Don’t be a Blackberry!

Andrew McConnell Andrew McConnell Uploaded




I was fortunate to attend the second annual Serviced Apartment Summit Americas recently in New York. A veritable who's who of the industry, the conference brought people together from around the world to discuss the biggest trends shaping the industry, and where it can and should go from here. I learned a great deal, met some fascinating people, and had a lot of fun. I also left the Summit thinking a lot about Blackberry.

This may seem odd, but let me explain myself. You see, there was a time when Blackberry was THE smartphone. It was known colloquially as Crackberry due to its ubiquity and addictiveness. Attempts to eat into its market share of business customers seemed futile. The product was just so much better than everything else on offer. The QWERTY keyboard made writing constant emails while on the go easy. The security features were the darling of corporate IT departments. And its relationships with corporate procurement ensured a steady stream of orders as new hires came on board, or devices needed to be upgraded.

Even Steve Jobs' launch of the iPhone in June of 2007 did not cause much worry. After all, for real business users an actual keyboard was way better than a touchscreen. The features were limited, I mean, you couldn't even cut and paste. And the security requirements of many businesses were just not being addressed. This was a fad consumer product at best. Blackberry still had a lock on the market it cared about.

Fast-forward 10 years, and obviously something changed. Blackberry has given up the hardware game, and Apple takes an absurdly outsized share of smartphone profits. So what happened? The short answer is the rise of individual decision-making in corporate procurement.

It is true that Blackberry had a lock on the corporations, but as more and more people who worked for those corporations got their hands on the more fun, more consumer-like iPhone, they began requesting and then demanding that their companies allow them to use those devices rather than the stale Blackberries being issued, and eventually to even buy iPhones for them. Once this became common policy, Blackberry's days were numbered.

So why does this matter to serviced apartment providers? It matters because the same shift toward individual decision-making in corporate procurement is finding its way to travel. Whereas once people were fine staying wherever their company chose to place them, now they want more autonomy in making that decision for themselves. They are the ones sleeping in those beds after all.

Now they are actively searching sites like Airbnb with a consumer mindset to find the best fit for them, not necessarily the company. And what this means is that providing the perfect product for your corporate client might no longer be enough. It is probably still be a prerequisite in that expenses have to clear through them, but it is now only one piece of the puzzle.

Today you have to also provide the perfect product, service, and experience to your consumer clients - to the people who are actually sleeping in the beds. What are they looking for? What services and amenities do they care about and expect? And how are they making the decision on where she wants to stay? Where are they searching? What filters are they using? What photos are most appealing to them? To compete in the new world, you need to be able to answer these questions, and to ask them continually because the answers themselves are not static.

Andrew McConnell is co-founder and CEO of Rented.com, the first online marketplace that helps real estate investors and second homeowners find, compare, and choose the best professional short-term rental managers.

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