One of the best things to come out of 2020 was having multiple tour scheduling options. From self-guided to virtual to pre-recorded videos, the ways prospects could tour a unit adapted to a less physical and socially distanced world.
With all of these options, in-person tours still rank as the most popular tour option according to PERQ data. How do we go back to in-person tours in a way that is healthy for both prospects and the leasing team? We’ve got 3 tips to help your leasing team meet prospects expectations with health guidelines and quality of the tour.
Know the Guidelines
It is so important to know what your state’s health guidelines are. While they typically aren’t more than 2 people who show up to tour an apartment, there are states that are hit much harder than others when it comes to COVID cases.
Be sure to stand the recommended 6 feet apart from prospects as they walk around the unit. For a smaller unit where this might not be possible, consider leaving the door open during the tour and standing near it.
Masks and Sanitizer
Requiring prospects to wear a mask during the entire time they are at your property and on the tour is a highly effective way of keeping the leasing agent and the prospects safe. Offer hand sanitizer to them when they first show up and offer it again when they leave.
Some prospects might forget to bring their masks with them. Having some disposable masks on hand to give them is a great way to show how your property is taking safety seriously and allows the prospect to still go on the tour and not have to reschedule.
Clean Common Surfaces
After each tour, be sure to clean the surfaces that prospects touched. Most common surfaces are door handles, cabinet knobs and pulls, and appliances. This seems like it can be a lot of extra work but it keeps the touring unit clean and reduces the chances of spread.
This will make it much safer on days where there are a lot of tours stacked up. Give yourself 10 – 15 minutes between tours to disinfect these common surfaces to ensure that everyone is safe. We have a whole list of resources for multifamily communities centered on COVID-19. You can check them out here.
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.
We’re ready to get back to a new normal. States, cities and local counties are taking a phased approach to opening back up and this has impacted how apartment communities will operate now and into the future. Multifamily properties are creating phased apartment reopening strategies; improving communication with their teams and residents, while making sure everyone stays safe; and deciding how they start to begin in-person apartment tours again.
As life changes from week to week (and sometimes day to day), each apartment community has had its own set of unique challenges, but they’re relying on each other for advice.
As part of our recent virtual panel, Reopening for In-Person Tours, we talked to three experts from multifamily property groups — Jamin Harkness, EVP and Partner for The Management Group, LLC; Heidi Jehlicka, Senior VP of Marketing & Employee Development of Bainbridge Companies; and Steve Ostipow, Director of Marketing at Drucker + Falk, LLC — to share how they’re approaching life after lockdown.
The panelists all agree that properties should be treated individually when planning reopening strategies, and teams need to be ready to pivot and be nimble to unique renting situations that may occur. Additionally, apartments should be ready to keep video touring or self-guided touring available since prospective renters are still looking for options to see your property on their own time and schedule.
During the discussion, 40% of property representatives who took our poll said they’re still not sure when they’d be re-opening the leasing office to the public and residents, while 25% said they already had. Rounding out to 10% each: Within the next week, within two weeks, within the next month, and more than a month.
While reopening varies widely, 80% agreed that offering multiple types of tours, whether that’s self guided physical tours, live video tours, virtual 360 tours and pre-recorded tours, will still be options for prospective residents for the inevitable future.
The way multifamily communities connect with residents and prospective renters has changed within just a few short weeks. Virtual property tours have become a new way to lease.
In this special bonus episode of The Bridge Podcast, Muhammad Yasin hosts a panel discussion with video experts and multifamily industry leaders to discuss how the industry has adapted to virtual leasing since lockdown.
Jenna Miller, Senior Director of Marketing at Bozzuto; Margaret Henney, Director of Marketing with Covideo; and Matt Weirich, CEO and co-founder of Realync chat about video best practices and what property management teams can do to pivot to virtual property tours to get more leases.
The panel all agreed that with social distancing, leasing teams are learning to be more creative, throwing out fears and connecting with rental prospects on a personal level. Miller noted that leaning into virtual leasing, such as pre-recorded or live video tours, has helped their properties see the same number of leases they were getting before COVID-19.
Listen in as property management professionals and video experts share authentic ways to connect with prospects on this episode of The Bridge.
