Marketing Trends You Need to Know About
By Donald Davidoff
Everyone knows that mobile is important but what other things do you need to be on top of?
Now is an exciting time to be a marketer in the apartment industry. So much is happening so fast that it can be a bit overwhelming; but it’s also exciting that technology is catching up to our needs. Here’s a quick guide to seven trends for any future-focused rental housing marketer:
1. Go mobile.
Mobile traffic now comprises more than 50 percent of the overall search traffic. That is a stunning (though not surprising) increase from when we went over the 5 percent threshold about a decade ago. Given that apartments are a very location-driven product, it is even more important that we be as accessible on a mobile device as on a desktop. We still get significant traffic from desktop computers, so responsive design is simply a “must have” for anyone in our space.
2. It’s becoming an augmented and virtual world.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are no longer science fiction. Nor are they purely a “plaything” like they were considered a few short years ago. Quality VR experiences can be created for something in the $10,000 to $15,000 range (and that cost is likely to continue dropping). That may be a lot of money for an established community, but for new developments, the cost can easily be justified if it speeds up pre-leasing by 1 percent or 2 percent. AR is an affordable tool for both same store and lease-ups. Toss in the ability to create virtual 360-degree tours off of photos or a simple mobile phone video, and it’s incredible what can be done. With today’s video and photo processing capabilities, it’s not expensive to create videos of individual units. These can then be used to automatically create floorplans (including lengths and widths of rooms) and to strip out existing furniture or add in virtual furniture. AR and VR make it a truly visual world online!
3. The march of the ‘bots.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is moving at an amazing pace. And I’m not talking just simple chatbots. AI can be used to optimize the marketing mix and message, to give coaching to salespeople based on their phone calls, to help us source and evaluate who to hire and so much more. Robots already exist to patrol parking lots and serve as virtual concierges. I believe the day is not too far off when AI will be driving pricing algorithms as well.
4. Why be limited by leasing associates.
Self-showing has been a wild success in the single-family rental market. We may not want to replace our leasing associates, but we need not be limited by them. On busy days, self-showing can expand the number of people who can tour. Self-showing can also expand the range of hours for prospects to tour—something of particular use during the winter season when it gets dark much earlier.
5. It’s all about the journey.
Finally, there are solutions available to use that help you to understand the full prospect journey. There is software to track online and offline behavior and (reasonably) accurately deal with multi-channel attribution. If you don’t really know your lead-to-lease conversion paths and rates, then you don’t have the right tech stack. You will be left behind others who do.
6. It’s a 1:1 world.
Mass marketing is simply not as effective as 1:1 marketing. When small businesses can use a platform, such as Hubspot, to deliver online experiences specific to each person coming to their website, there’s no excuse for large rental housing marketers not to do the same. It’s not necessarily easy, but it is essential, given rising consumer expectations driven by experiences outside the housing world. Marketers need a contemporary CRM system to keep track of prospects and residents along with the discipline and effort to create the content and drip campaigns to truly engage them with what they want, where they want it and when they want it.
7. Maps can be a treasure.
Google Maps should now be thought of as a primary search engine. As with other location-based businesses, prospective residents increasingly find us through searches on Google Maps rather than the main Google search engine. And even when using the latter, Google serves up a Maps experience in the right-hand side of the search results. Embrace this! Get your local data correct, and look at how you show up in both desktop and mobile versions of Google Maps.
There’s a lot to think about and a lot to do! That’s what makes it so exciting to be a rental housing marketer today.