Good digital advertising brings customers exploring their next furniture, appliance or mattress purchase on your website or into your physical showroom. That’s the goal. Connect consumers to your products and let your sales team do the rest.
Today’s digital advertising options may seem overwhelming. The results of traditional advertising — broadcast, print, direct mail, and outdoor — provide limited insight into effectiveness and don’t permit brand interaction. Digital advertising delivers specific details on prospects and their behaviors, valuable data to influence how you adjust your message and ads.
Digital advertising’s dynamism requires continual learning as well as ample opportunity. The digital ad spend in the U.S. for the first six months of 2019 totaled $57.9 billion, according to a report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Digital ad spending eclipsed traditional media spending in 2019, and continues to grow exponentially as more avenues and new technologies reach customers.
Even though the digital advertising space will inevitably continue to evolve, avoid these three mistakes so you can start reaping your return on investment.
Analyze. Adjust. Adapt Your Digital Advertising.
Digital Advertising Mistake No. 1, putting your digital advertising on cruise control. Unlike traditional advertising, digital efforts require the advertiser to analyze data, adjust their spend or messaging, and adapt efforts to meet customers’ needs. Sounds like a lot of work? Help yourself through this process and invest in the right technology. The proper metrics from your selected channel plus CRM data provides valuable insight.
“Setting up digital advertising campaigns requires thoughtful consideration, and then frequent monitoring of campaigns once they’re live,” says Ali Mesick, Digital Advertising Manager with Brawn Media. “If your campaigns are not seeing results, try something different. What works for one business may not be what works for another.”
Mesick believes most retailers have some quick wins already available, just by diving into the data. “One of the great things about digital advertising is that you can target very granularly based on demographic, interests, search intent, location, and so much more,” she says. “You probably know your target audience, but there might be a segment you’re not thinking of that’s actually resulting in a great conversion rate.”
Value Your Products and Your Prospects
Digital Advertising Mistake No. 2, not setting values for your products and prospects. Selling a $3,000 sectional requires a different amount of effort than selling a $30 table lamp. Allocate the amount of money and effort you put into your digital advertising to reflect the type of product and desired prospect.
“Think about what products are important to you and most valuable to your business, and make sure you’re putting ample advertising budget behind those products,” Mesick says. “The amount of money you need to allocate to lower price-point items to be successful will not be the same as it is for higher price-point items.”
Acquire data on every consumer interacting with your website and track shoppers across multiple channels and devices. Understanding the customer journey and tying leads back to actual sales informs which products and customers result in the best conversions. As a bonus, these insights enable you to personalize not only digital advertising, but also the consumers’ interactions on your website.
Invest in Your Website
Digital Advertising Mistake No. 3, not investing in your website. You put a great deal of effort into merchandising, pricing, and staffing of physical stores. Apply that same mentality, thoughtfulness, and commitment to your virtual showroom. Your physical showroom is just a three-dimensional catalog without your sales team and the overall shopping experience you offer customers who walk through the door.
Apply that same level of consumer engagement and personalization to your website. In return, you’ll gain more information on customers who interact with your brand. A study conducted by Accenture found 83% of consumers will share their data to create a more personalized digital shopping experience.
“You can spend a whole lot of money on digital marketing, but if you’re driving tons of traffic to an incomplete or dated website, then what’s the point?” asks David Weiss, Marketing Manager at Sherman’s in Illinois. “Websites should be treated like another physical store, especially with 90%-plus consumers beginning their shopping journey online.”
Jacob Sizemore, Marketing Manager at Big Sandy Home Furnishings Superstore, agrees home furnishing store websites are too often missed opportunities for connecting with customers through digital advertising.
“It’s a challenge for the normal retailer to have a website that, in reality, is affordable. You don’t have as much flexibility, and we forget how customers actually like to shop,” Sizemore says. “It’s tempting to fall into the quantity of items over quality of the experience.”
Mesick also stresses the importance of a quality, responsive website — even if a furniture store’s end goal is increased foot traffic.
“Websites with up-to-date inventory are crucial for digital advertising, because they allow you to run a number of different dynamic inventory campaigns,” she says. “If you can serve an ad to someone with the exact piece of furniture they were looking at, they’ll be so much more likely to visit your store and convert.”
This article originally appeared on Furniture World.
