Poplar Ventures L.P. led funding, included additional investors from within the Midwest silicon corridor and tech community; investment will fuel the expansion of PERQ and its Marketing Cloud Technology.
Indianapolis, IND, July 8, 2019 – PERQ, a marketing technology company, today announced it closed a $6 million funding round to grow its artificial intelligence-driven marketing cloud for big-ticket retailers. The funding comes exclusively from Midwest technology leaders and is led by Poplar Ventures L.P. in Louisville, Kentucky.
PERQ’s game-changing, artificial intelligence-powered digital marketing software, is increasing sales and gross profits for over 1,000 businesses in the automotive, multifamily and home furnishings verticals. The award-winning technology, including PERQ’s recently launched Marketing Cloud, helps businesses better engage with consumers, capturing unique user data that is leveraged in personalized marketing campaigns to increase conversion and sales. The solution has driven company growth in excess of 100% annually for the past 3 years.
Poplar Ventures L.P. led the Series A round. Other investors and investment groups joining the round include Elevate Ventures, Allos Ventures, Collina Ventures, 4G Ventures, Great Blue Venture, Jupiter Peak, Tim Kopp and four other local angel investors. The Series A funding round follows a $5.5 million Series Seed round in October 2018, which was led by Elevate Ventures and nine other Indianapolis-based investors, many of whom are represented again in this round.
“The funds raised during our Series A will provide more than ample capital to support the continued growth and development of the PERQ Marketing Cloud and our innovative marketing technology solutions,” says Andy Medley, PERQ CEO and co-founder. “We are excited to have all of these great investors on board.”
“PERQ’s growth and its outstanding customer results, along with the $10B+ addressable market size, drove our decision to invest,” says John Willmoth, Founder and Managing Partner of Poplar Ventures. “Today’s digital shoppers have changed, creating challenges for high ticket retailers. PERQ’s Marketing Cloud is solving those challenges, creating a user-friendly and personalized digital experience that drives quality leads and a significant return on digital marketing spend. It’s a win for both businesses and the consumer.”
PERQ (www.perq.com), a marketing technology company founded in 2001, empowers businesses and the online consumer experience through innovative solutions powered by artificial intelligence. More than 1,000 businesses in the home furnishings, auto retailing and multifamily industries leverage PERQ’s Marketing Cloud and technology to give them more visibility into their digital marketing efforts and sales.
PERQ has been named to the Inc. “500 Fastest Growing Companies in America” list on three separate occasions. In 2019, PERQ won the Stevie Award for Fastest Growing Company of the Year and the 2018 Best in Biz Silver Award for Fastest-Growing Company of the Year. In 2018, PERQ won a Gold Stevie Award for Entrepreneur: Founding Team of the Year in the American Business Awards.
About Poplar Ventures
Poplar Ventures is a venture capital firm based in Louisville, KY, and is focused on investing in early and growth stage, cloud based recurring revenue software technology companies.The firm’s ethos is to invest where they can truly make a contribution. For additional information, visit www.poplarventures.com.
Over 74,000 consumers perform a Google search per second. That’s a lot of opportunities to improve your property management company’s digital marketing and SEO efforts.
As renters use technology to access the vast amount of information available online to help them find an apartment or condo, an expansive amount of valuable data becomes available to your business. Imagine capturing detailed online data for every potential tenant who visits your property website, any time of the day, every day.
“It has significantly opened our eyes to how many current prospects will be reviewing a single community at one time,” says Caleb Bartlett, Digital Sales & Media Manager at Nolan Real Estate, of the website conversion software the multifamily company added to several property websites. “We see about 150 unique visitors to our individual websites each day, and PERQ has changed how we go about managing all of those qualified leads.”
Use Website Data to Improve SEO Strategy Across Channels
Capitalize on your property’s website data to help your leasing specialists better meet a lead’s needs and enhance prospect engagement, while also gaining insight into what renters in your market are specifically searching for and which trending keywords your SEO team should target on your website, in digital ads, social media and content marketing. By constantly tweaking your SEO strategy based on real-time data, you’ll drive more organic traffic to your website, and improve your search page ranking and visibility.
PERQ assigns a unique ID to online visitors in order for clients to take anonymous Google Analytics data and marry it up to lead and PERQ analytics in order to accomplish the cross channel/device tracking but also to see who is signing a lease at the physical property. This goldmine of information helps property management companies connect the dots between a prospect’s online activities to spot common words, phrases and renter trends that your SEO team or third-party vendor can use to maximize website growth and attract more leads.
