Pandemic Tech Trends That Are Here To Stay & How our Leasing Chatbot Can Help

The COVID-19 pandemic brought upon plenty of new challenges in the multifamily industry. Most companies had to get creative about how they continued with business during this time. These creative fixes came with new trends that would stick around even once the pandemic slowed and things began to return to normal. We had the pleasure of chatting at AIM Reconnect on the topic of pandemic tech trends that are here to stay and those that aren’t. Some of the crucial issues we covered include: 

  • How chatbots can assist with virtual tours
  • Ways you can reach your customer beyond property websites
  • Ways technology can assist with overwhelm in property offices 

In this discussion BetterBot’s COO & Co-Founder, Robert Turnbull, shares about how virtual tours became imperative during the pandemic and how they will continue to be. He shares how BetterBot realized that this needed to be a feature that was available to the public. He also discusses the method behind BetterBot’s framing of virtual tours on their platform. 

Shane Gilman, Vice President of Marketing at Gates Hudson, shares his experience using bots on platforms other than property websites. He talks about the importance of reaching prospects right where they are and how this shaped his marketing strategy at Gates Hudson. 

Robert Turnbull also shares essential statistics about overwhelm on site. He talks about different ways to alleviate that stress so that site teams can focus on what’s in front of them. It’s increasingly important that employees are just as satisfied as to the residents who live in each community. Therefore, management companies should find ways to ease the burden on their teams to complete lasting leases.

There are a number of pandemic trends that will stick around long after the world returns to normal, especially when it comes to technology. To understand even more of these trends, check out the full discussion below. For more information on how BetterBot can assist, CLICK HERE

property management chatbot

3 Ways BetterBot Can Help You Convert More Leads

Did you know BetterBot contacts are just 13 days from contact to move-in? To compare, Apartments.com is 30 days, and other ILSs are between 60-80 days. So how do we do it? It’s pretty simple, and we’re not keeping it a secret either. Here are three ways BetterBot can help you convert even more leads. 

1. Omnichannel Marketing

When your properties are utilizing omnichannel marketing, they can reach a wider audience. With BetterBot, you can place a simple link to your bot to share information about your property with prospects on several sites, including Google My Business, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, Craigslist, and virtually anywhere else you’d like. You’re also able to select what point users jump in. For instance, you could have prospects jump in at the schedule appointment mark, photo gallery mark, amenities mark, or any other point you can think up. If you’d rather, you can have prospects receive the entire experience. No matter what you choose, you won’t miss out on a single prospect, no matter where they are coming from. 

2. Streamlined Information

With our bot, your prospects will receive the exact information they’re looking for. No glitches, no hiccups, just the facts. We know how important it is that our renters get real-time information. We also see the importance of quick information. That’s why we’ve designed our bot to do just that! 

3. Customizable Bot 

Make the bot your very own! We have an immense amount of customizations available to you within our bot, including: 

  • Company/Property Branding
  • Amenities 
  • Appointments
  • Special Protocols
  • Availability
  • Brochures
  • Floorplans
  • Gallery
  • Maps
  • Languages 
  • Resident Portal Access
  • Specials
  • Virtual Tours

Not to mention, we also offer a student and an affordable bot so users can have an even more customized experience. When users see that your bot is branded, they will associate it with your services, which will instill brand recognition. 

Overall, our bot provides an incomparable experience for prospects and residents alike. If you’re wondering how exactly users convert so effortlessly, we’ve given you some of our answers. Contact us today to see for yourself! 

Battle of the Bots (UNCUT)

We’ve shared the short version of Battle of the Bots but, what about what you haven’t seen? We’re sharing the uncut version where you can get some more in-depth information about several bots in the Multifamily industry, including ACE by LeaseHawkAnyone Home Inc, ChatIQ by RENTCafé, Lisa by AppFolio, Inc.MeetEliseRespage, and Diffe. Rent AI. Please take a look at how we stack up next to the competition.

Industry Trends

What is the most interesting trend you’ve seen in renter behavior recently and over the past 12 months?

“Our bot is on 24/7. Four years ago, we had a thesis that the bot would work after hours, and after 4,000,000 conversations in 2020, 58% of them were after hours. So, the thesis held true. So when people are home and not necessarily available at the property, the bots are actually working on your behalf. “

Onboarding Process

What is the onboarding process, and what is the time frame?

“30 seconds, 15 minutes, and 2 days. 30 seconds to order the bot, 15 minutes to do a BetterBot Concierge intake meeting where we understand how you want the bot configured. We build the bot in 2 days. It comes reconfigured. Works with any integration you want. We can build hundreds of bots at a time.”

We had so much fun participating in this competition. After watching the full uncut version, who do you think wins?

Battle of the Bots

We are so excited that we had the opportunity to participate in Battle of the Bots! Here, we take some time to dissect a number of bots in the Multifamily industry including ACE by LeaseHawkAnyone Home Inc, ChatIQ by RENTCafé, Lisa by AppFolio, Inc.MeetEliseRespage, and Diffe.rent AI. Take a look at how we stack up next to the competition.

A majority of our competitors shared the type of bot technology their companies used was natural language processing. BetterBot had a different answer to share.

We are currently creating a 4D view of effectiveness relative to marketing. Find out how in this clip! We are so grateful we had the opportunity to participate in Battle of the Bots. Tell us who you think won the battle on LinkedIn!

It’s A Bot Time

Our COO & Co-Founder, Robert Turnbull, had the opportunity to be a guest on the Apartments On The Go Podcast. On this episode you’ll hear discussion about how it is we are building the best conversational leasing bot in the real estate rental market. To catch the full episode, CLICK HERE!

Apartments On The Go

Episode 30: It’s a Bot Time – Robert Turnbull 

You’ve joined the Apartments On The Go podcast, with your hosts, Courtney Smith and Matt Ruedlinger. We’ve got expert advice from the industry’s biggest stars, with insights into trends, best practices, and manageable actions you can use for your careers today. This is the Apartments On The Go podcast.

CS: Welcome to the show! How’s it going, Matt?

MR: It’s going great – excited today, I love this topic, so. 

CS: I know, I’ve been really, really jazzed about this one. So I will just kick it off, and introduce Robert Turnbull. Robert has been creating and starting businesses for the last 25 years. And 21 of those years have been in multifamily. I just learned that you started ApartmentGuide.com in 1999 and then Rentals.com right after, I mean the list goes on and on. And he made a comment that I just love, I think we’ve heard this time and time again: “Once you’re in multifamily, you can check in but you can never leave”. I love that! But today we’re going to talk about BetterBot, which is a company that Robert started. They are a chatbot that personally, I just have become the biggest advocate for this year. I have been testing it and implementing it in any community I can – my co-workers probably think I’m crazy. And that’s why I’m so glad that Robert is here. Welcome to the show! 

