

Once everyone in the group answered each question, that team could start building their tower. The faster they talked, the faster they could start building. Needless to say, things got a little loud (isn’t funny how when people talk faster they tend to get louder?).

But there was a catch. One of the teams had three boxes that read: “Stop. You get five packages.” These three boxes represented the interruption caused when a package is delivered to the office. Obviously, this team took much longer to build the tower, and inevitably finished last. This exhibits how much of a drain manually processing packages truly is on overall time management.

Then the “ah-ha” moment…

While our little competition was friendly, it did showcase how innovative package management solutions can profoundly impact daily operations. Without interruption, leasing teams can focus more on customer service for both prospects and residents.

This is what package lockers and package rooms deliver – continuance. For both your operations but more importantly, your residents. With a package management solution in place, they have access to their packages 24/7. They no longer have to wait for the leasing office to open or for a staff member to retrieve their package. They can come home, retrieve their own package and get back to their life, uninterrupted.

The Package Concierge Premier and Express System compliment one another at NAA 2017.We hope our competitors enjoyed the game and got a sense of what it’s like for leasing team members at communities with – and without – a package management solution.

Visit us at www.packageconcierge.com for more details.

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All Encompassing: Package Concierge Offers Package Shipping and Returns

One in three.

That’s right: 30 percent of every online purchase is returned.

Did you know around 49% of retailers offer free return shipping now? Package concierge is here to help.

According to invespcro.com, 30% of all products ordered online are returned as compared to 8.89% in brick-and-mortar stores.

We already know that ecommerce is bigger than ever with people spending more than a $200 billion annually – a steadily rising number. It is estimated that online shopping has grown more than 17 percent over the last decade. And as more and more brick-and-mortar stores close their doors ecommerce is projected to further skyrocket.

While online shopping offers a greater convenience with the ability to shop 24/7 and from various devices, it still lacks the sensory appeal that comes with shopping at a brick-and-mortar retailer. As such, 60 percent of returned packages are due to either damaged goods, the product looks different than what was online or it was simply the wrong item.

A report released by Sanford C. Bernstein indicates that Amazon ships an average of 608 million packages each year, or 1.66 million daily. According to UPS, they deliver approximately 18 million packages daily during typical non-peak shipping periods while FedEx boasts 13 millions daily packages.

So what does this mean?

While these figures don’t take into account the massive upswing in package deliveries during the holiday season (think double the volume), we are looking at roughly 9 million packages returned every single day.

Package Concierge is further improving your package management solutions, and ensuring your leasing office and leasing team no longer have to deal with mountains of packages.

Shipping and Returns is now available from Package Concierge and operates through its package locker system. Similar to package pickup, residents have access to shipping and returns capabilities 24/7.

With Shipping and Returns available from Package Concierge, apartment owners and operators:

  • Provide even greater convenience for your residents by allowing them to returns items they are unhappy with, as well as ship packages to their friends and family.
    • Satisfied residents are more likely to renew their leases – more than 80 percent indicate that effective package management positively impacted their renewal decision.
  • Offer efficiencies to burdened delivery carriers
    • By taking advantage of their regular stops, carriers no longer have to make extra trips to pick up outbound shipments or returns.
  • Generate ancillary revenue
    • Whether or not you chose to charge residents for this service, you garner improved ROI through enhanced resident satisfaction.

Contact us today to learn more about how Shipping and Returns can further improve your package management!

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5 Million Mark: A Measure of Skyrocketing Ecommerce Industry

In some ways, 5 million represents the perfect storm.

While package delivery continues to increase exponentially in the ecommerce market, Package Concierge® has tirelessly aimed to keep a steady pace by installing innovative package lockers in as many locales as possible.

In Spring 2016, we surpassed the 2-million mark in package transactions. At the time, it signified a hefty achievement. But as consumers continue to gravitate to online shopping and nationwide demand for package solutions rises accordingly, we’ve experienced more than a 200-percent spike in package lockers installations.

With that, the number of package transactions has quickly ascended to 5 million.

5 million

To be clear, the 5 million figure isn’t something we’re thumping our chest about. In our eyes, the number more represents the thriving ecommerce industry and the suddenness of it. This hasn’t been a gradual rise – it has been meteoric. There is a reason why businesses are closing brick-and-mortar stores but continue to thrive overall. It’s because their merchandise is being ordered through a few clicks online, and consumers are utilizing package delivery at ultra-historic rates.

Ecommerce Increase Means More Deliveries

Internet sales accounted for a mere 3 percent of consumer expenditure as a whole in 2006. That number rose to 15.5 in 2016 according to Business 2 Community, and the U.S. is at the forefront of this global movement. Ecommerce is a $220 billion market in the U.S. and has grown at annual rate of 17 percent over the past decade.  This figure is likely to increase even more with Walmart’s recent announcement that is it offering free two-day shipping.

