The fastest growing segment in the U.S. renter market, Gen Z renters now lead multifamily market trends — particularly as their habits and priorities differ sharply from earlier generations. How do you sway these modern renters to click, interact, book a tour, and lease a multifamily unit?
Brian Ericson, Senior Vice President of Marketing, and Kira Brown, Senior Marketing Manager at Phoenix-based Wood Residential recently shared the trends they’re seeing and how they’re attracting today’s generation of renters.
Following are some highlights of our discussion, and you can catch the full Sofa Seminar presentation at the bottom of this post.
Instant gratification, just a tap or click away
Gen Z craves instant answers, expecting the same ease, immediacy, and anytime/anywhere access they enjoy from online retailers, media platforms, and AI assistants like Siri or Alexa. Fail to provide that lickety-split experience at fleeting moments when you have their attention and they’ll jump ship to a competing website that can satisfy their need for ease and speed.
“Either a leasing agent or automated tool needs to get back to them really fast, because if we don’t, we’ll lose them,” cautions Kira. “If someone else answers their questions right away and we respond 24-36 hours later, that prospect may very well have made their decision by then, even if they’re not planning to move in for a while.”
“The bar we’re being held to isn’t just the competitors down the street. It’s the Amazons of the world,” Brian adds.
Longer, self-led searches
Based on their data, Brian and Kira note younger renters are beginning their search months in advance. The tendency is for prospects to do heavy research as “stealth shoppers,” then narrow top choices before they’re comfortable interacting with a leasing agent.
That’s also true for folks moving to new markets, says Kira. Out-of-towners might come check the neighborhood and location, then return home to complete their leasing decision online. When they’re ready to talk, decisions tend to be quick, leaving agents with a short window to respond.
Altogether, those behaviors require multifamily marketers to ensure the right technologies are in place to empower prospects in their research, and deliver lightning-fast support when prospects are ready to engage.
Automations as experience enhancers and staff relief
Aside from delivering the anytime/anywhere support Gen Z renters crave, automations also free up staff time to focus on what they do best and what delivers the greatest impact, such as hosting a high-intent prospect tour versus answering the same question about pet policy 30 times a week, for example.
Using the PERQ AI leasing agent on their websites, Wood Residential’s chatbot (aptly called “Woody”) has answered 1,800 prospect questions in just three months. “That’s 1,800 straightforward questions that prospects got real-time answers to. They didn’t have to pick up the phone or send an email,” says Brian.
Staff, in turn, gets more time and headspace to devote to higher-impact activities and things they actually enjoy like getting creative, building relationships, and refining strategies. “Automation can make our jobs more interesting and compelling because we’re freeing our teams to focus on what’s hopefully the fun stuff,” shares Brian. “We’re taking a lot of the boring routine stuff like sending copy-paste emails on basic inquiries.”
Optimizing cross-channel experiences
Optimizing user experiences on website and mobile, using data to fine-tune what’s working (or isn’t), and leveraging captured data to personalize interactions are some of the ways Wood Residential is evolving their marketing efforts.
PERQ’s co-founders Andy Medley and Scott Hill didn’t have backgrounds in tech or in multifamily when they decided to create their first company in 2001. In 20 years, Andy and Scott have seen so much growth and have entered new markets that they didn’t originally plan to go into. Andy sat down with Rachel Smith at Elevate Ventures and reflected on PERQ’s development and talked about how he has helped create an award winning company culture.
Email fatigue. We have all experienced this once or twice in our lives. The state of being so burnt out on receiving emails that we simply ignore, delete or send unwanted emails to the spam folder. Since going digital back in early March, email fatigue is a problem that most consumers seem to be facing at an alarmingly high rate. From retail to newsletters we unknowingly subscribed to when we checked off a box on website to just general spam, inboxes everywhere are cluttered more than ever.
This requires businesses to have to be creative in how they reach their audiences. Sometimes an email, which might have been used in the past, simply won’t cut it these days. So how do you standout in a sea of people vying for the same person’s attention?
Know your audience
It is easy to get stuck in a rut when prospecting via email. Knowing your audience and how to respond to emails is an easy way to begin seeing traction with your outreach. In a recent lunch and learn, Liv Gabrielsen, Director of Marketing for Bainbridge said that the biggest downfall with email marketing is we have become so accustomed to automation. Liv says “We treat leads as a lead and fail to recognize where they are in their buying journey.” Liv goes on to explain that a lead with a 30 day close time versus a lead with a 120 day close time should be communicated with differently and not receive the same response.
