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9 min readThe Crystal Ball of Data

In the opening scenes of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy runs away from her Kansas home and promptly encounters Professor Marvel, a seedy, itinerant con artist whose tacky traveling wagon advertises him as “Acclaimed by The Crown Heads of Europe,” and offers his services to “Read Your Past, Present, and Future in His Crystal Ball.”

 

Professor Marvel, played marvelously by Frank Morgan, takes one look at the naive girl, glances down at her suitcase and says, “You’re running away!”

 

Having missed his glance, Dorothy asks wondrously, “How did you guess?”

 

The Professor replies, “Now, why are you running away? No, no, don’t tell me!” He looks off pensively, as if conjuring some magical power and then, as if having divined a vision, says conclusively, “They don’t understand you at home!”

 

The wide-eyed girl smiles and says, “Why it’s just like you could read what was inside me!”

 

The Professor then offers Dorothy a crystal ball reading and asks her to close her eyes and concentrate. As she does, the Professor quickly rummages around in her basket. He then proceeds to describe what he pretends to see in the crystal ball, referencing the items in the basket.

 

Clearly, Professor Marvel is a charlatan, but there is a positive lesson to be learned from his trickery. He was able to connect with Dorothy and establish her trust by referencing relevant facts about her.

 

The lesson: apartment property managers can connect with their market by observing their prospects and residents’ behavior.

 

With no sleight of hand or trickery involved, prospect data collected on a multifamily property website can reveal personal insights on what lifestyle factors drive that renter’s decisions and what’s most important to them when choosing an apartment. Leveraging this kind of in-depth online data also helps management teams forecast future market changes and predict which types of renters are most likely to sign a lease at that property.

 

“If companies were to really dig into the online data and use it to the fullest extent—which, from our experience at this point, most properties don’t do or just rely on us to do it for them—the data is actually quite helpful,” says Bob Romine, owner of R.C. Romine & Associates in Chicago, who primarily provides marketing and advertising services to multifamily properties.

 

“If you track the consumer journey, each little piece gives you more information about the customer and where they’re at in their thinking,” Romine says. “Because you have gathered those clues, you’re able to say, ‘OK, here’s when they might move; here’s the kind of apartment they are looking for; here are some of the things in the area they would like to experience as part of their home neighborhood.’”

 

Gaze into your own crystal ball when a prospect comes in for a tour or when you follow up on a promising lead by collecting this kind of detailed information from website visitors as they research apartments online. More lead data grants your leasing team the superhuman power to conjure up the perfect place for the renter to call home and create an instant connection with them.

Which apartment amenities matter most to your renters?

If a property website acts like a glorified online catalog, only collecting a prospect’s name and contact information from those who fill out the guest card, a property management company misses out on a wealth of lead data opportunities. Consider it the kryptonite to your website’s potential to be your no. 1 leasing tool and to capture more quality online leads.

 

Advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and AI-driven marketing clouds make it possible for multifamily property companies to add interactive experiences on an existing property website. The AI technology collects a consumer’s personal information as they engage with the online tools and shopping resources customized to showcase that property, while also helping to guide consumers along in the leasing process.

 

“Our website analytics and online experiences provide us with that data to help us understand trends of what’s important to our renters,” says Jenny Richard, Director of Marketing at Gene B. Glick Company, a multifamily rental property company in 13 states. “We believe our customers choose their home based on their lifestyle desires. Capturing this information allows our leasing team to receive information about what’s important to each prospective renter, which allows them to build relationships.”

 

Glick property managers can easily see what lifestyle factors a renter prioritizes when finding an apartment, whether it’s a convenient work commute or social interactions with neighbors, by looking at the answers the prospect provides online. When they engage with the “Explore the Area” experience and various other tools available on the property websites, like the floorplan assessment or pre-qualify application, renters divulge important information about themselves.

 

“The data we receive through the PERQ online experiences allows us to make better decisions about the future,” Richard says. “Collecting what amenities are important from one property to another, where they like to spend time outside the community, understanding our customer’s journey and how far in advance of their move date they are looking at apartments are some examples of what we focus on.”

