The option of in-unit laundry left other apartment features out to dry — cleaning up as the most in-demand apartment amenities that renters seek, with 3 out of 4 prospects preferring a unit with a washer and dryer, according to the 2019 PERQ Multifamily Field Guide.
The renter insight report analyzes national and regional data collected from 193,000 consumers on 320 property websites that use AI-driven marketing cloud and web conversion technology to collect valuable prospect data in real time. Read on to see what else the industry data revealed and how apartment communities use those analytics to gain an advantage.
Top 5 Apartment Amenities Renters Seek
Modern appliances and walk-in closets tied for the second-most wanted apartment amenity for the 50,505 prospects who ranked their favorite amenities while researching apartment communities online. Rounding out the list of Top 5 Amenities: Balconies, followed closely by wood flooring. While the top amenities remained roughly the same throughout the country, some regions showed preference to certain amenities over others.
In the Northwest, prospects chose open floor plans and didn’t rank modern appliances. Renters living there are 40 percent more interested in balconies than the national average, and showed the least interest in luxury appliances compared to other regions. Balconies also made the Top 5 in the Southwest with 11 percent of prospects picking it, putting it fourth in that regional list. Midwesterners preferred patios and dishwashers more often than other areas of the country. Dishwashers ranked in the West as a top priority as well.
“We’re definitely seeing the same dynamics as what was found in the PERQ prospect survey,” says Lisa Harris, Regional Manager at Texas-based W3 Luxury Living. “Of course, prospects have to find a place that fits into their budget, but we’ve found they are looking for good locations and spaces that are a reflection of who they are and they want the social aspect of what that brings.”
Additional Perks Include Parking, Pet Amenities and Internet Access
The number of people using online streaming services to binge watch the latest TV series or tune in to cheer on their favorite sports team continues to rapidly rise, so it’s not too surprising fewer renters require cable access. Sixty-six percent said they do not need cable service, yet 88 percent do want internet as part of the apartment amenities package.
As any property manager knows, bad parking situations can invite ruthless online reviews and resident dissatisfaction, with paying renters battling visitors for preferred spots in overcrowded parking lots. When given an option, a quarter of prospects surveyed nationwide preferred covered parking or a garage and 34 percent would like an additional parking space.
Pets also placed high on the list of prospects’ priorities with 33 percent indicating they own at least one. Twice as many pet owners have a dog versus other types of animals. To serve those furry family members, many properties offer amenities like dog-wash stations, conveniently placed poop bag disposal, and even doggie spas.
At W3 Luxury Living properties, where the majority of residents own a pet, the on-site staff hosts special pet socials such as Yappy Hour and adoption events to entice new animal lovers to live there. They stock dog treats in all of the offices and regularly hire photographers to come take pictures of residents with their four-legged roommates.
“I’d estimate up to 65 percent of our residents have pets,” Harris says. “Dog parks/runs and spaws are really standard for W3.”
Use Amenity Data to Improve Lead Follow-Up
More than 80 percent of renters begin their apartment search online. Give them what they want and make it as convenient as possible to do research and gather information about the apartment community without having to contact someone in a leasing office. As they’re researching your property online, utilize technology to capture as much data as possible on the prospect so you can personalize the process and provide superior customer service — both online and in person.
Lead data empowers leasing specialists to connect with prospects on a personal level and helps them stand out during the lead follow-up process by highlighting their preferred amenities in the pitch. Be sure your leasing staff points out a prospect’s favorite amenities and focuses on popular community features when giving a tour.
Take Full Advantage of Prospect Data
In addition to learning about the individual needs of prospects, collecting online consumer data on a property website also helps a multifamily company improve its digital marketing success and attract ideal renters looking online to find the few communities they’ll actually visit in person.
Mission Rock Residential, a Denver-based multifamily property company managing 107 apartment communities across the country, uses the prospect data collected online to increase effectiveness of digital advertising campaigns and boost search engine optimization (SEO).
According to Vice President of Marketing Marcella Eppsteiner, that data-based approach is critical in highly competitive markets like the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where the cost of Google PPC and social ads is getting more expensive as the competition and population numbers continue to increase. She says in markets where her assets utilize AI website software to collect prospect data, the properties enjoy a lower cost per lease because of the detailed consumer journeys they receive on each website visitor who engages with the content.
“We can gather some psychographic information from the engagement pieces on our website, and then use that dynamically on a monthly basis,” Eppsteiner says. “We evaluate those insights and then tweak and optimize our SEO strategy, and maybe even change the content within different advertising sources.”
