Digital Trends for Multifamily: Critical Ingredients to Conversions

You wouldn’t bring a bicycle to a car race, yet that’s what multifamily marketers do when their digital toolbox doesn’t have enough power or the right tools to meet market expectations or match their competitors’ capabilities. In multifamily, prospective renters have adopted new buying behaviors and expectations, demanding cohesive cross-channel experiences, greater convenience and personalization. “We are all designing for a new kind of customer,” note researchers from WGSN.

This shift sets a new bar for the renter’s journey, spurring new digital trends for multifamily marketing.

Is your multifamily marketing team equipped to compete successfully in today’s digital multifamily marketing landscape?

We’ll start with a broad view of five foundational digital trends for multifamily – baseline expectations your prospects bring to your property websites:

  1. Speed: From fast-loading websites to “anytime/anywhere” support, today’s prospective renters crave instant answers in their property search, without having to engage a human.
  2. Interactivity: Gone are the days of websites having just text and images of your community on them. Pandemic-fueled shifts in digital marketing and online buying experiences have raised consumer expectations for digital experiences. Today’s renters expect to be engaged with interactive online experiences that are relevant to their personal preferences and where they are in their search process. The reality is that the renter’s journey is now far lengthier, and prospective renters are taking control of the information-gathering portion of their buying process.
  3. Personalization at scale: Made-for-me experiences and messaging tailored to each prospect’s interests, preferences and past behaviors. The “care of one,” as McKinsey puts it, is quickly becoming standard. This means having the ability to welcome known contacts back to your website and provide them with the content both on the website and in your nurture outreach that is applicable to them.
  4. Automation: Put recurring tasks on autopilot so your onsite leasing agents spend less time on repetitive activities that can be handled through automation so they can focus on higher-impact activities, such as closing leases and servicing residents.
  5. Omnichannel Integrations: Consumers expect a seamless and consistent experience with brands they decide to do business with. And, they’re doing more digitally, in more places, than ever before. This means having the ability to recognize them across devices, pick up where the conversation left off, and not present them with irrelevant content. To do this, multifamily marketers need to review their tech stack to identify disconnected consumer experiences and identify opportunities for integrations or new technology that can bridge the disconnect.

With these pillars in mind, below is a simplified rundown of what your digital marketing for apartments tech stack should be able to perform if you hope to outshine competitors and remain profitable for the long haul.

Notably, more than digital trends for multifamily, you should view these as new baseline capabilities without which PMCs simply won’t be able to compete successfully in the weeks and months ahead.

Lead Capture

For multifamily marketers, capturing leads is an evolving science. This is because what has been called a lead in the past is not actually a lead in terms of today’s rental prospects. Today, prospects expect to explore and collect information on their own about many properties that interest them. They will shortlist their favorites and choose to tour only the ones they are most interested in. They have a willingness to share their personal information with a website in exchange for information about the community, but they are not yet ready to speak to a member of your team. A recent study showed that the renter’s journey is elongating, with many prospects starting their search for an apartment 6 months in advance.

This changes the game for multifamily marketers in terms of what their inbound marketing channels need to be able to do. Among the things you’ll want your digital channels to be able to accomplish as part of your inbound marketing strategy:

Build prospect profiles over time. Capturing a person’s name and email address no longer qualifies them as ready to speak with the onsite team. Consumers have been trained by digitally savvy consumer brands to exchange their information and preferences to receive the information they seek. You need a way to capture and house prospect information.

Provide easy answers, anytime. When prospects can’t find answers on your website, they expect to have a way to access instant, “anytime” support. AI-powered, natural language chatbots make this possible without making prospects wait for a leasing agent to respond, or for your office to open. Today, AI chatbots are considered a best practice when it comes to leasing marketing strategy as they provide the instant gratification that prospects expect in their consumer experience.

Be friendly. First-time visitors to your website shouldn’t be strangers for long. Their behavior on your website and the information they share with you are valuable assets you can use to tailor their experience with your brand. For example, once you know their name, you can welcome repeat visits by addressing them by name.

Be fun. Engage online visitors with interactive experiences, such as interactive quizzes, video tours, floor plan matches and budgeting tools that inform and satisfy common questions in new and interesting ways, endearing prospects to your brand.

Be consistent. Today’s rental prospects are researching more channels. They will look at your website, social account, read online reviews, look at location on a map, etc. Your brand and the consumer experience should look and feel consistent across all of these interactions.

Lead Nurture

The lengthening renter’s journey means PMCs need to stay top of mind while prospects explore their options and do their online research. For more than a decade, nurturing leads with relevant content at the right times in their renter’s journey was considered a best practice across a variety of industries. Unsurprisingly, emerging data and digital trends for multifamily show us that’s also true for our industry. Simply put, prospects will not interact with a leasing agent until the final stages of their search, elevating the importance of facilitating, personalizing, and automating lead nurture.

Effective lead nurture follows several important tenets:

Be relevant. Use prospect intelligence to adapt your nurture content accordingly. Using individual preferences, such as a preferred floor plan, improves each prospect’s overall experience by making communication more relevant to them.