The trend within the trend is that consumers are not only shopping online, but increasingly doing so through mobile devices. Experts predict that mobile transactions (those conducted through smartphones and tablets) will account for 26 percent of retail ecommerce sales in the U.S. by the end of 2017.  This figure is likely to increase even more with Walmart’s recent announcement that it is offering free two-day shipping.

What to expect?

Packages are being delivered at such a fervent pace that Amazon is unveiling its own delivery service. The Wall Street Journal reported in July that ecommerce growth played a key role in 3.2-percent profit growth for the United Parcel Service. Naturally, Amazon’s decision to utilize its own deliverers could put a dent in overall numbers for UPS, FedEx and USPS. But no matter the method in which they are shipped, the packages will continue to arrive.

Looking to the Future

Along with the demand, residents are expecting to receive their packages in a convenient, hassle-free manner. That’s why we believe it is important to parallel the growth of ecommerce with solutions that fit.

Perhaps in six months or a year, we’ll view our 5 million package transaction as obsolete, as antiquated as the dial-up modem. But for now, the figure holds some clout when looking at ecommerce as a whole.

5 million.

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What Makes An Amenity Awesome?

Amenity

An Amenity Today Means Residents Tomorrow.

The world of multifamily is competitive. With diverse communities duking it out for residents, location (while important) isn’t enough. That’s where amenities make all the difference. Amenities can be a true differentiator when a market is full of new communities. A pool and fitness room are industry standard now and let’s be honest, are these enough? Or would you rather live in a community with a pool, fitness room, and a rooftop cinema? We know the answer already. Amenities are subjective and communities need to provide amenities that cater to their demographic. So how does one determine if an amenity will make a difference? Here are a few things to take into consideration:

  • Increased Value for the Resident: An amenity may be a deciding factor in community selection for future residents. It just depends on what they place value in. Since rent prices are largely dictated by location, an amenity is an added value. A good metric to pay attention to is who’s living in the community. Will Millennials prefer a wine cellar or a high-tech social lounge? Know who your residents are and what they want; it’ll make a huge difference.
  • It Makes Life Easier: A good amenity is one that makes users question how they lived without it until now. Basic examples include laundry capabilities and on-site transportation services like Zipcar. Another great example of an amenity while transcending demographics are our Package Concierge systems. Everyone can’t always be home for a package delivery and our lockers hold the delivery until it’s ready for pickup. Not only does our package management solution work for all, it just makes sense.
  • Keep It Simple: Amenities don’t need to be elaborate. Sure, property managers across the country may be jealous of The Oosten, located in Brooklyn N.Y. and developed by Xin Development Group, for giving out a free trip to Europe to meet the building’s designer, but a little can go a long way too. In an NMHC survey conducted in conjunction with Kingsley Associates, 80% wanted secured community access. Is that so much to ask for? Electronic and keyless entry systems are affordable and a community maintenance team can install them. This is a simple upgrade and may be just the amenity needed to boost leases.

Amenities make all the difference. They’re the added incentive to those looking for a new community to call home. Check your local market to see what you’re up against. Go visit other communities with the amenities you’re interested in incorporating into your own. If an amenity is within the realm of possibility and it suits the community’s demographic, go for it! You can even reach out to your current residents and ask them for suggestions. However you decide to do it, go out and get the game-changing amenity!

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Client Spotlight: Central Park at Whisman Station

Whisman_SceneicOur latest client spotlight is host to some of the most scenic views of any property we’ve featured. Central Park at Whisman Station is located in Mountain View, California. The vistas of the Santa Cruz Mountains compliment this luxurious multifamily property and create a beautiful landscape of the surrounding area

Managed by Alliance Residential, Whisman Station is just one example of their dedication to multifamily living done right. They also are advocates for luxurious living with a reduced carbon footprint. Alliance’s “Focus Green” program seeks to reduce the consumption of energy and natural resources at each community, as well as educate and encourage residents to participate in eco-friendly lifestyles. As they celebrate their management leadership this week, Alliance Residential truly has the best interests of their residents in mind.

Whisman_Lobby

After taking in all of the glorious scenery, you can explore even more of Mountain View on the bike path, or one of the numerous jogging/walking trails of the Whisman Station community. Other amenities include a fitness center, a relaxation spa, and a resort inspired swimming pool. And for members of the “green” team, there are new energy efficient appliance packages and electric vehicle charging stations.

Whisman_PoolIn an area where technology companies thrive and innovation is around every corner, Central Park at Whisman Station also provides its residents with a technologically advanced Package Concierge. The system is cozily tucked away in a convenient alcove, but don’t be fooled by its discreet location; this system has received more than 2,000 packages since it’s installation this past November!

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Package Concierge provides secure storage for items intended for Whisman Station’s residents. Brittany, a Sales Associate at the property, mentioned how the system has improved the lives of the residents. “The Package Concierge system works well, everyone likes it.” Brittany also said, “The notification that Package Concierge sends to residents when packages have been received are very convenient.” When we asked Brittany how often the Package Concierge system was utilized, her response was, “It is used quite often; we’re actually considering ordering another one!”

