A conversation with Sr. Director of Product
Danny Bowen @RentPath on Disruption in Real Estate
The Real Estate Industry, like all others is getting disrupted by technology. So we at TangoCode sat down with one of the disruptors and market leaders in this space, RentPath, to understand how they used innovation to accomplish this and what other players can do to catch up and compete.
In this conversation Director of Marketing Kamla Reddy interviews Senior Director of B2B Data Products Danny Bowen to learn more about the drivers of change and implementing a strategy for sustainable innovation.
Kamla: Hi everyone. This is Kamla Reddy with TangoCode. I’m here today to talk about the real estate industry and the role technology is playing in shaping its future. I’d like to welcome my guest today, Danny Bowen. He’s the Senior Director of B2B Data Products at RentPath. Welcome Danny! Would you like to share a little bit about yourself and RentPath?
Danny: Hi Kamla, great to be here with you. Yes, I’m the Senior Director of Data Products RentPath which basically means I find innovative ways to leverage our consumer data to deliver solutions to the multifamily market place.
Technologies Impact on Consumers
Kamla: Alright, so across industries consumer purchase journeys are evolving as technology continues to expand its role. In what ways has technology influenced the consumer journey within your space?
Danny: Sure, I think it’s evident in several different facets of the multifamily space. Your renters are now able to send texts to properties, schedule tours with properties, and submit their applications, all online.
Kamla: As the purchase journeys are changing, how do you feel customer expectations are also changing?
Danny: I think customers want a simple integrated experience to either rent or buy. I think they want to be able to interact with the property in their native form of communication whether that be text, chat, or email.
Kamla: With technology not only impacting consumers but now also the parties on the other side of the transaction. For RentPath, your consumers are renters, but on the flip side, you have the property management companies. How do you see the role of the property manager changing within the digital world?
Danny: I think they’re having to adapt to new technologies and how consumers interact with their properties. There are more ways to advertise properties and engage with prospects than ever before.
Kamla: So talking about change, here’s a question that I think everybody always wants to know the answer to, what do you think will be the next major disruption within the real estate industry?
Danny: I think you’ll first see some small disruptions that lead to a larger disruption that I’ll talk about in a second. I think you’ll start to see a proliferation of things such as confirmed bookings and universal applications. I think this is all leading up to a major disruption, which is the full digitization of the renter and buyer experience.
Kamla: I know that at RentPath you guys are continuously finding new ways to leverage data and simplify the rental search experience and provide high ROI digital marketing solutions. What do you see as the most exciting aspect of the future of real estate technology and digital marketing?
Danny: What’s most exciting for us at RentPath is aggregating property data to deliver highly sophisticated fully automated marketing solutions that actually start talking to one another, this has probably been one of the most exciting things we’ve worked on with TangoCode. For us, it’s been really exciting and I think for property managers it makes their life so much easier, we’re actually building towards a world where you can fully attribute back to the source that generated leads.
Kamla: Data has proven to be a valuable investment for RentPath. Every company knows that data is valuable, but it’s challenging sometimes to actually implement a data strategy that produces results. What is the importance of owning client data and how can organizations prepare to leverage data?
Danny: If the recent changes that Facebook has had on the data privacy side have taught us anything. It’s that owning first-party data is of Paramount importance to delivering value to consumers and delivering products that effectively advertise for them. I think when you’re a company what’s really important is thinking ahead about what different ways you might want to leverage the data in the future such as you’re building systems that can house that data in the right ways to leverage it when appropriate.
Building Your Own Technology
Kamla: A lot of times collecting proprietary data and structuring it as you said in a way that can be used across the company requires some level of custom development. However, not all companies have experience with custom development and that can be a big decision. What advice would you give to companies that are considering building their own technology?
Danny: That question hits close to home Kamla because we went through the same decision, about two years ago. I think you have to step back and say, “Do we have the institutional knowledge to connect and gather not only our data but data from Facebook and Google and other partners to deliver solutions?”, and I think if you don’t, you have to find a partner that knows how to do this and do this very well.
I think if you can find that partner which we did with TangoCode. I think you can move substantially quicker and have significantly fewer hurdles along the way.
Kamla: It’s two-part right, it’s finding the right partner or having that knowledge internally or you know, also you need to bring on the right internal talent like you were saying to be able to figure out what data is actually important.
