Multifamily Quarterly Analysis: Renter Journey Patterns and Paths to Conversion

Prospect Engagement across a lengthening renter's journey graphic

Every quarter, PERQ analyzes tens of thousands of multifamily website sessions and prospect interactions to identify industry benchmarks and trends. Until now, multifamily marketing performance metrics have been incredibly hard to pinpoint, and PERQ’s Multifamily Quarterly Report (MQ for short) is designed to fill that gap. The quarterly cadence is also important if we are to keep up with changing consumer behaviors.

Our goal is to equip you with evidence to make confident marketing decisions, validate your recommendations to your leaders and clients, and magnify your return on spend.

Unveiling Q2/2022 data insights

This September, we’re releasing the second installment of the MQ Report, revealing findings of our Q2/2022 data study. The report, titled Prospect Engagement Across a Lengthening Renter’s Journey, reveals common patterns in a typical renter journey and the impact of various marketing tactics on lead capture, engagement, and conversions.

To kick things off, Maribeth Ross, PERQ’s EVP of Marketing, presented a few highlights of that analysis in a webinar. We’ve captured a few takeaways in this post – just a sampling of what you’ll find in the report, linked below.

The renter’s journey is getting longer

Today’s renter’s journey is quite long, more expedition than excursion. Those prospects we used to call “Lookie Lous” are now your standard rental prospect: slow-moving, thoughtful, inquisitive.

From the time a rental prospect becomes known to the PMC to the time they sign a lease, we’re looking at an average of 46 days, with the longest journey in our data set stretching to 194 days. About seven in ten rental prospects in our study indicated their planned move-in window was a month or more in the future. A third said their move was three or more months away, and a quarter were ready now or in the near future.

Longer journeys entail more touchpoints and opportunities to engage (or lose) prospects

Along their journey, prospects have plenty of ways to get to their destination. “There are also tons of places where the renter can fall out of the journey,” Maribeth notes.

During their search, 43% of prospects visited a property website multiple times, and engaged visitors converted to known contacts at a rate of about 20% by interacting with the website in a way that compelled them to offer their contact information.

Visitors to multifamily property websites are largely mobile: 64% of first-time visitors accessed websites via their smartphone and nearly all remaining visits happened on desktop. Interestingly, lead-to-tour conversions rose by more than 74% when visitors accessed the website multiple times using multiple devices.

“Prospects are taking more time to be thoughtful and seek out information at their own pace. Your property website and marketing touches need to be built to keep these people engaged and active over an extended period of time and on different devices,” Maribeth notes.

Turning visitors into renters

Allow us to stress the impact of your website on the renter’s journey: Our data made it clear that website leads outpaced the conversion of paid leads by more than double. That’s a staggering difference in lead quality.

So how do you get visitors to return, again and again, and progress toward conversion?

>> Delivering interactive experiences

For starters, interactive experiences beat static content, nearly tripling engagement. “When we say interactive experiences, we mean things like an interactive floor plan match widget, a virtual tour, some kind of community explorer or chatbot,” Maribeth shares.

Nurture emails and texts with personalized calls to action that tied back to interactive experiences on the website also played a key role in conversions. “Of all the tours that were scheduled over Q2 in this data set, 40% of them were people who engaged with personalized nurture outreach,” says Maribeth, stressing the content they received was customized to each recipient. “It wasn’t like an email blast. It was personalized,” she adds.

>> Building rapport and driving interest with personalization

Personalization is huge — not just according to PERQ’s MQ analysis, but also to mounting data from leading research firms like Gartner, McKinsey, and more. Put simply, consumer expectations for online brand experiences have escalated sharply since the onset of the pandemic.

McKinsey’s research shows 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and they get frustrated when that doesn’t happen. If consumers don’t like the experience they receive, it’s easier than every to just go somewhere else,” Maribeth explains. McKinsey also reports that high-growth companies attribute 40% or more of their revenue to personalization efforts.

“If you know a prospect’s preferred amenities or floor plans, for example, there’s a lot you can tailor to those interests in your communications, whether it’s an email outreach, SME nurture, and even face-to-face conversation,” says Maribeth.

Message timing is another opportunity to reflect prospect preferences. People who’ve self-reported a longer move-in time frame might need messages that are spaced out further over time than someone who’s looking to move more quickly. Channel preferences — email over SMS, for example — also offer opportunities to cater to individual prospects.

>> Satisfying the itch for instant gratification

As consumers, we’ve come to expect instant answers, often calling on Siri, Alexa or Google to navigate our daily lives and satisfy impulse questions. Multifamily property websites can provide the same satisfaction.

“The ability to converse with prospects in the middle of their journey had a lot of impact on our conversion data,” notes Maribeth. “Prospects that engaged in chat conversations or asked questions of a property website via automated chat interactions (whether on website, email or SMS) converted to a tour at a 36% rate, compared to a 16% rate without those automated conversations.

“What really stood out to me is that prospects weren’t necessarily engaging with the chatbot on their first website visit, but they were also conversing with it in other channels well into their journey, prompted by a marketing nurture touch,” Maribeth explains.

One key takeaway, she adds, is that personalized nurture plus the ability to chat across channels is a powerful combination.

Mythbusting: How many touches does it take to convert a prospect?

Old industry lore says if prospects don’t respond to three touches, don’t bother trying any further. We beg to differ: Our data shows 32% of booked tours came from prospects who had three or more nurture touches, and more than 8% of tours were scheduled after six or more personalized touches.

“The data proves that personalized nurture outreach drives substantially better leasing outcomes and needs to be sustained longer than a couple of touches. It needs to be dynamic and adjust to today’s apartment shoppers. Failure to properly nurture these leads for the length of their renter’s journey is leaving proverbial money on the table,” Maribeth advises.

A deeper look into personalization

As we looked at multifamily communities in our Q2 data set, we saw they collected quite a bit of information for each prospect: 12 data points on average. They used information to personalize their renter’s journey. Personalized data fell across these broad categories:

  • Basic contact info (e.g., name, email, phone number)
  • Detailed first-party data (self-reported preferences like move-in window, preferred bedroom or bathroom cuts, desired amenities, budget, etc.)
  • Metadata (data captured and stored in your technology systems like website visits, traffic sources, devices used, duration of session, etc.)

Below are examples of simple personalization:

  • First Name: Use their name in nurture outreach
  • Move-in window: Use to create urgency in copy of nurture outreach
  • Pet preference: Use to send them info about how your community supports pets
  • Preferred floor plan: Use to send them a reminder about a floor plan they loved
  • Website activity: Use to determine the next best step for them to take on your website to move along the renter’s journey

Granted, before you can personalize communications, you must be able to collect and deploy it with ease. To benefit prospects and marketers alike, your prospect data needs to be easily queried so you can send the right message to the right people at the right time.

Diving deeper into actionable insights

We’ve covered a lot of ground so far, and there’s plenty more to explore. We invite you to catch the full webinar presentation and download your copy of the MQ report to deepen your understanding of elements that can supercharge your marketing outcomes.

Watch the presentation below!

Grab your copy of the latest Multifamily Quarterly Report, Prospect Engagement Across a Lengthening Renter’s Journey, today!