Companies like Google, Amazon and Zappos have raised the customer service standard, and as a result, today’s consumer expects a full experience in their purchase journey. If these forward-thinking firms have shown us anything, it’s that providing customers stellar service with a successful, effortless experience based on positive emotion is critical to staying relevant to today’s Internet-savvy, socially connected customers.
Multifamily operators and marketers must understand that the experiences created by these companies have fundamentally changed the expectations of their prospects, and must adjust their marketing approach to meet the demands of the 2018 consumer. Relying on old methods may still yield some results today, but they’re eroding your competitive edge and costing you millions of dollars in lost opportunities to both drive revenue and reduce marketing spend.
It’s time to leverage the strategies that have transformed these firms into the successful marketing masterminds that they are and apply them to the multifamily industry. No matter what geographic market you’re in, you’re competing with Amazon’s digital experience, in the eyes of your customers.
These marketing tips will help you understand today’s modern customer and their expectations. Let’s start the leasing journey by walking in the prospect’s shoes.
The research journey. Today’s renters conduct more of “the leasing journey” online. Prospects begin their research journey on their own, often intentionally avoiding salespeople, until after they have pinpointed a select subset of properties to view. Prospects consume content and utilize a multitude of resources to guide their solo online educational and buying journey. Because the property rental manager is no longer part of the pre-sales process, multifamily marketers must do all that they can to aid the prospect’s leasing journey from the beginning.
One way to accomplish this is by providing relevant content in larger volumes online. Today’s Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) is bringing new meaning to omnichannel communication and alignment.
Make sure your information is detailed yet easy-to-navigate. If you have a website, there may be tons of information, but the interface should be simple, well-designed, visually appealing and in sync with the prospect’s expectations. With streamlined paths, prospects can save time and feel in charge as they compile their own list of possible properties.
Reviews work. Since Amazon has made customer reviews key to the online shopping experience, more and more customers use reviews as their trusted advisor before making purchases. Many customers, especially millennials and other generations who practically grew up using Amazon, won’t make a major purchase (including renting an apartment) without checking reviews.
A 2016 report published by J Turner Research stated that prospects are turning to online reviews when looking for rentals. The study gathered responses from over 25,000 residents in more than 500 properties nationwide, and showed that over half the respondents (52% of rental prospects) said they checked online ratings and reviews when they started their apartment search.
It’s not me. It’s you. In the past, multifamily marketing touted all the reasons why the prospect should rent a particular unit. It was all about the characteristics of the unit and why the prospect should consider it as an option. Today, it’s a new playbook. Now it’s all about the customer. To adjust, multifamily operators must reshape their marketing strategies to instill more of a caring component with a laser-sharp focus on customer service and experience. Using a friendly, approachable voice automatically puts your prospect at ease.
Meet the demand. For the modern renter, demands are high. They want prices, layouts, floor plan information, unit-level content, virtual tours, photos and descriptions. Not providing relevant content when other multifamily marketers do, means that leaving your listing for a better one is only a click away. Good, multi-faceted content is the new norm.
Let’s get personal. Amazon and Google have been instrumental in revolutionizing the way firms do business by putting the needs of the customers first, making the customer journey as straightforward as possible, and delivering personalized offers and recommendations based on previous purchase history. Putting themselves in the minds of their customers and giving them with what they want builds customer loyalty in a highly competitive web-based market.
Emotion sells. We suggest that you think beyond floorplans and market your properties at a unit level. The difference between marketing by unit level rather than by floorplan can be a game changer. Floor plan details are logical and lack emotion. They show the entire layout of the unit, including things like the room flow, the proximity of the kitchen to the dining room, the number and the location of bathrooms and bedrooms.
Unit level marketing appeals to the emotions. It reveals the personality of the property and the unit and delivers content in a way that today’s consumers expect. It creates a very personal and emotional connection. It lets prospects know what it would feel like to live there—one of the main selling points when it comes to renting property. Does the space feel sterile? Warm? Eclectic? Does it make the prospect feel comfortable? Can the prospect picture their furniture in the rooms or imagine waking up in the morning and looking at the view?
These are all important features that floor plans can’t provide. Floor plans don’t give the prospect a real “feel” of the unit in an emotional way that unit level marketing can.
It’s all about the details. Welcome to the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). As mentioned, the rise of companies like Amazon, Zappos and Apple have made information more available and transparent than ever before. This effect has impacted the real estate market tremendously. Today’s renters want to know more than just room dimensions and layouts. They want to know what the unit looks like before they even consider visiting the property. They want to understand what it’s like to live there. They want to feel it and picture it. To align with your residential prospective renters, rethink the way you advertise the property.
For instance, in an apartment building where most of the units are the same or residential developments where units are defined by model type, clients tend to ask about the unit’s layout. And while that is important, a better indicator of whether the property is a good fit for the prospect are the details about the property that make it distinctive. Make sure you include professional-quality photos and/or virtual tours, informative and detailed descriptions and customized content that matches prospect demand.
Today’s renters want a modern web experience—a true end-to-end experience that is informative and undisruptive. Today, it’s less about promoting the business and more about providing a good consumer experience. Customer experience is no longer just a strategy. It’s the new way of doing business.