Your Market, Customers and Ways to Search Continue to Change
SEO is not a one-and-done type of task; it is an ongoing effort. To add to the dynamic nature of search, Google continually updates its algorithm. In 2018, Google reported 3,234 improvements to its search platform.
Optimizing your website requires continual analyzation and modifications. Data collected from customers’ online behavior using artificial intelligence is automatically analyzed and updated to provide properties with a treasure trove of information to influence search engine optimization.
When stored in a marketing cloud, that data can flow between your property’s various technologies and data collection systems to give you a broader picture of each prospect’s journey and your customer base as a whole.
Trying to anticipate how the market, your prospects or search methods will change or evolve is tricky business, but website data provides a view into what’s popular at the moment. When analyzed alongside big sets of industry data, your property can also make predictions on what’s coming next and make automatic adjustments to your digital marketing accounts.
Audit Online Consumers to Make Better SEO Decisions
Ryan Cox, Digital Marketing Manager at J.C. Hart Company, gives this advice to any property looking to improve their digital marketing: “No. 1, even if you have to hire outside to do so, do a comprehensive online customer audit of your residents and potential residents. Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.”
He urges property management companies to examine customers’ purchasing habits, styles, likes and dislikes. “Just because you have a budget, doesn’t mean you’re spending it effectively,” Cox says. “If you’re just throwing money at [digital advertising], and spraying and praying, you’re doing it wrong.”
AI technology continues to change how multifamily properties conduct business, both internally to track leads and analyze data and externally to communicate with rental prospects as well as how to automate lead generation. The successful launch of one technology often presents a whole new set of challenges.
Before rolling out an AI-powered solution to capture more online leads or collect more insightful prospect data, a property management company must first ensure it can properly nurture that influx of leads without burdening an already taxed team of leasing specialists. They’re often the first and only people whose prospects interact with one-on-one when seriously considering an apartment option, so it’s best to use their talents and time wisely. This can’t be done when your CRM is crowded with all sorts of leads, both good and bad.
“Property staff is always busy, and most always behind on something,” says Keir Schutte, owner of KP Consulting Services, which works with multifamily companies to achieve a variety of business goals. “Sadly, as much as everyone complains about occupancy, lead management always seems to need improvement. I think that it’s important to automate anything you can for your properties.”
AI lead generation tools, like PERQ’s platform, automates the lead nurture process on a property’s website by guiding a prospective renter through the online research phase while collecting their lead information as they engage with the website’s interactive tools to learn more about the community. AI for lead generation can then take the nurturing process one step further by utilizing the captured data to automatically communicate with prospects and nurture online leads across multiple channels, such as email and texting.
More Prospect Data Drives More Personalized Approach
An AI-powered lead nurture solution uses a prospect’s own profile data to personalize all digital communication, using their name and remembering them every time they engage with a property, and serving up email and text content that’s customized to their unique preferences and search behavior. A lead nurture campaign can include dozens of different email or text templates and more than 100 different workflow triggers to deliver a truly personalized approach.
AI technology tracks users across platforms to deliver a cohesive consumer experience that makes prospects feel like the property staff already knows them and saves them time as they narrow down where they want to live. They’re never forced to start their search from scratch, and leasing specialists know so much about them before they ever show up for a property tour.
“By using AI, you are making sure the customer is acknowledged immediately, for one,” Schutte says of the benefits of employing an AI-driven lead nurture technology. “In addition, you keep the customer engaged and they’re able to find out more information.”
Target Leads in Different Stages of Renter Journey
The majority of online leads aren’t quite ready to rent, and those leads at the bottom of the prospect funnel who want to sign a lease now can cost the most to target through digital advertising. AI lead generation tools and nurture solutions reduces a multifamily company’s dependency on leasing agents to follow up on every lead when it first comes in.
By collecting detailed lead data on every prospect who interacts on the property website, your leasing staff can easily segment leads and focus energy on the renters ready to rent right now while the AI technology automatically nurtures those prospects who are still months away from moving. It also means leasing specialists can adjust messaging and their approach based on which phase of the renter journey a prospect indicates they’re in.
Build Relationships with Prospects through AI Leads
While it may seem counterintuitive to use technology to build authentic relationships with customers, AI is the piece that makes it possible to enhance a prospect’s experience with your property management team — even before talking to anyone in the leasing office. You’ve given them the information they were seeking online, continued to touch base through technology as they research their options, and your leasing staff knows everything they want in a property when they finally reach out to take a tour or sign a lease.