RT: Yeah, thank you so much, and happy Friday. This is uh – thanks for having me on. I’m looking forward to this. 

CS: So first, I want to talk about – your bot was named by your clients. I think that’s super cool. 

RT: Yeah, that’s a funny story because when we first built it, we tested it with a few clients that I had known for some years, and they’re testing it against a few other bots – this is a couple years ago, and my business partner and I, his name is Zlatko Bogoevski for those who those who – you can call him “Z”. We were testing it, and we were talking with 3 clients in 3 days and every time we talked to them they said, “Well this is such a better bot!” So by the third time we heard it I said, “I think we just need to call this BetterBot!” and that’s how we came up with the name, and thanks to the clients that helped us name it!

CS: I just think it’s so cool.

MR: It’s a great name too. Easy to remember. 

RT: It’s got alliteration, too right? BetterBot. BetterBot. We see people actually saying that at trade shows and events. They say, “BetterBot, Betterbot”. So, rolls off the tongue. 

CS: So, I’d love to just jump into kind of, you know, what brought you to the bot world. And I want to just kind of talk about – you obviously have been in multifamily for a while, so kind of how you got to the bot part. 

RT: Yeah, so I was fortunate to work with one of the largest chat companies in the world, and in so doing I got introduced to the bot technology about 5 years ago. So I traveled around, really four countries. And I loved some of the technologies I’d see on [companies] and I loved what it could do for industry, but there wasn’t one that I saw that was a good fit for our industry. I happened across Zlatko, my business partner (“Z”) again and he had built a proprietary bot platform and I said, “That’s it – that’s the one we’re looking for”. He had built it perfectly for our industry and so that’s the beginning of the story. I can certainly get into some of the consumer behaviors and industry behaviors if you’d like that propelled it. 

CS: Please, yes!

RT: Well, in that case. So what was interesting was really two big drivers we started noticing and people often ask, “What is the deal with all these bots? Everywhere I turn and all over the world and websites and even in our industry…” And really that’s coming from two places – the first being from prospective renters. And consumers and, you know, renters want real-time, accurate conversations. They want them, wherever they are in the digital marketplace. Whether it’s on a property website, whether it’s on Yelp, or Google My Business or Facebook. 

The other thing we started noticing with consumers is, they want control over the leasing process, and you know what – why not? They have control over buying an airline ticket and selecting their seat. They can even select the meal they want. If you go to a hotel website, you can upgrade your room and you have, people can order from any restaurant and have it delivered to their house. And the third thing we saw with respect to renters is they really don’t want to fill out lead forms any more. Nobody does. They want fast, simple, easy access to the information. 

50% of prospective renter leads go unanswered by the property. 20 years later, today, it’s the same stat.

And if you don’t mind, I’ll just jump over to the multifamily marketers. What we discovered with them – and it’s funny because you brought up that I started ApartmentGuide.com (or helped started) in 1999 – back then there was this statistic: 50% of prospective renter leads go unanswered by the property. 20 years later, today, it’s the same stat. All these leads are being generated and people aren’t responding because they’re overwhelmed. That means marketing dollars are being wasted. Multifamily has a 34% leasing staff attrition rate. That’s higher than retail, and the number one reason given is they’re overwhelmed at the property. And the final thing we kept hearing is, “Robert, please do not introduce another technology into our industry that’s going to increase our cost and increase our work. If you’re going to send me something, reduce our cost, reduce our workload, or both”. And that is what led us to bot technology, what we call, “Conversational Leasing”. 

MR: I think that’s great, because you hit a point that we hear often, that everyone is overwhelmed and they don’t have time to follow up on things like that. So well, I mean, the world of bots, I want to go into that just a little bit. I know some people are… they want that actual conversation, you know, versus just an auto reply. Can you kind of decipher what you’re saying versus just doing that, you know, “Hey, here’s the question that’s been programmed and this is the reply”. 

RT: Right. So let’s start with the concept of “chat”. So chat is human to human. The problem is our industry is, there’s none around – they’re not available. That was always the big miss with chat – how do you have someone on the other end. Even call centers that do have chats still are having lag times and simply don’t know the property as well as the leasing staff at the property. So, chats have always been a struggle in our industry, but bots provide the other side of it. 

They are really two kinds of bot technologies. One of them is what we call, “Natural Language Processing”, so NLP for short. That means that people can type in free stuff, free text, and the bot will try to figure out what it’s saying, and it will respond. So it kind of emulates, or tries to emulate, a human on the other end. The other side of that is guided conversation methodology, or “Guided Conversation”. That’s where all the text is all pre-selected. So natural language processing seems really cool. It’s a great, shiny toy, it’s got a big ‘wow’ factor, but it’s got a big problem – it doesn’t work. When I worked with the largest NLP in the world, 3 out of 10 times it would fail – the bot would just get confused. So, cool, but not cool when you have 30% of the time the bot’s getting confused, creating a very frustrating user experience. At BetterBot, we actually created the largest proprietary natural language processing engine in all of multifamily – and we walked away from it in favor of guided conversation. And that’s because with guided conversation, you can actually preselect the intents, the answers are half a second, there’s no confusion, and it guides them down a certain path to get the answers they want very quickly. 

So just to kind of bifurcate the fact that there’s two different kinds of bots: one’s NLP, one’s guided conversation. We went the GCM route and our results have been exponentially better as a result. 

CS: Yeah, I want to continue to talk about results. Sorry, Matt – did I interrupt you? 

MR: No, I just wanted to thank you for clarifying that, because I know that’s the perception with bots, that there are 2 different avenues on those, so. 

CS: Yeah, I want to dive in more about conversion, because I think that’s really what attracts me so much to the bot, that, not only the fact that when I’m searching for anything, I would much prefer talking to a bot personally, so I know there has to be people out there like me, who you know, are looking for that as well. But what I also love so much is that, it really gets that touchpoint to where you’re almost – you know it’s a bot, but it’s almost like you’re talking to a person. And so, when you guys were developing that, and kind of talking to those multifamily [clients], what were some of those conversion statistics that they were wanting to see, or that you were hoping to achieve? 