The Impact of AI on Jobs
Kamla: More and more we are talking about AI and machine learning and there’s always a conversation of, “Is it going to take people’s jobs?”, but on the other hand, it’s also going to create new jobs. So it’s a matter of using technology to automate and do things at its best at well bringing on people to create better results through creativity and things that the machines aren’t going to be able to do. Thoughts?
Danny: I think what I found really valuable about using firms like TangoCode is that they can help us automate a lot of the processes. It doesn’t eliminate roles on our team. It allows the people on our team that think more broadly into the future about what we can and will develop to maintain Innovation and to maintain that kind of thought leaders in our industry.
So actually it allows us to do much more than we could have before by removing those tasks that were just taking time to not adding a ton of additional value.
Kamla: I know you have fostered innovation at RentPath. What thoughts or advice do you have for companies on how to ensure they’re cultivating innovation from within?
Danny: Three things pop into mind right away. One, is you have to hire very talented people that thrive in ambiguity.
The second thing is you have to give them room to experiment. You have to be able to really have a willingness to let them fail and they can experiment again.
Lastly, you have to seek feedback and ideas from all parts of your company, in our case, it’s the sales reps, clients, product managers, technical sales specialist, and development teams. It doesn’t come from just one team, it comes from cultivating those ideas from a large portion of your company.
Kamla: I want to get your take on the role that diversity plays within your own teams in being able to cultivate innovation.
Danny: You know, we built a digital agency in-house for RentPath. Our mandate from the very beginning was to hire the most educated, passionate, and diverse set of analysts and account managers that we could.
When we talk about diversity, it is really about diversity of background and diversity of thought, we wanted people coming in that had different ideas and experiences that could question and contest different people’s line of thought. It would have been easy to go hire fifteen people that worked at a digital agency or a performance marketing firm, but we’ve hired physicists, chemical engineers, and people with business backgrounds because we wanted those different people to come in and bring different experiences to the table.
That is a cornerstone of how we have built our team, and I think that to your point, that has led to a lot of innovation in a bunch of different areas, not just on the product side but also in how we service our clients and how we deliver our solutions all because we have people constantly bringing new ideas to the table.
Kamla: That is awesome! We are starting to see more and more content about this, but I think that it is great to hear that you guys have been thinking about it, you have actually implemented ways to create diversity within your teams and now you are seeing the results.
Kamla: What is the risk for companies? Not innovating and taking charge of their technology.
Danny: Maybe it’s too simplistic to say but if you’re not innovating your competitors are and I think if you’re not and we’ve seen this at RentPath, you’ll be able to maintain your client base to revenue, etc for a period of time, but eventually people will start leaving you to go to providers that make their life simpler and easier.
There are other people that are providing that innovation.
Kamla: Absolutely. For my last question Danny, companies that are looking to innovate but aren’t sure where to start. What would be three steps that they can take right away?
Danny: I think one, kind of going back to the previous question, build a culture where innovation and failure are celebrated. If you don’t have the freedom to experiment to fail and to experiment again people are going to not be willing to take risks.
I think a second part is, don’t stay beholden to what people are doing in your industry. Look at other industries and see what people are doing well in other spaces. Often times other industries are ahead of the curve than you in certain areas. I think you can learn a lot from looking outside your space.
Lastly, take advantage of solutions that your partners offer, sometimes your partners have the right teams, they have the right culture for developing innovation and take advantage of what’s already there. You don’t always have to recreate the wheel.
Kamla: Thank you, Danny, for your time today. I really appreciate you taking the time to share with everyone some ways companies in Real Estate can continue to embrace innovation. We wish you and the RentPath team the best of success.
Danny: Thank you Kamla. I guess lastly, I will say that we wouldn’t be where we’re at today in terms of delivering innovation to our clients had we not partnered with TangoCode. Again, working with a partner that understands the space, the Google & Facebook space, the way you do has allowed us to move at a very quick and rapid pace and deliver products, far beyond expectations internally. I guess maybe I’ll leave you with a good example, we took an automated social advertising product from pilot to market across the entire country in four months by leveraging the expertise and skill set of your team. So, thank you Kamla!
Kamla: Thanks, Danny!