Eppsteiner explains other ways they use the amenity data to get a property noticed. If prospects in a certain market prioritize upgraded amenities over another location, the company rearranges the website photo gallery and adjusts social media accounts to highlight the stainless steel appliances and granite countertops before other community amenity photos.
Don’t Miss the Mark When Promoting Your Property Amenities
Ultimately, your leasing consultants may be missing the point if they only promote an apartment community’s luxury, high-end features to a prospect who prioritizes budget and simplicity over pretty things. Consider this: 48 percent of prospects across the U.S. described their ideal apartment as “comfortable, yet economic,” while 35 percent chose the words “simple and budget friendly.” Only 17 percent of those surveyed by PERQ picked luxury features as their priority.
Chris Berry, Senior Regional Manager at First Communities, tells this warning tale to illustrate how off the mark some leasing agents can land when they ignore the consumer data at their disposal. Responsible for the Southeast region of the Atlanta-based multifamily company’s portfolio, Berry once visited a competitor’s property and pretended to be an interested prospect wanting a tour. He says he was mortified when the agent continuously suggested he give away his beloved dog because he was such a great match for the property — aside from the no-pet policy.
“She said it four different times during the tour, too. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’” Berry says. “Be helpful, and pay attention. The data we gather on our website helps us be more personable and tailor our responses in email or on the phone. Don’t just send a cookie-cutter response telling the prospect something they already know. They’ve already been to our website.”
Ironically, those working in the multifamily property industry rely heavily on blogs written by marketing and leasing experts to spot new trends, learn about technology, and discover new ways to increase tours and leases. Those apartment marketing experts recognize blogging as a powerful, cost-effective digital marketing tool to reach their target audience and build authority.
You read multifamily industry blogs because they’re helpful, and you likely only read content by industry influencers who show up on Page 1 of your search engine results. Why not post a regular blog on your apartment website, so you can provide similarly helpful guidance to prospects and residents, improve your search engine ranking and increase organic traffic?
“There are several benefits to this,” says Corey Egan, Co-Founder and Director of Business Development at LeasingKC, which posts bimonthly blogs on its website and promotes the content through social media. “Creating and engaging with an audience is an important function of blogging for a multifamily community.
“Keeping this audience engaged with fresh, creative content will reinforce your brand,” Egan says. “Also, this becomes important when trying to boost the SEO of your property website.”
Blogs Boost SEO
Blogging provides properties an excellent opportunity to improve SEO, or search engine optimization, meaning it helps property websites rank higher in search engine results. Businesses with blogs have 55% more monthly online visitors than businesses that don’t. Blogs are a fantastic way to work in popular keywords prospects use when doing a search online.
As an added bonus, Google and other search engines reward regularly updated websites by ranking them higher in search results. Frequent blog posting indicates your website remains current and continuously improved.
“I think, first and foremost, the SEO benefit of blogging is huge,” says Michael Norris, Chief Marketing Officer at Youtech, a digital agency that specializes in multifamily marketing but also works with clients from a variety of industries.
Blog about topics that target high-ranking keywords in your market and include those keywords throughout the blog, particularly in the headline, subheads, and first few sentences. On the internal side of your website publishing software, enter keywords in the photo alt text field and in the metadata. The metadata description is what shows up under the URL in search engine results.
“Blogs offer properties a SEO opportunity. If someone’s looking up a nearby landmark you blogged about, they may come across your property and find a place to rent,” Norris says. “It’s also beneficial to the readers who click on the blog.”
Blogs that Help
Leasing specialists are helpful people by nature, and are constantly on the lookout for new ways to assist prospects in their apartment search as well as help current residents navigate the community’s services, amenities and surrounding neighborhood.
Approach blog planning as a way to offer assistance to prospects and residents, not just a method for increasing company profit. If you’re simply trying to be helpful, prospects will remember you when they’re ready to sign a lease. Residents will also feel more brand loyalty and likely stay living there longer.
“It just goes hand-in-hand with good content marketing, where you want it to be genuine, you want to be authentic, and you want to give people information that’s useful to them,” Norris says. “You don’t want it to just be about search engines and unnaturally stuff blogs with keywords.
“At the end of the day, you want to be helpful to humans,” he says. “Even if you’re not ranking and SEO is something you’re not particularly good at, just being genuinely helpful goes a long way.”
Topics to Cover
Norris suggests writing about popular local places to visit, like a nature preserve or biking trail near the property. Consider promoting neighborhood bars, restaurants and entertainment venues. “Honestly, I think where you’ll see the most benefit is capturing keywords for landmarks and things of that nature near you,” he says. “I don’t anticipate, depending on where you’re located, there’s a ton of competition for all of those keywords.”