RT: Uh, you know, wow – great question. There’s a couple ways to answer that. Let me answer it this way: so I’ll give you some stats and kind of back into that a little bit. When you drop the bot today – cause look, I’ve seen some shiny toys come and go in this industry – and at the end of the day, it’s all about the metrics. Do the metrics work? And what’s the math? So when you take a bot like a BetterBot and you drop it on a property website, and maybe you put it on Google My Business, cause our bot can go on all these channels, and Facebook and Yelp, what happens is, the bot on a particular property per month, has about 200 unique conversations. So, some of them may talk to the bot and then, you know, 3 days later come back and talk again. Well, we only count that as 1 conversation. So the average bot on a property website has about 200 conversations answering about 150 questions. So even if they never become a lead or an appointment, or anything else, sometimes the best renter is the renter you never had to talk to. So it’s already deflecting all these – because they simply don’t qualify, they don’t have what you’re looking for.

 But we do see on average, of those 200 conversations, what we call 26 handoffs. That’s where we’re handing it off to a human. Half of those are actually appointments actually being scheduled. So the bot is scheduling on average 13 appointments per property per month with an astounding 90% show rate. I didn’t even know what a show rate was before five months ago, and I’ve been in this industry 20 years, so that’s obviously where people are, for those of you who are in the property management business, that’s where someone schedules an appointment and they actually show up. So we’re seeing a 90% where call centers get 50% and properties get 65. That’s because the bot’s just letting them select their own and reselect their own times for coming. We did, to answer the last part of that, the metrics. So we drilled all that down and did some lease matching with a lot of companies. We said, “Ok, how many leases on average is the bot actually helping to facilitate in a given month for your property?” And the answer was 4, on average. 4 leases per property per month, and you know that 70% of those are after hours, between the hours of 6pm and 8am, so the bot is quite literally working for you while your staff is at home watching tv or sleeping. 

CS: Yep, that’s so important. 

MR: Yeah, and I think the, you bring up a good point about qualifying ones that aren’t a good fit, because I can imagine how much time that properties spend on that alone, there’s a value that you probably don’t even look at a lot of the time. You’re doing the budgeting and things like that, and all that time, I won’t say you wasted, but you didn’t work. 

RT: Well, and you could say ‘wasted’, because if it’s not a good fit, it’s not a good fit. 

MR: Right. 

RT: Don’t you want to know right away before you start getting your very valuable time involved? Let’s figure that out from the start. 

MR: Yeah, I definitely agree with that. So, I have a question: we’re kind of talking about, bots, you know obviously deciphering the right candidate and things like that. And with the AI technology, does it look at everything, and if I ask something that’s too much, is it looking at all the steps or the patterns and things like that with everyone, or is it specific to the property, you know, based on its community and things like that?

RT: So, let me throw this up. And look, it took me a while to figure this out – the AI is the term we hear a lot in our industry, “artificial intelligence”. It actually really doesn’t exist anywhere in multifamily today. That’s machine learning algorithms that teach it over time. So we actually had BetterBot.AI once upon a time, and we were like, “We don’t have any AI in it!” Nobody does, there’s no real AI machine learning. There are rules-based, there’s NLP, but that’s in itself not AI either. So, just want to throw that out there, because I get asked that a lot, and you’re not alone. I mean that comes up all the time. What we do is we create each bot and we train it, so some bot tech companies actually have the property train it – I’ve never fully understood that because properties are not adept at training a bot, so we train the bot, we configure it to the property, add in all the calendars, and so forth.

What’s interesting is, we’ve begun to see patterns and behaviors, it’s a natural click-streaming. We’re noticing people don’t always start at the same place – they start at different parts of the conversation, so we’ve optimized against where do people start, and after doing 2 million conversations, we’ve gotten really darn good at figuring out where they start, and where they want to go. So we call that “circular directed logic”. We know where you’ve been, we think we know where you’re going at the next intent, which makes the conversation much more seamless. We’ve had a few folks say, “Wow, this bot almost seems too simple”. Do you know how much time went into making that bot look too simple? I equate it to when people saw AOL and Microsoft and all these crazy sites, and along comes Google and all this white space. And it was just so simple to use, and that’s really what we’re going for at BetterBot is just to make it a very simple experience that you can get through (on average) in 90 seconds if you’re a consumer. 

CS: Yeah. I also love the reporting. So, what makes BetterBot so valuable for, just personally in marketing and for my teams is the fact that they really don’t have to do any work until that appointment is made, or until you know, that conversation is actually fed into. So, we use an ILM system, or we use a lead-manager system, so all of the bot appointments and conversations are fed directly into the community’s software instantly. It’s seamless, and I know you hit on this, how it connects to my Google My Business, which is not something I’d say many people are versed on connecting with and figuring out. We’ve watched many conversations get closed just by having that link to make an appointment. We’ve also watched senior citizen communities – this is one thing I love, is that this bot is actually used by a ton of their kids helping their parents find housing. 

RT: Yup, yup. 

CS: And so there’s just, I just want you to talk about all the ways the bot can be used for kind of our listeners who aren’t in the chatbot world yet, ‘cause I know I could talk about it for years. 

So when someone goes to ILS and they click on ‘website’, they can actually go over to, have the bot pop up and schedule those appointments and do all that.

RT: Hey, go for it – you’re doing a great job so far! Go for it! Yes, so different ways the bot can be used, certainly is…Let me just start with channels. I know we often say, “Oh it’s a chatbot and it goes on our website!” Well, yeah, it can do that. It can also actually go on internet listing sites under the, you know, ‘click on property website’. So when someone goes to ILS and they click on ‘website’, they can actually go over to, have the bot pop up and schedule those appointments and do all that. Yes, it can be on Google My Business. I gotta tell you, Google My Business is killing it, I mean, they’re getting a lot of traffic and it’s typical Google, right? And so, if you’re on Google My Business, a lot of people want to go ahead and schedule that appointment right there – well, the bot can do that. It can actually be launched from GMB – don’t even have to go to the website. We work with Facebook again, so you don’t have to go to the site, and you can have the agent 24/7, 365. We’ve gotten quite a few on Yelp and a few here and there on Instagram, so those are growing a little bit. 

One other thing I’ll throw out is, we can intercept text messages. So if a consumer texts and says, “hey, I’m interested in the property”, the bot responding can go, “oh hey, I forwarded this to my human friends but I can help you now. Click here”. We actually take them out of text and into our mobile version, our web-enabled mobile version, which is my favorite, and so, they’re having a conversation on their mobile, and a lot of them actually think they’re still on text. And so, it’s answering it so the property isn’t having to do this. And the last thing is email. So we can intercept emails coming in from various sources, and the bot can respond and separate the tire-kickers and prospects. So you’ve got channels and you’ve got mediums, and we can do kind of all of that anywhere, 24/7. 