Even prior to the pandemic, renters were practicing social distancing when searching for their next apartment — only coming to visit the property in person for a tour (if at all) once they gathered as much information as possible on their own online.
Follow how renters search for the perfect place to live to gain valuable insights. Learn how they find your website, track every time they return to continue research, and see which engagements drive them to sign a lease.
Below, we follow the real leasing journeys of three rental prospects on three different property websites. The data, collected by PERQ, identifies each lead who engages with a property website and assigns them a lead number to track their activity across digital platforms, devices and multiple visits.
“Today’s renter has certainly changed. They expect a different process in renting,” says Marcella Eppsteiner, V.P. of Marketing at Mission Rock Residential. “People are window shopping online, and they are doing this for apartments. They are doing their research.”
How Renters Search: Tigard, Oregon, Example
Smartphone Organic Search
Prospect uses a mobile phone to do an organic Google search for available apartments in the area. The consumer selects a multifamily property from the search results, arriving on the property homepage.
New Customer Assesses Apartments & Neighborhood
Completing the “New Customer Welcome” box for a chance to win a free year of rent at the multifamily property, the prospective renter fills in contact information and divulges details like projected move-in date and best time of day to reach them.
They view the online photo gallery, floor plans, amenities, and take a 360-degree virtual tour of the property. The prospect also clicks the “Explore the Area” assessment, answering quick questions about favorite pastimes and their current stage of life, and gets a list of relevant businesses and community offerings located nearby (20+ restaurants within 5 miles!), along with Yelp reviews for those neighborhood establishments.
During that first visit, Lead 10976 spends just over 28 minutes on the property website, views 9 pages and engages with 2 interactive experiences.
Repeat Visits to Online Application, Floor Plans
Prospect returns to the same property website 4 out of the next 5 days. On the third day, the lead launches the “Apply Now” feature on the site and spends 7 minutes reviewing the online lease application.
They return later that night and spend another 79 minutes on the online leasing section, then view the Floor Plans and Available Units pages on the apartment website. From there, the prospective renter sporadically returns to the website over the next month, browsing various floor plans each time.
Moves Into Apartment After 33 Days
Just over one month after their initial visit to the apartment website, the consumer moves into a unit at the property with a $2,470 monthly rent. Later that same day, the renter visits the website once again to browse resident services.
Overall, Lead 10976 engaged with 3 website experiences across 31 days and spent more than 3 hours browsing the apartment website before deciding to become a resident there.
How Renters Search: Washington, D.C., Example
Organic Google Search
Prospect uses a computer to search Google for available apartments in the area and selects the link to an apartment community in Washington, D.C., from the search results. Arrives on the main page of the property website and completes the “New Customer Welcome” engagement to get a personalized online experience.
Takes Several Assessments on Property Website
The consumer tagged as Lead 4792 views the Amenities page before going through the “Floor Plan” assessment, then directly into the “Explore the Area” assessment. They pick their top 3 hobbies or interests from a list of 8 different types of leisure activities, and answer other personal preference questions to learn about what’s available in the surrounding neighborhood.
Researches Site, Virtually Requests a Tour
After browsing several pages, including Floor Plans, Amenities, Our Story, and Gallery, the prospective renter launches the “Schedule a Tour” tool.
They then exit the website, after spending nearly 48 minutes gathering information and narrowing down the apartment unit they want to lease.
Digital Ad Drives Quality Re-Engagement
The next day, Lead 4792 clicks on a Google Paid Display ad retargeting leads and revisits the property website to view floor plans again.
Prospect then fills out their Personal Shopping Profile information, including email and phone number, to prompt a personalized experience on the website.
For their final engagement, the consumer selects the “Apply Now” option in the website hub of interactive tools, which takes them to the online leasing application.
Lead Moves Less Than One Month Later
Prospect moves to the apartment community less than one month after their first visit to the property’s website, signing a lease for a unit priced at $2,399 per month.
The renter spent just over an hour total on the property website, visiting 2 times and completing 4 experiences, before committing to that property as their new home.
How Renters Search: Highlands Ranch, Colorado, Example
Organic Search Leads to Pricing Floor Plans
Prospect lands on the property website after doing an organic Google search. The consumer first views Floor Plan Pricing for the multifamily community.