The Bridge Season 2 is available wherever you get your podcasts including, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast and Spotify. You can see all of the episodes, on your podcast app of choice,by visiting this link.
With several weeks under their belts, property management teams have had to pivot, using video and virtual leasing to get more tours. To discuss how the industry has adapted and changed, PERQ hosted a panel discussion with Jenna Miller, Senior Director of Marketing at Bozzuto; Margaret Henney, Director of Marketing with Covideo; and Matt Weirich, CEO and co-founder of Realync.
The panel all agreed that with social distancing, leasing teams are learning to be more creative, throwing out fears and connecting with rental prospects on a personal level. While there is still a place for those sexy, polished marketing videos, authentic real-time or pre-recorded videos with leasing teams are the new reality and creating the most connection with renters.
Those authentic virtual tours are even resulting in leases for apartment communities. Miller noted while the first few weeks during the pandemic were slow, their teams at Bozzuto are seeing the same number of leases they were getting before COVID-19 occurred thanks to video.
When polled during the panel discussion, 80 percent of attendees (approximately 100 respondents) say they had NOT used video as a primary tool for apartment tours prior to the pandemic. Out of those same respondents when asked which of the following tour options they leverage today, 83% say they are using live video tours, 91% do pre-recorded videos, 46% are using self-guided tours and 22% are doing in-person tours.
Clearly, the way multifamily communities connect with residents and prospects has changed within just a few weeks. However, panelists agree that by being nimble, creating a virtual tour strategy unique for your team, and keeping it fun, you’ll create a better sense of community within your property and stand out from the crowd.
Panelists Offer Tips on Virtual Apartment Tours
Watch the full webinar chat to get tips on virtual tours.
Virtual Property Tour Resources to Help your Multifamily Teams
In today’s reality, social distancing has become a part of normal business. Brick and mortar stores have closed storefronts or have limited business hours, forcing customers to shop online. How do you make the consumer feel important when you can only interact through a screen?
Providing a personalized, top-class shopping experience should not only happen when the consumer enters through your front door. Building any kind of relationship takes time and effort. Start building that relationship online the moment the consumer visits your website. Utilizing an AI-focused website and personalized lead follow-up approach gives the online consumer an experience similar to what they would receive during an in-store visit. Here’s how your business can create a VIP customer experience.
Personalize your lead follow-up while selling remotely
Utilize data when it comes to personalized lead follow-up. Retailers should be relying on tools on their website, such as assessments and quizzes to collect as much information as possible from their customers. You can learn what style of furniture they like, what room they are looking to furnish, or how soon they are going to buy. You are also able to collect basic information such as name, phone number and email address.
With that information, your sales team is equipped to personalize the outreach. If your customers are looking for a new bedroom set, leverage targeted content through email with a catalog of this year’s hottest bedroom trends. If you’ve already been in contact with them, send a picture through text message of the new set you just got in. This is also an easy way to send incentives or discounts of products to encourage them to buy.
Personalizing the marketing experience for your shoppers is an easy way to make them feel valued and continue to shop your products.
Communicate with the consumer through text messaging
Allowing the consumer an option to ask a question via a chat tool online, which gives your sales team the opportunity to follow-up with that customer immediately by text. From there, they are able to send pictures and videos of products in the showroom that the shopper isn’t able to see. This is an effective tool because unlike a chat box, the message is delivered directly to the customers phone as opposed to a chat bot online.
Text messaging helps build the relationship with the customer before they enter the store. By being intentional and personalizing the message, shoppers will be more inclined to respond and be engaged later when they are ready to buy.
Prioritize video calls over phone calls for the VIP customer experience
When shoppers were able to go in the store, video follow-up and video appointments were nice to have. Now, video appointments are essential and will likely be a preference for shoppers to save time in the future.
Instead of just a simple phone call, video calls bring an extra level of personalization to the conversation. Shoppers are able to see the face of the person they are speaking to much like they would in an in-store visit. Through video calls, you are also able to give tours of the showroom and let the consumer see the product for themselves as you are speaking about it. Tools like Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime and Zoom are all platforms you can use to host video appointments. Follow these tips to ensure you host a successful video appointment.
Using these tips to treat the shopper like a VIP will ensure they choose you over another brand. Making someone feel important goes a long way in building consumer trust. Good luck!