MR: That’s great, and I think it’s also important for listeners to understand that we have changed the way we interact online. So I think, like, you know, some of the hesitation may be that people don’t want to talk to bots, but I would disagree. Just like with the old saying with, on ads. People used to not want to click ads because they thought they weren’t trustworthy – well that’s a thing of the past, so you know, I think it’s important that we realize that we have changed on how we view things online. And so, have you seen anything that stands out, patterns of behavior from the pandemic? Are you seeing any change before/after? 

People don’t want to talk to bad bots. But they do like to talk to good bots. If a bot has a successful conversation, it has upwards of a 95% consumer satisfaction score – CSat score.

RT: Oh, wow. Boy is that ever timely. And let me agree with you. People don’t want to talk to bad bots. But they do like to talk to good bots. If a bot has a successful conversation, it has upwards of a 95% consumer satisfaction score – CSat score. The average human chatting with another human has a 65% at best. So the CSat score is way higher with the bot, and why is because it’s so responsive. Pandemic, yes. Wow. Come January 15th we had a client in California say, “hey, is there anyway you can throw virtual tours and videos in the bot?” And we said, “that’s a great idea!”, so we listen to our clients, and so we built it and on March 15th, we launched virtual tours and videos inside the bot. March 15th, when the whole world blew up. So March 16th, we had everyone asking us if we could put virtual tours and videos inside the bot and we were fortunate that we had already helped that [client]. But with everyone scrambling and figuring out how to work from a distance, we saw an increase of 60% of our business grew from March to May of this year because people wanted to figure out, “how do we service in today’s pandemic environment?” 

The good news is, I think we’re seeing the end of the pandemic on the horizon, but the good news also is, it really hasn’t changed that we’ve learned that bot technology can help – pandemic or not, as we’re seeing after hours, so. Yes it has helped navigate through this troubling time, but I think we’re learning a lot about what we’ll keep with us after the pandemic’s over, so I think bots are here to stay. 

MR: Yeah, I agree, and I think that’s a great thing to point out, because you know, as more properties are going to evolve, it’s going to be important that, you know, for listeners who don’t have that understanding that consumers aren’t going to alter their expectations. They’re going to be expecting and want to see and tour anytime that they want to, and have communication anytime they want to, and if you’re not there, that could, you know, definitely hurt. So I think it’s good to make [people] aware of the changes that are happening. 

RT: Yeah, yeah. And a lot of them are going to stay, no doubt. 

CS: Well I want to just ask one last question. I feel like you kind of already hit on where this is going, I mean, just the whole intercepting a text message and kind of changing I see that really coming out in the future. I’ve watched texts really take a leap in the past couple years as a method that people do want to use. Do you think there’s anything that is going to come about here soon, or do you have any future things that you can talk about with the bot?

RT: Yes, I do! So a couple of things: I’ll speak on broad terms because we’re going to launch some stuff 1st quarter. One of the things I will throw out is, when we first built this, I don’t think we fully understood (just to be honest) all that bots could really solve. So, we have learned a lot, and in the process we’ve learned a lot of problems that the industry is facing. I alluded to this earlier, which is the overwhelming volume of leads coming from internet listing sites, the ILSs will tell you, “Hey, these are great leads!” and the properties are like, “yeah, I don’t know – I may disagree with that”. Well, how do you know if you’re not responding? “Well we don’t respond!” And so you have that back and forth, and both ILSs and properties are very interested in seeing how bot technology can become an intermediary between the two, and separate the tire kickers from the prospects that I alluded to earlier. That is something we’re calling our “pro-product”, we’re coming out with it in 1st quarter called “Nurture” – so it will have ILS intercepts, it will have follow-ups. We’re going to dive much deeper into the resident portion to help service the resident. We’re launching student today actually. We’ve launched our student bot and we’re going to be launching the industry’s first affordable bot in January. So these are some trends and things we’re going to solve for the industry. 

CS: I can’t wait!

MR: You’re going to come back and tell us all about this later, right?

RT: I’d love to. 

MR: Awesome. 

CS: Oh this is so great. I always hate when we run out of time. 

MR: I know, but Robert has an offer for our listeners. 

RT: That’s right! Hey, so – and I really appreciate you having us on, and just to thank you and thank all of your listeners we’re going extend our, we’re calling it our “Bye to 2020 special”, so we’ve said, “hey, if you want to bring it on, we won’t charge you any of our bot build fees”. Normally $150, we’re waiving it in December, but to your listeners, we’re going to extend that all throughout January. So, if any of your listeners, just let us know, “hey I heard you on the podcast, I’d like to do it”. Take advantage of it, and we’ll build as many bots as you’d like in January. We’ll waive that set-up fee for you. 

CS: I’m telling you guys, you gotta get these bots. 

RT: I agree. 


CS: Thank you so much, Robert. 

RT: You bet, thank you!

MR: And remember I was telling you last time, Courtney, if you like our show, leave us a comment. And we’re on all your favorite streaming podcast channels: iTunes, Spotify, I Heart Radio, and now, Pandora, so hey – we’re getting up there, right? Alright, till next time. 

apartment chatbot software

5 Multifamily Trends to Watch in 2021

2020 was a landmark year for real estate. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every sector, from commercial office buildings, to residential and multifamily. In particular, the multifamily space was hit with a number of unprecedented challenges – many of which will continue to affect the space long after the pandemic subsides. However, last year also opened up new opportunities, and we’re excited to see how multifamily property management teams capitalize on them in 2021. Here are 5 key trends in multifamily real estate to watch this year. 

Changing renter expectations

People are spending more time in their apartments than ever before. Thanks to remote working arrangements, the line between work and home-life has become blurred, and people are looking to make their spaces as functional, comfortable, and versatile as possible. For property managers looking to wow prospective renters, it’ll be important to keep these things in mind:

1. Luxury amenities 

With the pandemic showing no signs of slowing, millions of people are staying in their homes as much as possible. What’s more, many multifamily properties have closed shared spaces and non-essential amenities. As such, people are hungrier than ever for luxury apartment amenities like in-building convenience stores, free high-speed internet, and hand-sanitizer stations. 

2. The shift to virtual

Another one of the biggest 2021 multifamily trends is the rise of proptech and the shift to virtual tours and showings. While virtual tour tech has been in use for several years, last year saw a massive increase in use of these platforms, along with a desire for property management teams to utilize adjacent tech – like chatbots – to help with virtual leasing. 