Schedules a Property Tour
After dismissing multiple website prompts offering assistance, the online shopper completes the “Schedule a Tour” experience to set a property tour date and time with the on-site leasing team.
Special Offer Experience
The prospective renter browses the Gallery page of property photos highlighting amenities and prime features offered at the multifamily community, such as the saltwater pool with mountain views, an on-site dog park and dog-washing station, and the luxurious finishes inside the apartments.
Lead 14027 then reviews the available Floor Plans, before selecting the “Special Offer” experience within the website’s hub of interactive tools.
They type in their current zip code, select which feature ranks most important in a new apartment (Space, Pricing, Amenities or Location), pick the best time of day for the property to reach them, and give their projected rental timeline, along with all of their contact information, in exchange for personalized Move-In Ready Specials.
Prospect leaves the site after browsing for 7 minutes 17 seconds and viewing 9 pages.
Repeat Visits Over 2 Weeks
The online rental prospect returns to the apartment website the next two days, and once again a few days later. Those 3 visits total about 10 minutes of time spent on the website.
They return less than a week later and look at 8 pages on the property website.
Moves In 28 Days After Initial Website Visit
Lead 14027 signs a lease and moves into an apartment unit at the community 28 days after first arriving on the property’s homepage through a Google search.
Through the interactive experiences, the leasing specialist learned this particular prospect wanted to move to a new apartment community within a month and which floor plans they liked.
Prospect selected the “Special Offer” incentives for 3 floor plans, and saved a corner apartment layout to their “My Favorite Floor Plans” accessible within the website hub every time they returned to do additional research.
Overall, the renter completed 3 AI experiences spread out over 7 sessions, and browsed the website for just over 20 minutes total.
Take time to review how renters search for an apartment on your website to make improvements and tie back visitors to tours and leases. Good luck![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]
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Think about the very important people in your life. You care about them and know a great deal about what is meaningful to them. They receive special treatment for a reason. They earned VIP status. Now, consider your customers. They are important people to your business. You care about keeping them happy. Odds are you know a great deal about them, so do they receive special treatment? Are you offering VIP furniture consultations?
Creating exceptional customer experiences can set your business apart from the competition. Ritz Carlton hotels are known for going above and beyond. Management authorizes each employee to spend up to $2,000 per guest per visit to make their stay memorable and personal. A Google search for “Ritz Carlton customer experience” produced over 39 million results. What they are doing works for their business.
In the home furnishings business, arming employees with $2,000 to create an exceptional customer experience isn’t sustainable. Don’t let that keep you from providing a VIP furniture consultation. Begin with defining the criteria for who qualifies as your most important customers and reviewing the sales data. Ensure that this group is indeed worth cultivating and what you offer them will be considered desirable for each customer included.
Create VIP Furniture Consultations With Your Digital Sales Process
Start with what you know about those VIP customers. If they’ve been interacting with your website, gather their useful and insightful information. What are they shopping for, what’s their design style, preferred color, size, brand or desired features? Even better, collect their preferences from the results of an interactive online quiz.
Nudge them to tell you even more and launch the in-store engagement by giving them a way to schedule their VIP appointment while on your website. Without a way to collect this data from your store website, you and your team miss out on gathering crucial customer information and the opportunity to set the business apart by adding value through an in-store design or product consultation.
Ideally, the customer can schedule via your website a VIP appointment from preselected times. Strategically schedule those appointment openings during your sales team’s downtime or the least-busy hours for your store to maximize productivity. If the customer doesn’t schedule online, you still have a meaningful opportunity to reach out to the customer and offer a VIP appointment if you collected their lead data online.
Services You Can Provide the Customer Add Value
Give your customers the feeling they are getting something special and make them excited to visit your store. What can you provide that customer above and beyond what they can do on their own? Without added value, it’s just another visit to a home furnishing store. Strive to help them save time and feel important.
Take the information you’ve gathered through your digital efforts and tailor the experience specific to their situation. Do your homework. Asking questions they have already answered via website interactions may diminish the experience. Remembering their preferences and customizing the appointment to their needs makes for an impactful and effective interaction.
If your customer is looking for a couch in a certain color and size, offer a customized showing of different options. Give them a sneak-peek into recently delivered pieces. Prepare the space ahead of time to resemble the size and shape of the room where their purchase will ultimately be enjoyed. Give your salespeople a head start to think about accessories, lighting and other upsell opportunities.