 

Atlanta-based The Worthing Companies, which manages apartment communities throughout Georgia, Texas and North Carolina, also uses PERQ’s AI-powered Website Conversion Software to capture more online leads and prospect data. Online leads increased by 813 percent in the first six months of adding the interactive AI experiences to their property websites, delivering their leasing teams with infinitely more information about each prospect than a static guest card form.

 

“We have found that the questions asked during the process helps us tremendously in centering on the prospects’ likes in reference to social activities,” says Trent Jones, Regional Marketing & Training Director at TWC. “This gives us a great opportunity to cross-market with restaurants, shopping, outdoor activities, etc.

 

“We have one property where 60 percent of the prospects clicked restaurants as a top priority, so this gives us the knowledge to do a perks program for discounts with nearby restaurants and even host events at different restaurants for the residents.”

What’s driving a renter’s decisions?

 

To inspire a person to do something, you must first know what motivates that individual. Figuring out what factors are motivating a prospect’s decision to move into a new apartment helps leasing specialists find the best fit for their current situation, speeding along lead conversion and resulting in satisfied renters in the long run. That data also gives property management a way to spot rental trends in the market and target specific types of renters with the right incentives.

 

“It’s helping us learn more about our customers without them even being there,” says Chris Berry, Senior Regional Manager at First Communities Management, also based in Atlanta. Four properties in his regional portfolio utilize PERQ’s website technology. Since adding the AI software, prospects spend on average 200 percent more time on their websites, giving the property a plethora of personal information while engaging with the property’s brand.

 

The consumer journey profiles properties receive for each website lead details every visit a prospect makes to the website, including which computer device they used to log on, where they came from before landing on the website, how long they searched the site, which experiences they engaged with and their responses.

 

“It’s prompting those same questions we would’ve asked on the tour,” Berry says. “Now we’ve got those things ahead of time, so that when they do show up for the tour, we have the opportunity to dig a little deeper. You see what’s important to them.”

 

Richard says the online data helps the Glick management team better understand how prospective renters are making decisions in regard to floor plans and number of bedrooms. Lately, they’ve noticed a shift in the type of people renting two-bedroom apartments as well as an increased demand for smaller spaces.

 

“As rental rates continue going up and the need for apartments continues to grow, the demand for two bedrooms remain on the rise. We know this is occurring because prospective renters continue to ‘double-up’ and find a roommate to afford the rent,” Richard says. “Studios and micro-units continue to rise in popularity, especially amongst the Gen. Z and Millennial generations, as a result of keeping monthly rent costs down while ensuring convenience to their job.”

 

Get to know your renter demographic better

 

Berry points out the high degree of turnover experienced at most on-site leasing offices. By receiving prospect profile data in real time, newer leasing team members can quickly learn about the type of renters most commonly interested in that property and eliminate any misconceptions about the target demographic.

 

“As far as that prospect data, I really like looking at it to confirm who we think our demographic is and it’s very useful for training,” Berry says. “You want to be able to show your team that back-end data that you’re gathering on what your residents or prospects are interested in. A lot of times, you walk onto a new property with a lot of three-bedroom apartments and you think it’s families. You find out, no it’s not, they’re roommates.”

 

If a prospect researching a predominantly family-oriented property lists nightlife and breweries as top attractions they like to regularly visit, the leasing team can reach out and let them know about the other apartment community your company manages across the street that better caters to their demographic. The same goes for prospects looking at places close to daycares and children activities who show interest in a property more targeted to young professionals with roommates.

 

“The leasing team needs to know who their prospects are primarily, because it’s only going to help them when giving tours and responding to people,” says Berry, who shares the same frustrating experience as Bob Romine when it comes to properties not using the valuable lead data to its fullest extent. “It’s all about finding a good fit for the renter and getting that edge over the competition. But the data has to be shared with your team and they have to actually use it.”

 

Point prospects down the right path on the metaphorical yellow brick road and show them a property that matches exactly what they’re seeking on their personal quest to find the ideal apartment. As Dorothy says while tapping her ruby red slippers together, “There’s no place like home.”

This article was originally published on MultiHousing Pro.