Ensure a seamless leasing experience by leveraging an omnichannel approach.
Recent advancements in digital technology have altered the way renters search for apartments. From the first search to the signing of a lease, many apartment prospects are shedding a “digital-first” approach and embracing a “digital-only” strategy.
Despite the proliferation of tech in leasing, it will likely never completely take over. Onsite teams and in-person tours still outshine machines when it comes to the final push to move people from prospects to residents. Up until that tour, however, digital tools are dominating the landscape—and many prospects want it that way, according to a new preferences report from Rent. About 98% of people searching for apartments use online resources when looking for their next home—and 20% use only online sources for their search.
“Although having an ILS listing remains an essential aspect of our advertising strategies, relying solely on it to attract qualified traffic is no longer feasible,” said Tarra Secrest, CAM, CAPS, Director of Marketing + Property Development for Drucker + Falk, a property management firm with 196 properties in 11 states. “We prefer to adopt an omnichannel approach while
devising campaigns that aim to provide a seamless and consistent customer experience, which we can monitor, evaluate and enhance.”
Renters often utilize multiple channels during their property search, with 82% using at least three or more internet listing services (ILSs). This phenomenon underscores the significance of establishing an omnichannel presence. Implementing a strategic, consistent message across multiple digital channels will ensure companies are reaching their target markets. This includes chatbots, online tour scheduling and virtual tours to provide a seamless experience around the clock.
ILS Information Informs Rental Decisions
Even with an extensive mix of digital options, ILSs still dominate the rental landscape. A sizable 89% of prospects use at least one ILS for their search, and 68% say it’s the primary factor in their decision, according to the Rent. data. ILSs are appealing because they offer a complete picture of a property, including insight into the location, transit, entertainment, restaurants and much more. ILSs offer a variety of views of a community, such as street views and aerial views. Finally, ILSs make it easy to compare a variety of properties, and some make it simple to schedule a tour.
A social media presence is now ubiquitous in any marketing mix, and there are several to consider. According to Sprout Social data, while Facebook and Instagram are the most popular social media channels, TikTok has unprecedented growth numbers and the highest average time spend of all social networks. A careful analysis and testing content across platforms can help hone the best platform mix for any portfolio.
Social media was an influence on their decision for 40% of the survey respondents. When formulating a social media strategy, focus on short-form video content to showcase the community renters are looking for authenticity. Consider assigning social media duties to property managers and allocating a set percentage of their time to this task. This will help maintain consistency.
Working with social media influencers is another way to boost a community’s presence in this area, as one in five renters say a social media influencer was a factor in their property decision.
A significant 62% of prospects read online reviews when making a decision about a community, so current residents and even people who have toured previously can influence the ability to gain new residents. Reviews should never be ignored. Disregarding the negative reviews will be more damaging than the review itself. Show empathy for those who have problems and deliver praise to those who support the community. A systematic, timely approach to reviews is essential in today’s digital landscape.
“Drucker + Falk believes that a community with a positive online reputation will not only secure new leases quicker than average, but renewals tend to be higher and occupancy is often higher,” Secrest said. “Having professionally crafted, timely responses to all reviews, especially negative reviews, is one of our major areas of focus for 2023.”
Community Websites Must Be User-Friendly
A community website still has significant use among searchers, and this makes it critical to ensure that a site is well-designed and grabs the attention of visitors. In addition to providing a comprehensive overview of the community and the units, the experience needs to be immersive. Presenting a way for prospects to self-schedule a tour is critical. For Drucker + Falk, 63% of their appointments so far in 2023 have been made this way. Virtual tours of the entire property should be available—many like to tour this way before contacting a property—and tours should be easy to schedule. Also make sure that chatbots function well, since this is a favored avenue for obtaining general information.
“Finding an apartment can be a challenging task, which is why it’s important to have a community website that addresses as many questions as possible,” Secrest said. “For instance, renters like to know about parking arrangements, how to place a work order online using their mobile device, as well as pet fees and lease length options. To help renters find the information they need, you can create an FAQ section on your community website, answer questions on your Google Business Profile and other business listings, and provide community-specific details to your AI chatbot.”
Friction Points Can Hurt Leasing
Certain friction points must be addressed by communities to improve the renter’s journey. One of the biggest was the apartment hunting process itself, with 61% of prospects 55 or older finding the process difficult and 47% of people under 55 agreeing with that sentiment, according to the survey. Other challenges that frustrated renters were finding a home within their budget, finding amenities that fit their lifestyle, the responsiveness of onsite teams and scheduling tours.
Bringing It All Together
To make digital offerings sing, it’s important to make sure “you know your audience” and what they want. As the costs of digital marketing and data restrictions increase, casting too wide of a net could end up being a waste of money. A targeted campaign will make sure that onsite teams obtain quality leads. Marketing efforts should be consistent across all digital platforms and apps, offering a concise message to renters.
Flexibility is another important aspect of marketing. This is especially important for easing renter friction points. A variety of tour times, days and options is one way to be flexible. Since prospects tend to apply for the first property tour on the same day as the tour, getting them through the door needs to be a priority.
Modern renters are savvy, and they wholly embrace using online research and multiple digital channels to find their next home. This requires owners and operators to put their best foot forward when presenting their communities, regardless of where they are showing them.
“In today’s digital age, potential renters are well-informed about your offerings before even setting foot in your physical space,” Secrest said. “They are aware of your pricing, online reputation and availability. When they do visit in person, it’s to verify that the online photos are genuine and to ensure a positive customer service experience with your team.”
Kevin Juhasz is a content manager for LinnellTaylor Marketing.