You can also write blogs that are recaps of resident events or local community events. This is a great way to really paint a picture for prospects of what it’s like to live at your community. Creating a neighborhood guide that lists the local shops and restaurants with resident reviews and a quick background on the business. You can even do spotlight posts on specific businesses and dedicate the entire post to them. Apartment industry marketing tends to forget that home is a cozy, tight-knit community…even if it’s a short-term home. A lot of these blogs can be repurposed into social media content as well.
To boost SEO, it’s important to embed within blogs both internal links to other pages on your website as well as include one or two external links. If you highlight a local place that also features a blog on their website, ask that establishment to link to your property website if they write a topic that warrants cross-promotion.
“I think it’s important to stay relevant,” says Egan at LeasingKC. “That can either mean according to what’s currently going on in the world, which is seen now, or just the time of year — i.e. Holiday Season, Summertime, Football Season, Festivals, Events, etc.
“Content can be based around those specific events or time of year,” he says. “Then you have other, more basic content that can be focused on your specific industry, such as renter resources and tips.”
If you’re puzzling over how to increase property tours and leases, your apartment website may be the missing piece. Sure, your multifamily team posts dazzling photos and highlights all of the amazing amenities, but does the website invoke any strong emotions or inspire prospects to take action? Or, is the site simply an online brochure that’s static, boring and just like every other multifamily property website in your market?
Multifamily brands that treat the property website as a top leasing tool, like another leasing specialist on staff, collect and convert more online leads to leases. As an on-site leasing agent works to establish good rapport with rental prospects by being helpful, your property management website should also guide website visitors along the leasing journey and build a connection with leads using a personalized approach.
Figure out how to move prospects emotionally and you’ll move them closer to signing a lease. Create these 7 feelings with an innovative apartment website that leverages artificial intelligence to win over online leads and increase leases.
Acknowledge online visitors the moment they land on your community’s website. Welcome them with a personalized message in a pop-up, banner or chat window. Offer to show them around the website with a quick virtual tour or point out some of the helpful tools you offer on the site to get them started.
Lead management is key. Sending each lead an automated email after their initial visit is another way to show prospects you’re happy they visited the property website and invite them back to continue their research. Use AI technology to personalize the marketing automation process, so the follow-up emails or texts include the lead’s name and information hyper-relevant to what they searched for on your property website.
Prospects do a large portion of their apartment searches online and are far along in the sales funnel by the time they actually reach out to speak or interact with an on-site leasing specialist. Give them access to all the research they seek on your website, such as information about nearby neighborhood businesses and public resources that serve the community, without making them pick up the phone or fill in a generic form to request more information.
Online consumers prefer to self-serve, so let them gather information at their own pace. The more educated a prospect feels, the more ready they’ll be to confidently make an informed decision on where they want to live.
While prospects prefer to gather information on their own, they do appreciate it when a website guides them along in the process. Use AI website conversion software to intuitively lead consumers in their leasing journey as they look for their next home.
Direct them to the products in your portfolio that best suit their search, and set up your apartment website so it guides them to the next best step to take in the leasing process based on the data you’ve already collected on them as they clicked around. Did they already look at or save floor plan options they’re interested in on your site? Now offer them a rent calculator to see what the full cost would be with utilities, website service and optional pet fees or garage/storage fees, for example.
Consumers naturally choose to do business with helpful brands when it comes time to make a decision. Right now, with so much uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to make prospects feel like you’re authentically trying to help and are there to assist their search for an apartment in any way possible — without pressuring them to sign a lease.
Use your apartment website to assist prospects with technology, through a chat tool, interactive experiences and a multi-option tour scheduler that allows them to pick if they want a virtual tour or in-person tour, for example. Show them the best floor plans for their needs based on a few online questions.
Serve up relevant incentives and personalized deals to help them out. Consider waiving the leasing fee or giving a free month’s rent to those who book a virtual tour.
By being helpful and guiding prospects, your website builds trust and a connection with online leads before they ever communicate with a leasing specialist. Quick, personalized responses let prospects know they can count on your leasing office.
Set up personalized automated emails to greet each new lead after they visit your apartment website, and ensure on-site staff immediately addresses any questions or requests that come in by text or email. Prospects who value technology also value an instantaneous response that’s personal and relevant.
A property website should cultivate a belief your multifamily company truly cares and offers support in their apartment search. Nurture leads by personalizing content on the website and delivering free experiences to help them narrow their choices of floor plans, explore the neighborhood and calculate estimated monthly bills for that apartment.
By collecting lead data as they interact with the website, multifamily properties can deliver automated emails tailored to the lead’s online behavior and known preferences. Leasing specialists can also use the logged website data to personalize their lead follow-up approach when reaching out to the prospects who indicate they’re ready to rent right now.
