Target renters online during the off season

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‘Twas always right around Christmas, when all through the housing market, not a renter is touring and leasing offices sit quiet as a mouse.

The slow season for multifamily properties isn’t an excuse to take a long winter’s nap. Once the holidays wind down and people work to replenish their bank accounts, prospects who plan to move in the new year will begin searching for the next home to hang their stockings, using those shiny electronics delivered by Santa.

Property management companies can make the most of the annual leasing lull by engaging online prospects, the majority of whom remain in the research phase, narrowing down their selection in a saturated marketplace. Serious planners start looking the second the new year strikes. Get a jump on the competition by catering to these renters now.

“It’s tough, there are just so many options. We get a lot of prospects who are really far out, like 120 or 150 days from moving. People start to look that far in advance,” says Caleb Bartlett, Digital Sales and Media Manager at Nolan Real Estate, which owns multifamily residential apartment communities in Illinois, Texas and Kansas.

“Unfortunately in our industry, we don’t tend to care about those prospects very much and I hate that,” says Bartlett, who previously worked in marketing at solar energy and automotive dealers. “I think if we look long term, it’s a continuous flow of prospects. We just have to keep them focused and engaged, giving them all of the information they need in one place.”

Don’t let a quarterly dip in leases, website traffic or digital marketing budget drag your profit margins down the chimney this time of year. Provide consumers with helpful online planning tools and an intuitive, personalized website experience that guides online prospects through their apartment search. You’ll convert a higher percentage of web traffic into leads your leasing specialists can focus on during these inevitable slow times.

Spring to your sleigh and to your team give a whistle, it’s time to collect, nurture and convert more online leads. Like Rudolph, let us light the way.

Renters research online earlier than ever

The majority of renters now start research at least three months before they plan to move, according to PERQ’s Multifamily Insights Report, which recently analyzed lead data across all client websites. The data revealed 45 percent of the more than 18,000 consumers who interacted with a client’s property website said they were at least 90 days from renting or buying — with 77 percent saying they were still in the early to middle stage of their research process.

Those particular prospects will not be ready to actually sign a lease for a few months but want to gather more information first. Make sure your website becomes the primary source for the details and planning tools they seek, such as property amenities, budgeting tools, surrounding community information, prequalify application, etc. so that prospects do not need to bounce around online to find what they are looking for. Or worse, leave your property website for a competitor’s that has this information easily accessible.

Engage website visitors to convert leads

Many property management companies scale down advertising and marketing budgets to offset lower profits in the off season, spending less on internet list services (ILS) and other paid lead generation methods with the mindset that fewer people are renting right now.

Consider investing in website improvements during this downtime to create an engaging online experience that tracks individual users and collects consumer profiles. Even if the number of online visitors takes a dive this winter, your website will convert a higher percentage of that traffic into qualified leads.

According to PERQ data, one property management group they work with saw a significant spike in the number of unique leads submitted in mid-October—despite steadily declining website traffic throughout the month. For October overall, the average time spent on site, pages per session, and total clicks on calls to action (CTAs) all showed positive growth for that client when compared to the company’s baseline average prior to PERQ.

There may have been less visitors, but they were engaged and spent quality time clicking around and interacting with various planning features like the floorplan assessment and expense calculator. Each person who engaged with the tools volunteered valuable information about themselves and their leasing journey.

Give online prospects reasons to stay

Nolan Real Estate is taking a fresh look at its 2019 digital strategy, according to Bartlett, after seeing how lead counts “skyrocketed” within the first few months of trying PERQ’s Online Guided Leasing solution on some of its property websites. They plan to implement the AI-backed software across all properties this year.

“I think the thing that was really missing on our digital platforms was the engagement aspect. We spent all of this money to get people to our website and then there was nothing really there for them,” Bartlett says. “The industry does a really good job of showcasing their sites on the internet. Once you go to the websites, however, there’s all this information but not anything really engaging with you.”

PERQ’s Multifamily Insights Report found that including interactive experiences on a website triples the average time a visitor spends on a site. They evoke feelings of value and personalization, similar to the trendy personality quizzes people love to take on Buzzfeed and Facebook, Bartlett says. By guiding and telling prospects what they want before they even know, it inspires them to keep clicking around for more information.

“I was always told the ideal amount of time on the website should be about three minutes and I never understood that mentality,” Bartlett says. “I always thought, ‘why wouldn’t we want them there longer?’ We’ve seen the average time go from about two and a half minutes to almost 11 minutes on our first four sites. We know they’re coming and staying.”

Engage online consumers still in the research phase with an interactive, helpful property website so they’ll be ready to move quickly when peak leasing season arrives in a few short months. With the right incentives and lead nurture approach, you may even entice a few to come out of hibernation early to sign a lease.

Download the full insights report here.