Most apartment shoppers online begin their journey on your property website. So how do you capitalize on this controlled environment and move more leads closer to signing a lease? You do so by understanding your sales funnel, what works best on your site and converting online interest into tangible sales.
3 STEPS TO GUIDE APARTMENT SHOPPERS ONLINE
Apartment shoppers online who visit your multifamily property’s website bring their own background and personality: where they come from, where they’ve lived, or even a new addition to their family. These traits influence what information they are looking for online to help them in the decision-making process on where and even when to rent.
Some online apartment shoppers might be willing to sign on the dotted line after seeing a few photos and the right price, while others are still trying to determine their budget, the right location for their lifestyle, the right floor plan and if they can even get pre-qualified.
But for almost every renter in the modern multifamily residential market, your property’s website and other online resources will be their first exposure to your building, a place they might call home. Getting an apartment shopper’s attention online in that moment is critical to becoming their first residential choice. It’s the key to harnessing the power of your site’s ability to help them down the path of discovery, research and willingness to buy/rent — the online conversion funnel, so to speak.
Property managers and leasing agents looking to improve the conversion funnel for apartment shoppers online should think of these three important steps as they examine their websites to determine if they’re really engaging consumers throughout the process.
To get some more in-depth information of the online experience, we spoke to Katy Schmidt, property manager for IronWorks apartments in Indianapolis, as well as George McCabe, a renter in Denver, Colorado, who recently found a new apartment online.
Here’s a summary of what happens in the discovery, research and buy phases, plus some tips on how to turn strangers on the Internet into happy members of your multifamily apartment community.
1. Apartment Shoppers Online in the Discovery Phase
These browsers are the apartment shoppers online who are only just discovering your multifamily property. Maybe they’ve driven by the apartment community, or know the name, but they likely don’t know very much about what the residential experience looks like.
Customers in this phase will be most interested in the high-level information on the site, especially photos or other graphic elements. This is where an eye for web design will play its greatest role.
Visual elements such as cascading, vibrant shots of the buildings and grounds, captioned or headlined with statements about your building’s culture, neighborhood and style, will catch their eye and imagination as they start to consider what life would be like within your walls. According to Schmidt, anything that can set your website apart from the rest is going to help.
“Anything that’s cookie cutter or similar to the competition is going to drive people away. We try to create our websites to look a little different than the rest. Our building is unique, and we want the site to reflect that,” Schmidt says.
Renter Enticement Tip: Calls to action in the form of a new customer welcome, and special offers on application fees or credit checks will catch the prospect’s attention as they browse early, and might reassure them that if they proceed, they won’t face fees just to explore.
2. Apartment Renters Online in the Research Phase
If your site has convinced apartment renters online, they’d at least consider getting an apartment in your multifamily community, their minds will turn to the nitty-gritty details of apartment living. This means they’ll want comprehensive floorplans, in-depth accounts of all included amenities, rent and utility rates, and even resident reviews.”If your site has convinced apartment renters online, they’d at least consider getting an apartment in your multifamily community,” Any missing details, hard-to-find information, or general issues with site navigation can still send these once-interested customers bouncing to a competitor, so be sure your site is powered by a reliable design and marketing team, and contains all the relevant information an in-person leasing agent would share. McCabe agrees, explaining how important those small pieces were to him as a potential renter. “I definitely like to see pictures; that’s really important,” he says. “If there’s a place that doesn’t have pictures, I’ll probably just skip over it.”
Renter Enticement Strategy: During this period, consumers will be telling you – or, rather, your site – what they need and want. Give them a unique and memorable outlet to do so with interactive floorplan assessments that reveal what unit best fits their needs. If the visitor is about to leave, your website should automatically offer up a special offer to try to entice them back into exploring your site even further.
3. Apartment Shoppers Online Ready to Buy
In this phase, your website will have already answered the majority of the online apartment shopper’s preliminary questions. The previous step of the funnel should have adequately satisfied the customer’s questions, and doing so will make sure they’re more ready to rent before getting there.
“We have 18 different floor plans so educating them prior to the visit helps us streamline the sales approach,” Schmidt says.
Prospective renters online will want to book a tour, or maybe even submit an application to rent without visiting. These tenants will need a sense of total security and competency before signing or paying online. Be sure you have an adequate payment portal if your site offers such a feature.
Make it easy for apartment shoppers online to book a tour easily online with a click of a button to confirm a day and time that works for them, along with the best way to reach them. It should help to convert more visitors than your typical static lead form. A leasing agent or property manager should then follow up with a quick email or phone call to confirm the day and time and find out if there are any other questions they need answered in the meantime..
Renter Enticement Strategy: At this phase, the renter is already at the bottom of the funnel, but multifamily property managers have a great opportunity to immediately start building renter loyalty through cool incentives like a contest drawing for new applicants, or discounted rent if they apply within a certain time frame.
The truth is, renters might visit an apartment’s website several times before they’re finally ready to take a tour or fill out a rental application. Just as you would be in person, your site must be patient with and responsive to the apartment shopper’s decision-making process, and remember them when they return.
Interactive, connected experiences should help to lead each apartment shopper online down the path of their own choosing, never showing them the same calls to action where they already gave you information, and addressing visitors by name if they gave their contact information to your site previously.
By giving potential apartment renters an engaging experience that’s helpful and makes them remember your community, they’ll move themselves to your doorstep and hopefully have a new doorstep in your apartment community to call their own.