3. Focus on customer service

Moving forward, multifamily teams will need to prioritize flexibility, and adapt their offerings to meet both long and short-term resident needs.

4. The importance of diversity and inclusion

The housing market continues to become more diverse, and renters want to live in inclusive communities that celebrate all people. For property management teams, ensuring an equal-opportunity rental process is key, along with finding ways to create and acknowledge cultural events for different communities. 

5. Communication is key 

Even though property teams are seeing less and less of their renters these days, that doesn’t mean that keeping up consistent communication isn’t vital. Digital communication tools like apps, emails, and SMS texting are easy ways to stay in touch with renters. In addition to communication, convenience is one of the most important trends in multifamily real estate management teams should prioritize. If you don’t already have one in place, consider creating an online portal residents can use to pay rent, submit maintenance orders, and ask questions.

Lasting effects of the pandemic

The pandemic has irrevocably changed both renter expectations and how multifamily teams operate. And zooming out to the wider real estate context, it has accelerated the adoption of technology on a massive scale. 

Proptech is here to stay

From helping connect prospective renters with properties, to aiding with the leasing process and creating a more luxury experience for renters, proptech is transforming multifamily real estate in creative and exciting ways. The time to embrace these technologies is now. 

Keep up-to-date with the latest multifamily trends and news over on the BetterBot blog. 

leasing tour management

Exploring the Future of Bot Technology in Multifamily

Recently, our President and COO here at BetterBot, Robert Turnbull, had the chance to sit down (virtually) with Dennis Cogbill and Steve Lefkovits at the Multifamily Technology and Entrepreneurship Conference, where he examined the virtues of conversational leasing and the future of bot technology in multifamily. 

As he explained, leasing teams are often faced with an overwhelming amount of leads to track and follow up with. Add in rapidly evolving consumer expectations and you have the perfect entrypoint for bot technology to come in and really transform the leasing experience for the better. As Robert mentioned, “Sometimes the best renters are the ones you never talk to!” With bots, gone are the days of letting valuable leads slip by without notice.

Along with helping renters view floor plans and schedule appointments, chatbots are able to give time back to property management teams. “When you look at the bot just in terms of work on behalf of your leasing team, it’s saving about 80 hours per property per month,” he notes, “quite literally, your bot is working for your leasing team when your leasing team may not be working.” 

Some of our favorite highlights include:

Different Types of Chatbots

“There’s the prospective renter and what they want today – they want real-time, accurate conversations, wherever you are on the internet.” – Robert Turnbull

What’s the Next Move?

“Automation technology and the way that it can represent your product and brand and content – you will no longer be reliant entirely on some of these very large marketing sources. Management companies are going to get some of the power back in their hands because of this.”  – Robert Turnbull

How Using a Chatbot Can Save You Money

“I’ve seen shiny toys come through this industry for 22 years. Some work, and some don’t. The proof’s in the number. I say, take a handful and [put them up to] task. Test 2 or 3, put them on a community, give it its due diligence, and look at the data.” – Robert Turnbull

Check out the full recording and learn more about the benefits of bots here!

See the full transcript of the interview below!

ROBERT TURNBULL: I’ve got a large amount of data and a very short time, so I’m just going to buckle up and dive in. This is not a commercial, but there is a lot of our data in here. Some of it’s not our data, but I want to dive into that. If you want any – any of this of course, you can email Dennis and Lefkovitz. Okay, so you probably fall into three buckets when it comes to, I’ll say bot technology. You either haven’t thought about it at all – and hopefully this will make you start thinking about it. You have thought about it but aren’t sure where to go, so hopefully this will give you some guidance and some thinking around next steps. Or you’re using bot technology and you want to either validate what you’re thinking, maybe challenge your thinking, or maybe learn some best practices around bot technology. So, that’s what I’m going to dive in – and let’s do this. 

There are two things that are actually driving what I would call the bot proliferation that you’re seeing right now. Everywhere you go, banks, travel places, you’re seeing bot technology and you’re seeing it in multifamily. So what’s driving this? There’s really two parts. There’s the prospective renter and what they want today – they want real-time, accurate conversations, wherever you are on the internet. They want it 24/7, 365, they want control over the leasing process. They can order – we can order food from any place now and have it delivered, we can pick the aisle window on a plane, we can upgrade our hotels, so we have this at our fingertips, and they want the same thing for leasing. And here’s what they don’t want: they don’t want lead forms. Nobody wants to fill out lead forms anymore. They want fast, simple access to information. Now on the other side of the coin on multifamily and what’s driving this is – this is amazing because my business partners and I 20 years ago started ApartmentGuide.com in 1999 and a few other sites, and 50% of the renter leads sent 20 years ago were being unanswered. 20 years later, they’re still being unanswered. That’s a metric that hasn’t changed, shockingly enough. So you know, these marketing dollars are being wasted. Multifamily has a 34% leasing staff attrition rate – that is higher than retail. And the number one reason given? They’re overwhelmed. They have too much going on with the property. And technology – we talk to management companies and they say, “I don’t want another technology that’s going to cost me more money and cost me more time. So if you’re introducing something to me, it better save me money, it better save me time, or hopefully, both.” And that’s where conversational leasing technology comes in. Because renters are getting information faster, and the properties are not having to be there when information is being given, it speeds up the leasing cycle. You can focus on conversations.

I’ve said this before and people have quoted me. Our industry has “lead fatigue”. We have more leads than we know what to do with. So let’s focus instead on conversations. Your goal here is to get rid of repetitive, low-reward leasing tasks for our leasing team. Okay, so I’ve seen a lot of data over the years, and it’s all about the data. When you deploy a bot – and again, this is our data, but this can be a lot of other bots as well – when you deploy a bot per property per month – and anywhere else on the internet, Google My Business and so forth, we see an average of 200 unique renter conversations. That means they may have 2 or 3 conversations, but that’s still just one conversation answering about 150 questions. Sometimes the best renters are the ones you never talk to, because it answered the questions – they found it’s a fit for them. We then notice that there’s about 26 handoffs, and that’s where our consumer engages with the property through the bot. Those we call “high-value renter follow-ups”, so that’s like when they have a specific question that the bot can’t answer. And of those, 13 of those are scheduled appointments, so what’s interesting about that is 92% of appointments being scheduled through the bot are actually showing up for their appointment. Call centers have about 50%, according to my data. Properties have about 60-70%. Bots have upwards of 90% because it’s actually giving them information before they’re asking for information. So we see about a 92% show rate. Did a ton of lease matching we found out that bots are participating in about 4 leases per property per month. We recognize the bots didn’t materialize the leases, but it certainly helped facilitate that. And what’s really interesting is that almost 60% of that is happening after hours. So quite literally, your bot is working for your leasing team when your leasing team may not be working. This is after the hours of 6pm and before 8am. 

