Historical moments in time that brought forth sudden change and accelerated new ways of living or thinking are known as 'trigger events'.
2020 had what is likely the most significant trigger event of a generation. A global pandemic, and its ensuing fallout, have forever altered how and where business is conducted, content is consumed, decisions are made, and more.
The circumstances surrounding the events of this year will have a permanent effect on the multifamily industry and apartment marketers. They've reinforced the idea that the old way of doing things is over. As we put a bow on 2020, let's talk about what effect this past year will have going forward:
The digital transformation of apartment marketing is here (for good).
The traveling and quarantine restrictions put into effect at the onset of the pandemic across the United States presented a worrisome problem for the multifamily industry.
On the one hand, potential residents searching for a new apartment home were forced to either delay or end their moving plans. On the other hand, apartment marketers and leasing agents worried about how they were going to be able to highlight their communities without having in-person visits or appointments.
The answer, of course, came in the form of digital content. In a matter of days, many apartment communities quickly pivoted towards using the digital tools at their disposal, including highlighting their virtual touring options prominently on their community websites or in their Google Ads. Some also developed a digital leasing process so that potential residents could sign a lease and move in without having any direct contact with an agent.
This approach resulted in a noticeable divide between those apartment communities who embraced digital, and those who didn't. It isn't bold to suggest that because of the trigger events of 2020, digital now has an essential role in apartment marketing, especially when you consider how much digital content users are consuming as they work from home or scrolling on their iPhones.
Check out these digital indicators from 2020:
- Video (virtual) tour usage increased 300% since the beginning of the global pandemic for one company.
- Multifamily listings that feature a digital touring option received 87% more views than those without them.
- 18-34 year olds were 130% more likely to use a service if a digital touring option is available.
This sudden, necessary shift towards digital is proving to be a win-win. Marketers can leverage the power of online video and photo content to highlight their communities and earn leads that convert to leases, while searchers could still gather all the relevant information they needed to decide on a future apartment home at any time, from anywhere. Having both digital and traditional marketing processes intact will be really beneficial from this year forward, and something apartment communities should embrace.
Current and potential residents face a whole new
set of problems that need answered in your marketing.
Once a potential resident signs a lease, marketing to them doesn't end (this is an often overlooked part of apartment marketing). The team at your community is responsible for their living experience, so being a responsive communicator, completing maintenance tasks or other requests promptly, and offering an inclusive, fun atmosphere can pay off for your community's marketing long-term in the form of a positive online review or word-of-mouth endorsement. Strong management leads to marketing success.
This holistic approach came to the forefront in 2020 as the global pandemic put a lot of unexpected economic burden on current residents. Property managers were immediately placed into the difficult conundrum of providing safe, essential housing to quarantine for tenants who lost their jobs and ability to pay rent. Many adopted new practices to limit the spread of the virus within their communities, and had to become effective communicators in spreading awareness of these safety procedures.
The federal government also stepped in to remedy the economic strain on renters, putting moratoriums on evictions and halting rent increases. Though measures like these are aversive towards nearly every apartment community's bottom line, it was heartening to see many in the multifamily industry practice this 'compassionate renting' and do whatever was necessary to assist their tenants.
Practices of compassionate renting included:
- Developing individualized payment plans for tenants who experienced job loss.
- Waiving late fees.
- Help tenants learn about resources available to help them secure financial assistance.
- Adopting new safety measures to slow the spread of the virus within the community.
- Pivoting to digital-only touring and leasing processes.
What apartment marketers should take away from 2020 is that there are bigger things than just showing off how great your community's amenities and/or units are. There are a whole new set of problems both current and potential residents have rather than the typical things such as availability, space, price, lifestyle, etc., that marketers should be thinking about.
Some potential residents may not feel as safe conducting in-person visits anymore, or have other health-related concerns, and they need a community that answers these issues. Others may have simply changed their shopping behaviors in light of the pandemic and now don't feel the need to see something in person before they buy it. These examples of 'compassionate renting' are why your digital offerings and safety measures should be featured in your community's marketing plan.
Additionally, apartment marketers should be cognizant of how they can improve their community's reputation. This doesn't necessarily mean outwardly promoting that you're willing to offer financial assistance when needed, but rather championing all the ways it enhances or improves the living experience of current residents in your messaging. Doing so could not only result in positive endorsements, but also an improved retention rate.
We consider ourselves early adopters of the digital transformation that took place this year in apartment marketing. RentVision was founded on the idea that potential residents should be able to view apartment communities without having to drive anywhere. We began producing walkthrough video tours of units to post online. Then we built websites with floorplan-specific content and strategically placed calls-to-action, providing visitors the seamless, one-stop shopping experience. Now, more than ever, options like these have become a necessary part of apartment marketing.
The trigger events of 2020 have also forced us to examine how to approach apartment marketing going forward. Potential residents have a new set of problems that you need to answer. Having a role in improving the quality of life of current tenants has taken on added importance.
What are your thoughts on the past year in our industry, and how are you planning to change
or improve your marketing plan going forward? Join the discussion below.