“We use the data and analytics available to us to help tailor our approach, and to ensure we can connect in an authentic way with our customers,” says Jenny Richard, Director of Marketing at Gene B. Glick Company.
Above all else, prospects who spend time searching your website, handing over personal information in exchange for a more personal concierge experience, deserve to feel special.
Add a personal touch by sending a customized video to introduce your leasing office and invite their questions to spark a conversation. Send them a video highlighting the exact unit they’re most interested in, showing them around the place with a personalized narrative to make them feel comfortable.
“We’ve had a handful of leasing associates really shine and put their personality to good use in the videos that are now so critical,” says Katrina Greene, Senior Regional Manager at Sheehan Property Management.
Give prospects the VIP treatment online by always addressing them by name, welcoming them back every time they return and showing helpful information catered to their individual search for a new apartment. Assist them in making an appointment by offering an online scheduling calendar, and send pertinent follow-up information to help them prepare for the virtual or in-person tour.
Your apartment website should leave prospects thinking, “That was easy!” and inspire them to take the next step toward signing a lease. Get them excited about the idea of moving to your community, and give them the online technology to make the process effortless.
With the plethora of online platforms and consumer data now available to businesses, you’re likely seeing more leads stream into your CRM than ever before. It’s a delicate balance between building a relationship with each new potential customer and making them feel immediately welcomed, and overloading your sales staff with an unwieldy list of leads.
To separate the window shoppers from the serious buyers, it’s time to define which qualified leads your sales team should pursue first and put in place an automated lead nurturing process to take care of the rest until they’re closer to making a purchase.
How to Qualify Leads
The ability to qualify leads comes down to collecting quality lead data on your website and other online touchpoints. By adding AI-driven experiences to the website, your company can gather intel on where in the sales funnel each lead falls, when they expect to make a decision, and insightful details on exactly what they’re seeking and why.
“Bring in intelligent lead automation to capture more interested consumers on the website,” says Scott Hill, Co-Founder and CEO of PERQ. “When you dramatically increase the leads, you need to start qualifying the true opportunity of those leads. Are they worth your human capital for follow-up?”
If a lead engages with an online assessment or quiz, they’re likely still in the research phase trying to figure out what’s important to them. These marketing qualified leads need more time and information before making a purchase or signing a lease. They’re also not likely ready to speak to a salesperson just yet, so having an associate reach out too soon, may turn the consumer off.
On the other hand, prospective customers who engage with financing tools or pre-qualifying applications, and those who click on banners and buttons to view Special Offers or Request More Info, all show signs they’re ready to buy now. Make sure the most promising leads quickly receive your sales team’s utmost attention and don’t accidentally get overlooked. Assign these sales qualified leads within your CRM directly to a salesperson, so they can inject a human interaction at a critical moment in the consumer journey.
If you’re not screening website visitors already, find a way to ask them when they plan to move or make a purchase, or employ online experiences that leverage AI to gauge where they’re at in the buying process, while also providing prospects with the digital assistance they desire.
“Fit today’s consumer habits into the processes you have,” Hill says. “Introduce bottom-of-the-funnel engagement opportunities to capture consumers’ information and their attention. Once you have the data, you can qualify the leads.”
Use Customer Data to Personalize Automated Marketing, Lead Follow-Up
Your company can utilize online shopping data and consumer insights to not only prioritize leads, but also personalize the lead nurturing process regardless of how you plan to follow up.
An automated lead nurture solution tied to your CRM personalizes messaging and delivers relevant digital content to the consumer related to their interactions on the website. They receive an immediate acknowledgment of their first visit, then scheduled messages to keep your brand top of mind and help the shopper move closer to signing a lease or making a home furnishings purchase.
Time the drip campaigns based on how far along they are on the buying journey, and give incentives to drive them back to the website to engage further with the AI experiences until they’re ready to make their move.
Your digital sales team can also tap into the consumer data organized in your CRM, focusing first on leads flagged by AI technology as “likely to buy” based on historical and real-time data. With knowledge like the products they searched and personal preferences, an assigned team member can confidently approach a shopper more easily.
“Solve the gap from where the consumer is doing online research to where there’s actually in-person engagement that requires a team,” Hill says.
No amount of automated marketing or AI technology will change the fact that customer service must remain at the top of your company’s priority list. If you’re not providing a quality shopping experience from start to finish, it won’t matter how many leads you generate or how much organic traffic you attract to the website. Unsatisfied customers will bust your bottom line over time.