A few more things I want to throw your way: We’re not limited anymore. Bots just don’t sit on your property website, you can put a bot on your Facebook Messenger, Marketplace, Google My Business, which has up to 40% of the conversations we’re seeing as happening and originating in Google My Business. Google Ads, Yelp and the list goes on. So wherever consumers find you, let the bot answer it 24/7, 365. This is a great example of a consumer actually, on Instagram. They may look at some photos and then they want to click on a floor plan, and then boom – the bot – they don’t even leave Instagram, it’s embedded inside the experience they’re having. And this could be at 2 o’clock in the morning. The agent is responding to them right then and there. And you can see photos, see floorplans, schedule appointments and so forth. Because the bot can be put on all sorts of places like this, you want to arm it – just want to pack some virtual tours on it, you want to put appointments, COVID protocols, put everything you can in that bot because when it’s on Yelp or Google My Business or Facebook, it’s going to be able to show those virtual tours without ever even having to come to your website. Make sure you’ve got your virtual tours and video in there as well. I always get asked the question of cost. When you consider the bot works 24/7, 365 and are less than $100 on average, that’s $3 a day, 14 cents an hour, assisting with 4 leases, 60,000 annualized revenue. And more than that – and normally I’d dive into this in detail, I can’t do that, don’t have the time, so I’m going to get you a couple of highlights. 

When you look at the bot just in terms of work on behalf of your leasing team, it’s saving about 80 hours per property per month. That’s over $1300 after you pay for the bot and just time’s sake, doing those menial, repetitive tasks that your leasing staff is not having to do. So saving you time and saving you money. What’s also interesting is that you have a general agent now watching all the traffic come to your website, where it’s launching from all these channels, so you can begin to see patterns that some sources – some marketing sources – drive a lot of traffic and not a lot of engagement. Others maybe not so much traffic but lots of engagement. So a bot can actually look and use algorithms based on how much was engaged, was it a conversation, did it become an appointment, was it a lead? You can look at your best volume drivers, conversion drivers, your overall best channel. We had a client once ask, “hey, can you give me the worst channels?” Sure, so we actually put in some of the worst channels. We’re thinking of renaming that, but nonetheless it tells you your least performers. 

While I wrap this up, a couple things I want to leave with you: The bots can actually do email. And the challenge is we’re getting flooded with so many web leads coming through. In the old world, we said, you know, on ILS, it might be a marketing source, sending it to your CRMs, and then the problem with that is, you still have humans that have to do all the work. Well, what if you had the ILS or marketing source send it to the bot and have it say, “Hey, my human friends are busy but I can help you now!” Converting that asynchronous conversation and emailing it to a synchronous bot conversation and sending that appointment or higher value lead into the CRM. Let your digital agent do the work for you instead of you having to do all the work and your respective CRM. Uh, I don’t know if you noticed, but there’s a little bit of a situation happening in our industry. It looks like our sites are looking like Las Vegas. There’s so many widgets and ‘talk to renter’ – which is a great concept by the way, specials, and it’s like clouding our sites, so let the bot handle that. Put it all in there and it’ll direct you to the place you want to go – let’s ‘socially-distance’ our widgets on our website. 

A few things I want to leave you with: I hear all the time, “What about [live] chat?” Look – I actually ran the real estate division for the largest chat company in the world for 3 years, all over the world for real estate, and let me tell you what I found out. Chat just doesn’t work. It’s very, very hard to get chat to work. Here’s just some metrics – usually I dive in deeper, but here’s some data. Chat typically gets 2% click-rate – bots get 12%. That’s 6 times the results. There’s a lot of reasons for this, I could dive in another time. Time gap: Well, when you do live chat, it takes a minute and 45 seconds to connect, and once you’re connected it takes upwards of 76 seconds to have dialogue and 8 minutes to have a conversation. Bots respond in 1 second, and you’re done in 90 seconds. Available people? That’s the point – they’re not available. Call centers don’t know properties as well as the property does. With bots, you don’t need them! And they can usually answer 80% of those questions 24/7, 365. 

Here’s the other thing I get asked – hot transfer. “Hey, sounds really cool, can I have the bot transferred to human live?” And it sounds awesome, but don’t do it – and here’s why: If your prospect is given the option to talk to a human, they’ll probably take that option, so the bot’s doomed from the start. The average response time is less than 2 seconds, and you can see all the problems with replied chat. When transferred to a human, it goes from 60 seconds to 5 minutes to find the human. It’s transferred so that means they have to review the conversation, it went from 1 second to now upwards to a minute and a half. The CSAT scores for bots are up to 90%, and when you look at human transfer it’s less than 35%. 

And finally, NLP – natural language process. We have one of the largest NLP engines in all of multifamily. The problem is that NLP just isn’t there yet. 3 times out of 10, [NLP] fails. The top NLP bots in the world are still breaking 30% of the time. Guided conversation is what all the biggest generalist bots are going to because you can’t break the bot. 

So do’s and don’ts – the last 10 seconds. 

Dos: Customize your bot and build your brand. Put a bot everywhere. Put COVID protocols in there if you have them. Make sure it has deep industry integrations. 

Don’ts: If they say, “Hey, you can help train the bot,” run! It takes a month to 3 months, and that’s not your job. Don’t put all these widgets on your site. Beware the lead snares that actually hold content hostage. And NLP’s gonna be awesome, but it’s not for another couple years. 

So there you go, there’s consolidating 30 minutes of information into 12 minutes. 

STEVE LEFKOVITS: Robert, man, a few questions?

RT: Yeah, please! 

SL: So, uh, I very much feel humbled by this presentation because, it’s an area that I have no background or experience with. I didn’t learn it in graduate school. So for someone like me who’s curious, how do you advise us to try to understand what is a quality offering in this area – without, you know, promoting BetterBot. 

RT: Sure. 

SL: Just, I think about what I’m looking at when someone calls me up and says, “I have a new thing”. 

RT: Yeah, so you’re saying, “How do you assess bot technologies?” 

SL: People call me and they want to run bot technology past me and I go, “I’m just not the guy”. 

