Monday, August 20, 2007

Think Mobile... Your Residents Do

Hewlett-Packard has quietly introduced a free service called Cloudprint, which should make it possible for anyone to share, store and print their documents on any printer almost anywhere in the world, using only their mobile phone. (New York Times)

Here's how it works:
The user stores their documents to H-P Web servers, which can then be retrieved as PDFs and printed later at any Windows-connected printer, using a simple text messaging system (a Mac version is in the works). The service will include a directory service that will show the location of publicly available printers on Google Maps.

How can you free your residents' data?The idea is to unhook data from a user’s computer, making it simple for travelers to take their documents with them and use them with no more than a cellphone and access to a local printer. If you've ever spent time on the road hunting for the closest Kinko's, you can probably see the value in a service like this.

The Cloudprint service is the first of a wave of applications that will surely be developed as a direct response to the hugely-popular iPhone. Expect more services like this from H-P and a host of others that will increasingly "unhook" data and specific functions like printing from a user's computer. An H-P exec was quoted, saying this service will help the company "ride the wave of the Web.”

Sounds great, but what does it have to do with apartments?

Well... there's a broader strategy here that multifamily owners should note:
Create a valuable service that will reinforce the company's brand and foster the sale of other products. In this case, it's H-P ink and supplies.

For apartment owners, it's unclear what that valuable service might be... but I'm sure that there are a few good ones out there, and it's time we start thinking about them.

It could be free or discounted data storage or website hosting. How about exclusive deals from local retailers straight to residents' cell phones? Free printing (and maybe shipping) to any community within your portfolio? There are lots of ways for owners to deliver value, reinforce their brand and drive retention & referrals.

Apartment residents are mobile and connected, and they value convenience. Basically, they're the perfect candidates for these types of services.

So the question becomes: What can you do to offer more mobility, more utility, and more value to your residents?

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