Not too long ago, Mountain View was just a stagecoach stop in the newly settled west. Now, it’s the home of “tech giants” like Google, Mozilla and Symantec. And for those that call Central Park at Whisman Station home, Package Concierge is the package management “giant” that they can depend on for convenience and security.

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Package Concierge makes life easier for residents and workers at Observer Park in Hoboken, N.J.

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Observer Park, Hoboken, N.J.

115 units – PC7-70

Overview

Observer Park gives residents the ability to enjoy the perks of New York from the perspective of a tree-lined street across the Hudson River. Its 115 units receive an average of 150 packages a week, with that number climbing higher during peak delivery times. With only a small office to store and sort deliveries, the community’s two-person leasing staff dealt with space constraints for package storage and spent too many staff hours receiving, logging, storing and retrieving packages.

The residents, principally working professionals who commute daily to the city, grew increasingly frustrated by the inconvenient package delivery process. Leasing staff tested many strategies to ease the last mile of delivery, including an unstaffed package room, an outsourced part-time concierge professional and a full-time employee to alleviate the administrative burden of handling packages. However, leaving packages unattended wasn’t a secure option and manual package management limited pick-up times to office hours, preventing many residents from receiving their packages before the office closed.

Our solution

Observer Park needed a package management solution that simplified package delivery for residents without requiring staff maintenance. The solution also needed to be secure and compatible with all delivery and mail carriers.

The Package Concierge system’s convenience, security and ability to complement the community’s existing amenities attracted the property owner and leasing staff. Since the Observer Park team previously considered the addition of a full-time staff member, it became clear that redirecting budget to cover Package Concierge’s upfront installation costs would prove more valuable over time.

Observer Park worked with Package Concierge to install a 7-foot, 70-compartment locker system in the secured lobby that connects the community’s two buildings. After the installation was complete and Package Concierge was ready to launch, the leasing team hosted a party for the residents to introduce the new amenity and to build excitement around the new system for handling packages.

 Results

For Observer Park’s leasing team, Package Concierge has practically eliminated the distraction of package management and has resulted in more time for daily responsibilities. Team members have saved an average of 90 minutes per day and are now spending this time planning community events, following up with prospective renters and improving the daily operations of the property.

Residents don’t have to rush home on a crowded train to make sure their packages aren’t sitting in the lobby or left outside the building, leading to increased satisfaction and fewer complaints. Every resident at Observer Park uses an automatic key fob to enter the building, and the exact same fob is used to collect packages from the Package Concierge system, further adding to the system’s convenience and security.

Automated delivery lockers from Package Concierge are helping to increase current residents’ renewal rates at Observer Park, as well as incoming tour requests and leases signed by new prospects. On multiple occasions, prospective residents have extended their initial visits to the building in order to see the process when a package is delivered or picked up. Observer Park includes Package Concierge in each unit’s amenity fee, allowing the community to recover the initial cost of the system.

Testimonial

“Package Concierge is a definite plus, and it helps us stand out,” said Michelle Gallagher, property manager at Observer Park. “Residents love knowing their deliveries have arrived safely, and that they can retrieve packages at the times most convenient for them. Prospective and current residents find great value in the system, giving it an important role in renewal decisions and new leases.”

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The Importance of the USPS to Apartment Developers & Leasing Agents

By Georgianna W. Oliver, CEO

Did you know that according to statistics analyzed by Package Concierge almost 40% of packages are delivered by the United States Postal Service? As the sheer number of packages being delivered to apartments continues to grow, an apartment manager’s relationship with their local Postmaster has become more and more important. And now the USPS is delivering packages for Amazon on Sundays! A day when most leasing offices are not even open…

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From the beginning of construction where it is necessary to obtain local USPS Delivery Operations approval to use Package Concierge as an alternative to traditional parcel lockers for handling packages – to ongoing daily package delivery operations – it is essential to establish and maintain a cooperative relationship with your local Postal Service and all delivery carriers. This is not a one-sided relationship though…it is important to remember that as multifamily residential providers, you are a high density USPS customer. If you have specific delivery requirements for your property, they will make every attempt to honor your requests. Postal regulations governing the delivery of mail are not all applicable to packages – so local USPS Delivery Operations can be more creative in the delivery of packages.

As stated by Megan J. Brennan in her inaugural news release as Postmaster General, her strategy is to …”encompass better use of data and technology, speed the pace of product and service innovations, and continue process improvements throughout the organization”. Postmaster General Brennan added, “We can reinvigorate the way we serve our customers and the public by constantly looking forward as an organization, anticipating the changing needs of our customers, and adapting as quickly as we can to a competitive and evolving marketplace”. Package Concierge has experienced this cooperation first-hand with the U.S. Postal Service. The USPS has embraced delivering packages to this new electronic parcel locker product in apartment communities across the United States. We are all in this together with the shared goal of meeting end-user / consumer / resident needs by providing timely, secure and convenient package deliveries. We look forward to continuing to work together with you and with the USPS to achieve the highest level of service possible.

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