“Customer service is No. 1 for us. Making our customers happy and excited about their purchase is what we are here for,” says Kelly Mullins, who oversees Marketing & Online Sales at Railway Freight Furniture based in Georgia. “And, we want them to come back and shop with us again … and send their friends and family! People want to feel like you truly care about what they need.”
Mullins says delivering that level of customer care starts on the website, where most people begin their shopping. They expect instant yet personal responses when reaching out to a business.
“It’s so important to be engaged digitally, because that’s where most start their buying decisions,” Mullins says. “They will have questions and want to talk to someone, and you have to be ready to help get their business.”
Create a Concierge Website Experience to Service Customers
Helping the customer starts with maximizing your company’s website, often a customer’s initial interaction with your brand, so it’s engaging and delivering information that’s relevant to each individual shopper.
“It’s important that your first touchpoint with the consumer, you’re getting across the information you want to, because that first touch sets the stage for everything else,” says Michael Norris, Chief Marketing Officer at Youtech, a full-service digital marketing and advertising agency with offices in Chicago and Scottsdale, Arizona. “It’s important to have a really good digital footprint, since that’s where people start their search, and then a really good response time after that.”
Make it easy for them to window shop and collect information on your products until they’re ready to visit in person to make a purchase. Create a concierge experience that serves customers with personalized, targeted content and leads shoppers to the next best step in their buying journey, based on where they’re at in the process. Offer appointment scheduling tools so they can book a tour or in-store consultation and receive VIP treatment. Then, be sure to follow up quickly with online leads or have a system in place to automate the initial response so they feel acknowledged.
“In today’s digital world, if customers want/need help or have questions, they want answers now! On their time!” Mullin says. “PERQ has helped us tremendously with this. We already talk to our customers on social media and email, but now we have a way to talk to the customer while they’re browsing on our website. It takes a lot of time and effort, but is a great way to engage with our online customers.”
As they shop around and interact with the website, put in place software to capture data about each online lead, so your sales team can use those personal details to close the deal. Knowing things like what kind of pets they own or their favorite pastimes helps you better understand what they need, and subsequently provide the customer with better service.
Your Customer Service Reps and Digital Sales Teams Drive Your Business
Customer service representatives and those who staff your digital sales teams will likely be the main people who directly interact with consumers before they come in to visit in person. Make sure they’re prepared to adequately answer all questions that come their way and appropriately direct shoppers to the right next person, because those initial interactions often determine how a consumer views your company overall.
“The people who they talk to are ultimately going to be the people who drive your business,” Norris says. “That customer service is so important, because customers now go and leave reviews online based on their experience and what they felt. It’s so important to make them feel good every step of the way, that they have a positive-enough experience they want to go and leave a review. People only leave reviews if they’re really happy or really mad. There’s really no in-between.”
Utilize AI Technology to Improve Your Customer Service
With consumers accustomed to getting an immediate response when online shopping with big brands, technology helps smaller companies meet those expectations and give leads the instant gratification (and the information) they seek.
Once a lead comes in or a consumer submits an inquiry, it’s critical for your sales team to provide an immediate response acknowledging their request and quickly follow up with additional information.
“People are used to very snippy-snappy results nowadays,” Norris says of consumer expectations across the many industries his digital advertising agency serves.
Businesses use technology to not only instantly respond but also personalize the response through automated email or text messaging. By capturing customer data as they engage with a website’s AI-powered experiences, like a chat-to-text Q&A tool or interactive quiz, lead information can be funneled directly into a CRM through a marketing cloud.
From there, schedule personalized email or text nurture campaigns to continuously nurture the lead that shows you care about their search for the perfect purchase. Cater to their needs based on what they look at on your website and the data they hand over as they shop around. Provide helpful content, offer a scheduled meeting with an expert on your staff or include an incentive to get them to take action — and to buy from you when they are ready.
“Getting all of that information into your CRM and then into an automation system is important, because that will allow you to follow up in both an efficient way for you and in an effective, personalized way for the potential client,” Norris says.
Meet Customers Where They Shop
Consumers now have more ways than ever to communicate with companies they do business with, from online chat and messenger apps to emails and text messages. To provide top-notch service, you must communicate in the customer’s preferred format.
“People are going to have issues that extend beyond just an FAQ page or what your website can answer,” Norris says. “Having different channels of communication are important. If a customer wants to email you, they are going to expect their response to that email. Same thing, if a customer reaches out on social media; or if they call, then they want to talk to a real person.”
Norris says consumer expectations remain steady across all of the various industries his digital marketing agency serves: they want quick, helpful customer service when they have questions or encounter a problem.
“I mean, in the end, people are all people,” Norris says. “Generally speaking, people buy the same ways.”