With leasing season in full swing, geo-targeting, follow-ups and move-in software playing a role.
The difficulty of leasing for new construction is not a new challenge for seasoned apartment professionals. Fortunately, unlike the old days, technology can put brand-new buildings in front of more eyes than ever before.
Using technology to target potential residents is only part of what apartment owners are experimenting with this spring. They also are beta-testing programs that help them close leases for prospective residents after they visit the community and are using another program that assists their residents during move-in and move-out.
For lease-ups in competitive markets, such as Oakland and Sacramento, Calif., Vanessa Siebern, Vice President, FPI Management, is increasingly relying on geo-targeting, which is the practice of delivering different content or advertisements to users based on their geographic locations.
“We geo-tag locations where we want to target prospects,” Siebern says. “When people are in those areas, our information pops up on their phones.”
FPI, with the help of supplier partners Lease Labs and ApartmentSEO, will tag retail businesses that cater to customers it wants to reach, but that is only the start of its outreach.
“If we notice that we are seeing a lot of students from a particular college, we will geo-target that school,” Siebern says. “We will promote that we have availability to those students. We will also look at major employers in the area. If we have a few nurses from [health care provider Kaiser Permanente, for example] living in a community, then we will want to geotarget that business.”
FPI is experimenting with search-engine marketing (SEM) and search-engine optimization (SEO) to make sure it has the best placement in search. Specifically, Siebern points to a community in Oakland that saw a significant increase when the site implemented a PPC (pay-per-click) campaign.
“We have been very successful with the geo-targeting program and pay-per-click ads,” Siebern says. “We implemented a pay-per-click campaign and our traffic significantly increased. It does pay to be at the top of the list. That’s for sure.”
One benefit of digital campaigns is that a marketer can quickly adjust strategy if something is not working.
Capstone Real Estate Services collaborates with third-party vendors to help explore and understand analytics.
“Through the analytics, we can make decisions and change our strategy,” says Tina West, Chief Operating Officer for Capstone. “From a digital marketing standpoint, we will rely heavily on a third-party expert because that’s what they do all day long. We will work with them closely to analyze and determine on our next steps.”
Targeted Follow Up
Enticing prospects to visit a community for a tour is only part of the battle. The mission is not complete until they sign the lease. Some companies are experimenting with tech to help them get that signature after the initial visit.
At Trilogy Real Estate Group, the onsite team still handles the first point of contact with potential residents. But after that, technology is taking a larger role.
The Chicago-based firm is conducting beta tests with TouchPoint, which creates a formalized, centralized follow-up process to the company’s leads. Through phone and email follow-ups, Trilogy aims to convert traffic into leases.
“We have started to see pretty strong conversions from our follow-ups,” Girish Gehani, Chief Operating Officer for Trilogy, says. “In certain markets, where we have challenges with conversions, we have found that using a third-party company has increased our ability to convert traffic that we may have otherwise lost.”
The number of Millennials (and now members of Gen Z) streaming into apartments also has forced Capstone to reevaluate how it communicates with potential residents. One avenue was creating an app that allows them to make online reservations and integrate with other platforms for ease in online activities.
“We have to work on how responsive we are and how quickly we create opportunities for online chat, text messaging and even the digital call centers,” says West.
Millennials are part of what’s driving Capstone’s investments, though West admits that the company looks “far and wide” to find the best ways to get in front of customers of all age groups.
“We are really trying to create smaller snippets of information so we can give them everything that they want and they can do it quickly and simply,” West says. “We are using videos and social media and really trying to capture our values in short videos and chats. We are trying to connect with them in the way they communicate today.”
Making Move-In Easier
Using technology to target and capture future residents is only part of the focus for apartment firms. Conventional wisdom in the apartment industry says that the path to a renewal starts when residents arrive. With a new concierge system, Village Green is taking a strong first step to making move-in a success.
Village Green is beta-testing “Village Green Concierge,” a platform powered by Resident Aid, which creates a one-stop-shop for services residents need before their move, during their residency and for their move out.
“When a resident has selected a move- in date and needs to set up their utilities, hire a mover, hire a dog walker and purchase renters’ insurance, someone is going to personally call them and set everything up to ensure a perfect move-in experience,” says Bob Gleason, Vice President of Operational Support for Village Green.
Gleason says the initiative takes pressure off his company’s associates, as they know their new residents will be taken care of. “First impressions are everything,” Gleason says.
Gleason notes this third-party company that is labeled as Village Green Concierge assigns an employee who serves as the residents’ personal concierge before move-in, during residency and after move out.
And, if someone wants to leave to purchase a home or condo? Village Green also has that covered.
“We never want to have anyone move out, but we are also not naïve to the fact that many renters are saving for their first home, in fact, 20 percent of our move outs are due to purchasing a home or condo,” Gleason says. “Our concierge service will not only help them find a mortgage broker and Realtor, but due to the partnership those entities they will share their commission with the resident as an incentive. We are creating a bookend philosophy for our move-ins and move-outs.”
Les Shaver is the Senior Content Editor at NAA and can be reached via email.