Prepare ahead and take care of the time-consuming aspects of the transaction. Prepare financing information or get approval from management to adjust the price if required to make the sale. Look at delivery dates and times, and have that information handy to amaze the customer by anticipating their needs.
It’s also important to make them feel special in small yet significant ways. Greet them by name and stun them with your attention to detail by personalizing the entire shopping experience. Offer a special design consultation, drink of choice, a special gift or a chance to win an incentive only open to your VIP consultation customers.
Perfect the Appointment, Then Introduce VIP Furniture Consultations
Make the VIP furniture consultation unique for you, your store, and especially your customers. Once you gain traction and figure out what works, consider taking the next step and create a VIP program. Incentivize your customers and build brand loyalty by offering exclusivity, special offers, discounts and special events. You can also keep customers engaged and motivated by offering a tiered loyalty program. Make whatever you do memorable to create an emotional connection.
According to the 2019 HelloWorld Brand Loyalty Report, the best ways to engage consumers are:
- Surprise offers or gifts for being a customer (61%)
- More convenient shopping process (50%)
- Solving a problem or question (45%)
- Recommending products based on needs (27%)
- Keeping customers up to date on the latest news and products (23%)
- Welcoming customers when they visit (20%)
Creating a VIP furniture consultation and potentially a VIP program takes customer data and some extra work, yet will result in highly engaged and satisfied customers. These customers will continue to give you a return on your investment by providing repeat sales, keeping your retention rate high and providing free marketing through word-of-mouth referrals.
This article originally appeared on Furniture World.
Additional Home Furnishings Resources
Now, more than ever before, it’s critical for your property to create a multifamily team dynamic that fosters good communication, healthy competition and takes full advantage of technology.
Unaware of the impending quarantine and social restrictions about to strike the entire country, Sheehan Property Management held a team training session to emphasize the importance of using the multifamily company’s digital platforms.
They’ve since capitalized on those online tools and property data captured on Sheehan property websites to continue leasing apartments and build a team mentality.
“We feel fortunate we had the technology and partnerships in place to effectively lease without personal contact, but ironically, I conducted a training with our leasing associates in very early March to talk about how we were under-utilizing our video, texting and social platforms,” says Katrina Greene, Senior Regional Manager at Sheehan Property Management.
Greene says it became apparent shortly thereafter that their leasing team’s digital strengths were non-negotiable as properties paused in-person tours during the peak of the pandemic.
“We sent out directives and then watched the magic happen,” she says. “We had a handful of leasing associates really shine and put their personality to good use in the videos that are now so critical.”
Adopt a Virtual Approach to Communication, Create Team Competition
Gene B. Glick Company encourages its teams to consistently use virtual meetings to communicate with residents, prospects and other team members.
“A great way to create a team dynamic in a virtual way is to offer opportunities to stay connected and boost morale,” says Jenny Richard, Director of Marketing at Gene B. Glick Company. “Some effective ways we are staying connected is by offering virtual incentives.”
The Glick property management teams regularly convene online as one big group to highlight each property’s wins logged in the company’s cloud-based CRM system and compare the data.
“We meet every two weeks to share success stories, and offer an incentive for highest usage of virtual sessions,” Richard explains.
Sheehan shares top-performing leasing videos with the other teams within their multifamily portfolio and recently opened their leasing analytics platform to give all agents access to other associates’ leasing phone calls and to view rankings within the company.
“By sharing those videos, we see them challenging each other to be more creative,” Greene says. “And being able to hear other agents execute how we will tour has helped them all create a stronger, more-effective dialogue, not to mention it creates healthy competition as they see where they rank in the metrics we value most (asking their name, offering a tour, getting contact information, etc.).”
Utilize Data to Make Decisions
Both property management companies rely on prospect data captured online through AI-driven website conversion software to prioritize and personalize their lead follow-up tactics.
With the website data automatically organized in a linked CRM database, the properties can see at a glance which prospects require a leasing associate’s immediate attention because they’re ready to rent right away. They can also see other important details the lead divulged while engaging with the website’s interactive technology.
“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,” Richard says.
Leads higher up in the leasing funnel enter the properties’ automated lead nurture system, receiving a series of personalized emails designed to drive them back to the property website for further engagement until they indicate they’re closer to signing a lease. That gives leasing agents more time to chase the most qualified leads first.