RT: Yeah, you know for me – look, I’ve seen shiny toys come through this industry for 22 years. Some work, and some don’t. The proof’s in the number. I say, take a handful and [put them up to] task. Test 2 or 3, put them on a community, give it its due diligence, and look at the data. The data is going to tell the story. The data always tells the story. If you’re seeing incremental lead lift, if you’re seeing spending less time, one of the things we like to hear is, “hey, we’re not answering as many emails and we’re actually getting more appointments than we used to”. That’s great! 

So, compare the data. And you can compare bots. And some AI technologies are not all the same. Some are handling like, email and text. Others are handling the front-end on Google. So they’re really not the same either. Plug it in, look at the data, and compare 2 or 3 and at the end of 30 or 60 days, you’re going to see a big difference in the data set. 

SL: Okay, fair enough – I understand that. And because this is an entrepreneurship conference as much as it is a technology conference, can you talk a little bit about the investment environment for automation technologies and where the level of investment is in our industry relative to the need?

RT: [Laughs]

Oh, yeah, that’s an interesting question. So when we came into the space there was like, one or two other folks, and I think some of the big companies were thinking, “Well, let’s see what happens, let’s see how these guys do”. And because we had such success and growth so quickly, I think what we did was we told the rest of the industry, “Hey, there’s something here”. So now you start seeing all these other entrants coming into the space, which is good. It just gives you options, that’s fine. So that tells me, when I go from 2, maybe 3 bots a few years ago to 8 or 9, that tells me people are investing in this industry. And it’s not a passing fad, it’s here to stay. And you have some of the biggest companies investing in some of this technology. At the end of the day, we’re all pushing each other very hard. And so, you’re going to get a better product. The life cycle is, I’d say in the next 2 to 5 years you’re going to see significant growth, so this isn’t a fad that’s going to come and then go. This is going to continue and create new options. So for investors, they’re looking at – this is a long-term option for them. And the technology is going to grow in the next 5 years. 

SL: What about the property sales side of the business? I mean, we focused so much on renters, but isn’t the technology also useful for people who are trying to market assets for sale? Why don’t we see more of that?

RT: Market assets – oh, you mean actually, owners trying to – that’s interesting. I’m not delved into that. 

SL: You just got it at MTEC, there you go. 

RT: Alright – that’s our next business model! I’m calling you tomorrow! 

[Laughs]

So I don’t have as much experience, but I love the idea. 

SL: This is fantastic, thank you for this – I really appreciate it. And maybe one more question: I understand the widgets on websites – what is the next move in this product category? Where does the product extend to in 2022 or 2023, where do you hope for?

RT: Yeah okay, so I gotta be careful. 

SL: No, no no. 

[Laughs]

RT: Okay, so no one’s going to record this and say, “Well Robert said…”. The way I couch that, it’s a great question. The way I couch that is, whatever an agent is doing today, the bot and automation needs to start doing that tomorrow. I mean, I don’t want to say, and I don’t want to say this, but, can it replace agents? Well, yeah, overtime. But it can certainly give some of their time back. I think it can start doing more email, more text, more coordinations, more guided tours, automation is going to help us do a lot of this stuff, and I think it’s going to change the way that – so mark my words, because I want to talk about this this time next year – it’s going to flip the script between how property management companies see themselves with major marketing sources, and that’s going to change in a year’s time. Automation technology and the way that it can represent your product and brand and content – you will no longer be reliant entirely on some of these very large marketing sources. Management companies are going to get some of the power back in their hands because of this. You’ll start to see that over the next 6 months to a year, so that’s my teaser for this time next year. 

SL: Alright, fair enough. We’ll let you have the last word on that, and I’ll just note that you used to work for one of those big lead sources, so. 

RT: [Laughs]

I know, that’s part of the problem! So I think it’s my destiny to help sell it so, I’m tilling at it – that’s my penance! 

SL: Gotta pull the sword from the stone – I love it. Well, thank you very much, Robert. We’re going to end day one of MTEC right here.

apartment chatbot software

Understanding the Various Bot Types

Different Types of Chatbots Your Property Can Use, Explained

According to IBM, over 265 billion customer service requests are put in each year, costing around a trillion dollars to resolve. And with more and more consumers choosing to do business online, that number is only expected to grow. Fortunately, as much as 80% of these requests can be taken care of without a CS rep – and that’s where chatbots come in. Today we’re going to take a quick look at the most common types of chatbots – and how they can elevate your customer engagement strategy

Why are chatbots effective? 

Before we get into the different types of chatbots, it’s important to understand why companies choose to leverage chatbots in the first place. From reducing the load on customer service centric teams, to gathering valuable data, chatbots have quickly become a tour-de-force when it comes to improving the prospect journey. 

While you can find a chatbot for just about anything these days, most of the different types of chatbots you’ll find fall into one of four categories. 

4 different types of chatbots you’re likely to encounter

Guided conversation 

The most common types of chatbots are what we call “guided conversation”, or “rules-based”. Used in a variety of contexts, these chatbots lead users through scenario trees, offering them predetermined options to choose to help them complete simple service requests and get information. Think “Choose Your Own Adventure” but for finding an apartment. At BetterBot, this is the type of chatbot we use to help property managers turn prospects into renters!

AI/Natural language processing

Unlike guided conversation bots, “AI” bots utilize natural language processing (NLP) to guide users through human-like conversations. Instead of giving users a predefined set of options to choose from, NLP bots analyze user queries for key words and phrases, and then answer accordingly. The cons with this type of bot are that it’s much more expensive to create, requires a long training period before it can be active and must be constantly updated and maintained. 

Hybrid

As the functionality of Natural Language Processing can cause issues in the prospect’s experience due to misunderstood questions or responses, some brands utilize hybrid chatbots, which provides the capabilities of NLP combined with the effectiveness of Guided Conversation. While they mainly operate in a rules-based way, they also have a limited capacity to answer other queries through NLP. 

Voice-based

A newer type of chatbot we’re beginning to see emerge are based in voice-recognition technology. In 2020, 24% of American consumers owned a smart speaker, creating the opportunity for advanced companies to create more personalized chatbot experiences. While this is still an emerging category, it’s exciting to imagine the possibilities here. 

Want to learn more about how chatbots can improve your customer service strategy? Explore the BetterBot blog for more! 

apartment chatbot software

The Impact of Chatbots on the Customer Journey

Chances are, you’ve had at least one conversation with a chatbot in the past 12 months. Whether you were looking for a new place to call home, or simply doing a little holiday shopping online, many of us have found chatbots a helpful addition to the online shops and services we frequent. 