“It allows us to offer an enhanced experience for the customer and provides us with the data of those interactions to help our teams ensure a better experience,” says Jenny Richard, Director of Marketing at Gene B. Glick Company, one of the largest privately held real estate management and development firms in the U.S. “It aids our teams in moving away from collecting customer information in a ‘checklist’ approach, and instead allows the team members to already have this information and utilize it in a conversational way to make a connection.”
While it’s a common belief in the multifamily industry that property websites don’t directly drive leads, many property management companies have transformed their websites into their No. 1 leasing tool by adding AI technology and marketing automation to the online mix.
“We consider the property website as a primary leasing tool,” says Jenny Richard, Director of Marketing at Gene B. Glick Company, which manages multifamily rental communities in 13 states.
“We know prospective renters are completing their apartment research online and making decisions about where they want to live well in advance of speaking to anyone on the leasing team,” Richard says. “That means we must provide the best online experience and ensure we are offering the most up-to-date information regarding pricing and availability, as well as what’s in and around our community.”
Add AI on Multifamily Website to Capture Online Leads
AI and marketing automation allows your website to guide the prospect automatically through the leasing process, collecting their data as they interact with engaging online tools, quizzes and calculators to help them figure out the best rental community for them. That puts properties that utilize AI light years ahead of their competitors who present cumbersome, boring websites that look more like a static brochure and oddly similar to one another.
Nolan Real Estate implemented AI technology on several of its multifamily property websites because the company considers the website its No. 1 leasing tool. “No question about it,” says Caleb Bartlett, Nolan’s Digital Sales & Media Manager. “We have structured our entire digital strategy for our leads to touch our website as the first point of contact. In short, it is becoming 100% prospect engagement.”
Digital Marketing Cloud Unites Data for Automatic Lead Nurture
Easy to implement on an existing website, AI-driven technology can also be used to power an integrated digital marketing cloud to better leverage the website data and convert more online leads by helping the prospect along and providing leasing offices with in-depth insights into each person’s leasing journey.
Through the cloud, companies can tap into the centralized consumer data to automatically nurture online leads in email and text campaigns, personalized with content and incentives related to their current search.
The content drives the consumer back to the website to schedule a tour or engage with more of the interactive website research tools, such as a quiz to match them with nearby activities they indicate as important, a pre-qualify loan assessment to give them a head start on the leasing process, or a calendar where they can instantly schedule a tour of the property.
Cloud Computing Helps Leasing Consultants Connect with Renters
A marketing cloud gives companies a way to track a prospect throughout the entire renter journey, taking into account all of the various digital and offline touchpoints to deliver detailed consumer information to leasing consultants. That information allows them to make an immediate connection to a prospect when meeting in person for a tour or following up with an email, call or text.
“Finding the connectivity between what they want in a home and the desired lifestyle they are looking for is essential to making a connection and converting to an appointment,” Richard says. “Our website is key in capturing this experience, and providing those experiences in a way that lets our leasing team members receive information about what’s important to each prospective renter, which allows them to build relationships.”
Target Your Ideal Renter Online with AI-Driven Insights
The business data can be analyzed in conjunction with big sets of data stored in the cloud that come from similar stores. Using machine learning, cloud software can use those millions of data points to compute a property’s “ideal prospect” and configure details on the type of person most likely to rent at that property based on the processed data as well as the best ways to target those particular prospects.
Convert Prospects with Convenient Online Experience
Since The Worthing Companies added interactive AI software to a dozen of its property websites, the average time a visitor spends researching on those websites has jumped from 2-3 minutes up to 7-8 minutes. “It’s crazy the traffic that we’re getting off this, and it’s driving people to stay on the website longer,” says Trent Jones, Regional Marketing & Training Director at The Worthing Companies.
Jones says the engaging website leads them through the process, making it such an enjoyable and helpful experience that prospects don’t feel the need to branch out and look elsewhere for a place to live.
“We’re getting tons of leasing off of it,” Jones says. “By the time they talk to a leasing agent, the website has answered all of their questions. When they get here, it’s usually just a tour and then a done deal. Some of them even lease online without coming to tour.”
If technology buzzwords like “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning” make your head spin, you’re not alone. Many store owners either don’t fully understand the capabilities of AI on a home furnishings website or think it’s only useful for big corporations and e-commerce sites. Others aren’t quite ready to trust the idea of machines making business decisions and automating some of the sales process.
AI can maximize every facet of a furniture retailer’s marketing strategy, lead nurturing process and digital advertising budgets. Today’s AI-driven data engines make it simple and affordable to integrate the interactive technology with an existing home furniture store’s website and digital accounts, and deliver analytics reporting to retailers that easily proves return on investment.