Respect boundaries. Build rapport with apartment seekers via nurture outreach that respects their opt-in preferences, and further, actually leverages their preferred channel by reaching out at the times and channels that get the most engagement from them.

Timing is everything. Messages should be at a cadence that will move them along their renter’s journey and be relevant to who they are, what they’re looking for, and the stage of their buying journey. For example, if you know their preferred move-in window, you can pace out your communications across that time to ensure your community stays top of mind across their entire renter’s journey, regardless of length. Or you can have triggered emails that follow up when they take an action on the website.

Be modern. Today’s consumers have come to expect automated communications. In fact, a recent study by McKinsey & Company surveyed over 1,000 consumers about their expectations when shopping online. Findings reveal that consumers want brands to “meet me where I am,” characterized as making it easy for them to navigate websites, sending timely nurture communications (trigger-based nurture), and showing up in their frequently visited places (retargeting). Automating nurture with technology takes this repetitive task off the plate of busy onsite teams. Further, technology can more quickly create segments and decide content aligned to preferences and, if it’s expected, it’s a no-brainer.

Lead Conversions

A big part of the multifamily marketing team’s job is to provide qualified tours to the onsite team. The more qualified, the more likely the lead is to actually sign a lease. Doing this properly requires the ability to understand when a lead is ready to speak with the member of the onsite team.

To consistently convert agent-ready leads, your team will need the following capabilities:

Be aware: The ability to track a prospect’s engagement with your community across channels is a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to knowing whether they’re truly interested in your community. A key tenant of inbound marketing strategy is to capture this information in a prospect database.

Be strategic. The ability to track lead source attribution and understand which sources produce the best outcomes for you at the lowest cost needs to be on the top of your inbound marketing strategy to-do list. Being able to fine-tune your lead sources is critical, particularly in times when you need to justify marketing spend. The information cannot be pieced together for the past, you need to have a solution with a system of record for tracking this that doesn’t rely on humans to input the information.

Share the wealth. If you’ve nurtured properly and collected a profile on the consumer, chances are multiple touches have occurred between the prospect and the marketing efforts, and these may go across channels. The ability to provide all this prospect intelligence to the onsite team gives them more context about the preferences of the prospect before they enter the conversation, so they can tailor their “pitch” accordingly. Integrations between your technology systems make this possible.

Vetting Technology Partners, Test-Driving Solutions

While satisfying modern-day renter expectations and aligning with high-performing digital trends for multifamily might seem like a daunting task, it’s not!

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, hire more tech-savvy staff, or sink time into areas where your team lacks expertise. Instead, multifamily has been blessed with a wide landscape of reputable technology partners that can help you in this endeavor.

How do you choose?

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Your chosen technology partner(s) should demonstrate three essential attributes:

  • A track record of helping other multifamily marketers solve the same challenges that are holding you back.
  • Solid support beyond the sale, continuously offering guidance on how to improve your results.
  • Offers pilot periods that give you a chance to actually test out the product and see what kind of results it will give you before signing a lengthy contract.

When it comes to selecting a marketing automation provider, be aware that not all providers and approaches are created equal. Even the category of the solutions varies; there are chatbots, leasing assistants and nurture technologies and lead automation platforms, among other names.

So how do you decide? How do you even know where to start? Here’s the key: What you are trying to achieve using automation is an important starting point to selecting a vendor.

There are many benefits of automation in multifamily, but the most popular ones include automation that:

  • Provides instant answers in real-time, around the clock. This can happen on your website, in email, via SMS, on Google Business profiles and more.
  • Eliminates or supplements lead generation forms.
  • Schedules property tours — even while your leasing agents sleep, go out to lunch, or serve other customers.
  • Engages cold leads and warms them up for leasing agents.
  • Delivers support to less qualified or lower-priority leads so your team can focus on high-potential prospects.
  • Executes consistent follow-up and lead nurture.
  • Captures prospect preferences and behavior insights, learns from every interaction and adapts so messaging is increasingly relevant and personalized.
  • Sends personalized communications.
  • Shortens the sales cycle, accelerates leases and helps to achieve and maintain high occupancy.
  • Answers phone calls and automates responses.
  • Captures prospect data and syncs it with your CRM.
  • Increases the value of connected technologies like your CRM, video or virtual tour content, and internet listings.

Said another way, not all automation does all things. Knowing what it is that you’re looking for can help you narrow the list.

Yes, we’re biased, and we’d love to show you why multifamily marketers seek PERQ to multiply their conversion rates. We’ll gladly explain how your peers are tackling challenges just like the ones you’re facing. These multifamily marketing strategies will strengthen your ability to stand out to prospective renters among a sea of available apartments.

When it comes to digital trends for multifamily and what it takes to drive conversions, the landscape is definitely evolving. Artificial intelligence as an emerging technology is helping multifamily be better marketers, both in the ability to scale inbound engagement activity and also by giving PMCs more actionable data than before.