Once more, these helpful little bots have been transforming the way customers engage with the brands that use them. After the tumultuous year that’s been 2020, more brands than ever are beginning to take advantage of the benefits chatbots bring to the digital customer journey. And to think, only a few years ago were people still largely mistrustful of online chatbots. As the years have progressed and the pandemic accelerated companies’ digital transformation efforts, chatbots have become an increasingly popular solution. 

So what makes chatbots so effective in improving the customer journey? And what should you look for in a chatbot solution? We’ll explore all that and more below. First though, a quick run-down on what chatbots actually do. 

What is a chat bot, exactly?

Simply put, chatbots make it easy for brands to carry on a conversation with a customer without actually having to speak with them. They’re built on a range of communication software, and can have many different features, depending on what they’re being used for. 

While some allow users to chat via voice, most are text-based, making it easier for customers to quickly find the answers they need on their computer or smartphone. There are also different varieties of chatbots, with the most common being Rule-Based bots (also known as Guided Conversation). This type of chatbot provides users with a structured experience, guiding them down a decision-tree conversational flow. Through scanning the keywords in a person’s text, these softwares are able to guide people exactly where they need to go, can help them make purchases, send documents, and even sign leases

How chatbots improve the customer journey

A high-quality chatbot can have a measurable impact on your customer experience and success. In fact, they’re often so helpful, 35% of consumers want to see more of their favorite brands leverage online chatbots. 

Let’s break down how chatbots can enhance and streamline your customer’s journey. 

Chatbots are like a search bar

Even if they’ve visited your website several times, most people won’t know how to proficiently navigate your site. This is where chatbots can come in handy. Instead of having to spend precious time navigating around your site or reading tedious FAQ pages, chatbots can act as a search bar into which users can ask for things to be shown to them directly. 

Instead of interrupting your customer’s experience, a chatbot can bring potential customers exactly what they need – and ultimately help you increase your site’s conversion rate. Since chatbots are so helpful as a search function, it’s important to display them front-and-center on your site, or even have them follow users as they navigate through different pages. 

Customers can personalize their own experience

It’s not just about calling customers by their name. Depending on the level of your chatbot software, people can personalize their experience and gain a sense of continuity with your site. For example, if you run an eCommerce retail brand, a chatbot can keep track of customer preferences, their past purchases, questions and even keep track (and follow up on) potential complaints.

Additionally, a great chatbot reflects the brand it represents. If part of your mission is to be a calm, cool, and collected repository of knowledge in your industry, your chatbot’s conversational style should mirror that. Or, if you like to have fun with your customers and have a good sense of humor, that can be programmed into your chatbot as well. 

They create less friction

It’s a fact of life in the digital age – most people dread having to talk to customer support. A well-designed chatbot can help eliminate that common concern, helping eliminate friction within the customer journey. 

Friction arises from inefficiency, and inefficiency happens when people can’t find what they’re looking for. With chatbots, users can get their questions answered instantly, and any queries that aren’t able to be processed are automatically sent to the appropriate department for resolution. Instead of having to do the back and forth with customer service reps, people can get their answers on the spot. 

Chatbots can help collect better information for your brand

Most people aren’t inspired to voluntarily fill out a form or sign up for something on your website. However, chatbots make it easy for customers to input their information, and for brands to collect that valuable information. They’re a useful tool for eliminating the overwhelm users can feel when presented with a long response form. Like a good conversation, a good chatbot can adapt questions to user input, making for even more detailed data.

When it comes to collecting customer feedback, chatbots are great at prompting people to submit their experiences in a natural, non-intrusive way. For example, if someone recently made a purchase and you want to get their feedback, utilizing a chatbot can prompt a much more detailed response than a traditional feedback form.

They make the experience memorable and convenient

Unlike sales and customer service teams, chatbots are available 24/7/365 which is especially helpful for people needing help after typical hours.  And if you’ve programmed a ‘personality’ into your software, your customers are bound to have a memorable experience. 

These days, it’s not enough to offer a competitive price. Consumers expect a great experience as well, and expect to be able to find all the information they need quickly and seamlessly. A well-designed chatbot carries the advantages of being able to deliver exactly what your audience needs, whatever, whenever, and potentially however they want – and that could be enough to win your brand a new loyal customer. 

property management chatbot

More than Just a Trend: How AI is Reshaping Fashion and Beauty

In fashion, AI has first been embraced by big brands such as Amazon, Adidas, and Zara. Adidas, for instance, has voice-assisted in-store robots, while competitors are now following Zara after it partnered with Jetlore for a consumer behavior prediction platform. Zara’s aim to create “full integration between store and online stock rooms” is becoming an industry trend. Across the fashion world, consumer-facing AI solutions have been focused on improving personalisation and customer experience.

But AI has also crept into supply chain optimisation, inventory management, and other aspects of production. H&M and Adidas have begun integrating ‘smart’, interconnected robots into production to gain leverage. On the other side of the room are efforts to predict fashion trends and create products that fit these trends. For instance, Indonesian entrepreneur Lingga Madu has gained global attention after using AI to predict what styles will blow up and which ones will flop.

Similar efforts can be seen in the cosmetics industry, as the sector is now tapping into AI to improve customer engagement and relevancy. Mobile apps such as Modiface and HiMirror claim to be capable of assessing your face’s quality and even give you skincare advice. Estée Lauder, Sephora, Benefit, and others have developed their own apps with basically the same features, all powered by AI. Olay’s wildly popular app even lets you identify which parts of your face are most prone to ageing while also addressing other problems.

Taking this concept further, Swedish beauty tech brand FOREO’s has developed a cleansing device called LUNA fofo which can read hydration levels and suggest a personalised skincare routine. FOREO founder and CEO Filip Sedic even said that they plan to “detect air quality and [the] user’s skin conditions in real time,” making the device “the world’s smallest beauty coach.”

Nonetheless, despite these lofty claims, these fashion and beauty innovations are not without some blind spots. While AI has the capacity to process huge amounts of skin data based on user photos and facial recognition, factors such as lighting and picture quality play a huge part in the overall assessment. Indeed, there is a lot of pseudo-science in the world of skincare. For instance, Olay’s vague concept of “skin age”, while its very convenient idea, it is not backed by hard science.

While we can’t doubt that AI and machine learning can transform these industries, it is difficult to make out the exact shape of the things to come. When asked about using AI to address negative fast fashion practices, Elle writer Jo Fuertes stated that a sustainable and ethical future for fashion “requires a seismic cultural shift in how humans work together, not a technological one.” AI is driving more personalised consumer experiences, but it is still underpinned by traditional market models. Unless we see AI radically transforming these models from the ground up, what we can only expect from it today are on-point recommendations and fancy camera tricks for your social media feed.



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