Connect with Your Teams on a Personal Level
Greene knows people who work in property management choose that career path because they enjoy serving others and are naturally very social. They thrive on personal connection and the thrill of helping renters find their new home.
“As a company, we’re doing our best to make sure everyone feels part of something bigger,” Greene says. “To keep spirits up, we’ve done some of the usual things like sending lunch to the staff, but we’ve also kept it lighthearted by delivering rolls of toilet paper (with a special poem) to all team members to remind them we’re all in this together.”
Key Multifamily Team Takeaways
- Collect more data about rental prospects on your website.
- Prioritize your leads based on data.
- Use automation to keep rental prospects engaged.
- Have leasing teams focus on following up with qualified leads ready to rent now.
- Leverage data to continue to improve online lead to lease conversions.
- Share the results with all team members to foster competition and improvements.
Additional Multifamily Resources
Consumers want options. The way we shop, do our research online and who we choose to do business with all comes down to each individual person. There’s no difference when it comes to touring your property. Giving consumers options online for how they can tour your property on their own terms is necessary, whether that’s a video, virtual tour, self-guided tour or in-person tour.
While the majority of prospects will start their research online, the next steps they take depends on their comfort level of interacting with your team during this pandemic and how soon they’re ready to rent.
During our recent webinar, we talked to Karen Gladney, co-founder of Power Pro Leasing, about touring options, while focusing more specifically on how to offer better self-guided tours. She visited 100 properties in 100 days and says the results were alarming. “Forty-six precent of the time, I had to wait or was sent away. Just think if I had been offered a self-guided tour experience and how I could have been taken care of in that moment,” Gladney says.
When they started their “Tour Your Way” campaign eight months ago, Gladney says the studies were showing 95% consumers prefer to shop alone while going through a buying decision and 90% want to speak to a human being during that time. “How do you blend those?,” she asks. “You don’t operate in two different silos.”
Better Self-Guided Tours Start with A Plan
Self-guided tours aren’t new. Look at hotels, for example. We’re able to all check in at a desk, grab the key card and find our way to the room without hotel staff walking us there. “Walk through your property and make sure your signage is as strong as it can be to help guide prospects where they should go,” Gladney advises. It seems simple enough, yet so many properties lack the necessary signage.
Look at your current touring situation, too. What type of tours do you offer? How can you improve? As technology and smart locks continue to improve, so are self-guided tours. Gladney says even if you don’t have the budget to incorporate new features, leaving a key on a table and putting a touring plan in place will help you succeed. “You are going to see higher returns if you offer more tour options,” she says. “That’s just a fact.”
Start by sharing on your website the different options of tours you offer. Give people on your website the ability to book the type of tour they want and most importantly follow up with those who tour your property.
For someone who schedules a tour, confirm the tour time and ask them if they have any questions in advance. After the tour, ask them which unit they preferred if they looked at multiple options or ask them what their favorite features were of the property. It’s all about communication. “Follow up matters because you remain relevant and top of mind,” Gladney says.
First and foremost, be yourself when you’re talking to a prospect. “We are all salespeople, but be your authentic self. Some people will buy you and some people won’t,” Gladney says. You just have to try.
Self-Guided Tour Options Here to Stay
Training your team to role play can help each leasing specialist better understand what it feels like to be in the prospects shoes. “Make sure every team member acts like the prospect. Have them go online, go to your online scheduling tool, select the tour and then have another team member deliver the experience.” You’ll find gaps, missing signage, and most importantly how to improve.
As you map out your touring experience, you should also be able to identify gaps in technology you might have. Gladney recommends requesting a demo, not a slideshow, from vendors you’re considering. You’ll be able to see exactly how that technology will help your property.
“The best experiences and collaboration comes out of working with people you enjoy,” she says. “Be careful of vendors who try to be everything to be everyone. Typically, a jack-of-all-trades is a master of none.” Operators have the power to ask how vendors can work together to get the most benefit.
As we move into the future, remember that everyone has a different comfort level and you and your team will need to stay sensitive to that. By offering different touring options, including self-guided tours, you’re letting each prospect choose the best option for themselves. “I believe self-guided tours will stay and properties who keep it will be ahead of the curve against their competition,” Gladney says.
Additional Multifamily Resources