AI is no longer the stuff of scary sci-fi tales or only available on a national brand’s website. It’s not intended to replace your store’s sales, customer service and design staff. Rather, AI technology uses data to mirror and enhance those personalized services offered in your home furnishings showroom, increasing your chances at converting more online leads.
Still unsure of how AI really works or struggle to see the practical applications of trending concepts like machine learning? Let us break down the many ways AI can improve your home furnishings website, and your retail business overall.
AI On Home Furnishings Websites
Artificial intelligence collects and analyzes data, then uses that information to customize a consumer’s experience. While at the same time, AI allows for automation. AI taps into the collected data to serve up the best next step in the shopper’s buying journey, as well as automate and personalize everything from email nurturing to digital ads.
Here’s what that looks like on a home furnishings website:
Tracking a consumer through cookies and behavior mapping technology, AI website software collects data on each online shopper and remembers them when they return.
AI personalizes a consumer’s website experience based on gathered data, using smart pathing technology to serve up interactive tools, targeted incentives and recommended products that move them further down the sales funnel.
Each time a website visitor engages with an interactive tool, such as a Sofa Style or Appliance Assessment, the store gathers more valuable information about that consumer.
An AI-driven marketing cloud connects several separate marketing and data systems, so they communicate with each other. It centralizes the data gathered from a store’s online and offline marketing efforts, giving retailers a broader perspective on how each aspect of the business is truly performing and how they interconnect.
All data collected by AI systems gets automatically stored and organized in a CRM database. Sales teams can access consumer profile information, see which salesperson is working on a lead, and follow every touchpoint a consumer makes with the store across the website, digital advertising, phone/text and in person.
Your sales and design team receive valuable consumer profile information so they can better nurture customers and focus time on leads who indicate online they’re ready to buy now.
For consumers who are not ready to purchase, an AI-driven marketing cloud tied to the website gives furniture retailers the ability to automate email nurturing campaigns. Using the consumer’s data, the AI system sends hyper-personalized, relevant and timely emails to drive them back to the store website.
AI to Manage Digital Advertising
Tracking and determining ROI for multiple digital advertising campaigns can be a real nightmare for retailers. An AI approach to managing digital advertising is much more efficient and effective than a team of humans trying to sort through the data as it constantly flows in and make adjustments on the fly.
AI-driven software can tell exactly where a website visitor came from, so it can track consumers across multiple platforms and devices and deliver more accurate reporting.
AI can automatically retarget website leads with targeted digital advertising on a consumer’s favorite news, shopping and social sites, using popular AI techniques like geofencing to advertise in a certain location and paid search ads with keywords related to that consumer’s home furnishings research.
AI takes in-store sales data and tracks it to online leads to show which leads convert into revenue and which advertising avenues inspire the purchase.
Machine Learning Aspect of AI
While AI adapts and makes decisions automatically, it’s based on preset paths and information that’s input by the retailer and tech provider. Machine learning is a subset of AI; it uses the data collected through AI to predict probability and learns from the incoming stream of data to form new, actionable insights. The system adapts to new information collected in real time.
An AI system featuring a machine learning component can aggregate a store’s collected data with millions of other relevant data points stored in the AI data engine to identify the type of consumer most likely to buy from that retail location and which digital marketing avenues work best to target that audience.
Machine learning can automatically adjust digital advertising campaigns and make changes that maximize a store’s reach and return on investment. It allows you to reallocate online advertising funds in response to performance and emerging trends, and tweak the existing advertising campaigns to reflect the computer’s real-time predictions about what keywords, platforms, target audiences and messaging work best to convert a customer at the lowest cost.
Buyer Beware When Shopping for AI Solutions
If you’re new to AI technology, it’s important to understand there’s no standardized definition of artificial intelligence and machine learning. There’s a broad spectrum of possible AI functionalities available.
Some products rely on very basic AI technology that simply maps out a path of possible choices, while others utilize a powerful AI-driven data engine that can analyze giant sets of data points and automatically take action. You likely encounter some form of AI every day, from self-help kiosks at airports and post offices to targeted digital ads embedded in your Facebook feed and sent to your inbox.
Because there’s no minimal threshold of capabilities a vendor or product must meet to market an AI solution, retail stores need to make sure they understand the specific scenarios of how the technology would work on their particular website and when connected to their internal systems. Request real-life examples of how it’s used, sample reporting and a demo before investing in AI. Know exactly what analytics, technical assistance and implementation help comes with the cost you’re quoted.
Don’t be mislead, thinking every AI solution offers the same level of services. Understand what kind of data powers any AI product you consider, and ask how the AI would improve your home furnishings business.