The Bainbridge Companies needed a better way to understand their prospective renters online to influence more leases. Their website acted more like an online brochure and their leasing specialists were doing a lot of manual work to follow up with prospects to get to know them on a personal level so the prospect would book a tour.
“As marketers, we’re often trying to predict what the customer wants,” says Heidi Jehlicka, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Employee Development at Bainbridge. Jehlicka chose an urban Tampa community Ybor City and 930 Central Flats in St. Petersburg, Florida, to test website conversion software powered by artificial intelligence during the slow leasing months of December and January. Her hopes: increase the number of leads and information about those prospects.
“We’ve got a lot more intelligence on these two properties now,” Jehlicka says. In addition to the significant increase in online leads generated from the automated marketing solution, the company gains valuable insights into what prospects desire most in each market. “That’s critical information. Now we know what’s important and where to focus.”
Bainbridge made online interaction with prospects more conversational and easier to navigate. The website automatically serves up options to the visitor based on what they say they’re looking for in an apartment. Jehlicka says it makes the decision for prospects to rent with Bainbridge less complicated and therefore quicker.
It’s an experience where the end user feels like they’re having a conversation with us.
Heidi Jehlicka, Bainbridge Senior Vice President of Marketing and Employee Development
“If I’m shopping for a pair of black high heels and tell the salesperson I want a half-inch heel in this size and style, and they hand me the exact pair of shoes I’m looking for, why would I keep searching?” Jehlicka explains. “I’m getting everything I wanted. It’s the same for the renter who gives us all of the details on what’s important to them in a home.”
The interactive assessments and tools on the property websites, such as Floor Plan Match, Rent Calculator and Community Fit, gather great insight into what renters want, making it easier for leasing agents to follow up with prospects.
“It’s an experience that really engages the customer,” Jehlicka says. “The built-in technology gives them options, so they’re not just looking at a website. It’s an experience where the end user feels like they’re having a conversation with us.”
Jehlicka says turning their website into a more engaging experience for visitors has influenced a great percentage of their leases at both properties. “I mean, who tests in this industry during winter? What we saw was fantastic,” Jehlicka says.
Watch: How the Marketing Cloud Helps You Better Understand Your Rental Prospects.
By tracking prospects across multiple sessions and devices, gathering 5x more lead data than average websites, Bainbridge can use the information to make better, more efficient marketing decisions. “We’ve got a lot more intelligence on these two properties,” Jehlicka says. “We’ll continue to add communities, so we can be better.”
She says reviewing the in-depth analytics made her realize the lack of data and transparency they were relying on previously. “We’re going to explore some major Google Analytics training. [Before] we were just trusting our pay-to-click vendors and not getting enough data in return. Now we can have higher-level conversations and make better decisions.”
At Bainbridge Ybor City, they went from a benchmark of 10 leads per month to an average 92 per month. Their cost per lead conversion totaled $4.45 and cost per lease conversion totaled $249.70. That’s significantly lower than the industry norm for lead generation costs.
Bainbridge was able to increase leads at 930 Central Flats from a benchmark of 40 website leads per month to an average of 231 website leads per month in just 5 months. Cost per lead conversion for the property equaled $1.85 and cost per lease conversion was $49.79.
“Our costs per lease using PERQ are far better than any other solution we’re currently using,” Jehlicka says. Not only did their costs to acquire go down, she says they were able to free up valuable time on their leasing agents’ calendars. “We can use that time to focus on a lot of other things instead of manually nurturing and chasing leads, like taking care of the customer and giving better tours.” Jehlicka says. “When prospects come to us after visiting the website, they now know exactly what they’re looking for, which increases our likelihood of leasing.”