The age of renters may not have changed but the generations have. The oldest of Gen Z have entered the age of renting and adulthood. This generation expects automation and instant gratification that comes from AI technology. They also are experts at using social media, specifically Instagram and TikTok, to look up their next purchases and financial commitments. Later in this article we’ll get into Instagram for apartment communities and some apartment social media post ideas.
Pick up the phone and call the prospect!
Another great way to stand out from the crowd is by simply not sending an email at all. Instead, pick up the phone and call your prospect. Especially now, everyone is so used to staring at their screens all day. Talking with someone over the phone and allowing them to put a voice to the name can be a great change of pace. However, having a Caller ID would be a good idea. We live in an era of flooded inboxes and also an era of relentless spam calls. Having a Caller ID set up will help get more prospects to answer the phone instead of decline the call. They’ll know it’s from you and not some spam robot.
Lean into other forms of media
Lastly, when email isn’t working, check out other forms of media to get in front of your contacts. Exploring new avenues such as social media marketing for apartments is an easy way to connect with prospects and current renters. When you are trying to engage your communities, some apartment social media ideas. you can do are using things like interactive social features including: instagram polls, swipe ups on social media, hashtags to engage audience, TikTok videos and contests! For prospective renters, make the tone of your emails and outreach more conversational. The less you are trying to “sell” to them and the more “human” your interactions seem, the higher the engagement there will be.
When it comes to Instagram and TikTok, short form videos have really taken off. You can do tours of floor plans, how to put in a maintenance request, move-in tips, and decorating tips that are renter friendly. Apartment videos on these platforms have billions of views. Putting your property in those categories is great for visibility and subtly promoting your property to the new generation of renters.
We also have a few blog posts that cover outreach marketing ideas for apartments that explore more ways social media, email marketing, and local businesses can all intersect for prospecting and resident giveaway ideas.
PERQ EVP of Marketing, Muhammad Yasin, played host to another insightful lunch and learn which explored the challenges multifamily properties faced while trying to market to shifting consumer behavior during the pandemic. Guests Liv Gabrielsen, Director of Marketing for Bainbridge, and Scott Papenfus, Director of Strategic Partnerships for LCP360, chatted about the creative ways they’ve adapted efforts and the true impact of the pandemic with an in-depth conversation on:
When asked about big shifts in general as a result of the pandemic, Liv began by acknowledging what most businesses experienced, consumers embracing the digital experience.
“For multifamily, what it did is forced our industry to embrace all things digital as we saw stay-at-home orders. The COVID pandemic made us shift what we’re doing to ensure we can meet consumer demands in a 100% digital environment.”
She added that the industry knew they would need to embrace consumers’ digital demands eventually. The pandemic just accelerated the process.
“We’ve known this for years; it’s been moving in this direction,” Liv says. “For me, it was still a little bit of a shock of sorts — how fast we had to lean into some of the things or behaviors we were already thinking about, then suddenly over the course of a couple of weeks went from ‘Yeah, we’re going that way’ to ‘Now this is it.’”
Scott shared that, from a technology company’s perspective, they saw a huge increase in the number of virtual tours.
“You can literally look at a graph and just see this huge spike in virtual tours when the pandemic hit,” he says. “One of the key things we’re seeing is more and more people on-site are using our guided virtual tour or mirrored virtual tour.”
He explains consumers are not touring alone, instead doing so virtually with a leasing agent on-site who shares their knowledge and expertise about the property while customizing the tour for the prospect.
“I’ve really seen an uptick in interest is people wanting to perform kind of a hybrid — it’s a virtual tour, but it’s actually led by somebody on-site,” says Scott.
“For multifamily, we want that face-to-face interaction because our communities are more than just four walls,” Liv says. “It’s the community, the environment and the lifestyle. So, how do we communicate that in a digital way when we are removing these on-site visits? That was the challenge — we knew we had to provide a full picture of what it’s like to live in a Bainbridge community.”
Watch the full video to learn more about what Liv and Scott implemented to better serve and market to their customers during the pandemic.
In this final episode of season two of The Bridge, we will take a trip down memory lane and pull the most important takeaways of each episode to help you take the next steps in your selling journey.
This season has been nothing short of unexpected twists and turns as we figured out how to weather the pandemic. What started off as in-person recordings, quickly pivoted to Skype calls for the majority of our guests. What a blessing in disguise that was as we were able to meet and connect with so many amazing people. Thank you for sticking with us!
It was our goal this season to focus on sales and connect you with individuals who could provide insight on how to connect with shoppers online and transition the conversation and ultimately the sale, at an onsite physical location. We learned how to enhance the buying experience and with all of the world changes, pivot to a more virtual consultation and tour setting.
We hope you enjoyed listening to season two and we can’t wait to bring you more laughs, conversations, and insight in season 3. Happy podcasting!