Successful online apartment marketing is almost entirely about providing apartment shoppers with a good experience. A good experience does several things for your community:
It establishes a positive mental association with your community for the shopper.
It helps bad leads disqualify themselves while visiting your website. This means that they don’t call your leasing office and waste your leasing team’s time.
It warms your good leads, such that when they call your leasing office they are better positioned to be converted into a lease.
Providing a good experience for apartment shoppers means giving them the information they need to make an informed purchasing decision and making it easy to find that information.
One of the places where our industry most frequently fails on this issue is with corporate websites. Corporate websites can be distinguished from community websites in that the latter is specific to one apartment community while the former is intended to promote a company's entire portfolio.
Far too often, corporate websites are badly designed, fail to provide relevant information and are difficult to navigate. This creates a bad experience for shoppers and alienates people who might otherwise become residents.
In this post, we will talk about what steps companies can take to build corporate websites that deliver a great experience to apartment shoppers.
Build a Corporate Site with Easy Navigation
Simple menu navigation is one of the most easily overlooked parts of delivering a good user experience to website visitors. If your menu navigation (the links at the top of the page) are difficult to understand or there are too many of them, users will begin their experience on your site with uncertainty and frustration.
In contrast, if you keep options limited and focus on the objectives website users care about, you will succeed in building a site that allows users to accomplish whatever it is they care about doing.
There are two reasons a user will typically be on your corporate website:
They are looking for an apartment.
They are looking for information about your company.
Your site navigation should be built to address those two intentions. One strategy for addressing that is to limit your top navigation menu to a small number of links:
If you have menu options that cannot be easily explained, get rid of them. If you have options that can be easily explained, but you think the explanation is not sufficient to justify such prominent placement on the site, get rid of them.
Build a Robust Search Feature
When handled well, online search is one of the most remarkable products the digital age has produced. In the pre-digital era, information was located in card catalogs, file cabinets, and other similar physical storage units. Other data might be located in newspapers or catalogs and other print guides. To access it, you had to go to a particular place and comb through the information or you had to get the printed product delivered to your home. The information was out there, but getting to it was difficult.
Computers make storing that data easier, of course. But finding it can pose a problem. Indeed, as more and more data is stored on computers, discovering it could become an even bigger problem. But thanks to search engines, that's not the case. Finding information is easy because search engines are very advanced and well developed.
Site-based search engines are often more limited. They return irrelevant results or inaccurate results and leave users frustrated, much as older search engines did before Google made significant improvements to search engine technology.
For that reason, building a more robust search feature on your corporate site is an essential way to serve prospective residents. Careers information is easy enough to find, as is team information. That can live on a single page and you can stick it on your nav bar as a sub-menu as described above. But apartment information is not going to be as easy to sort without a search feature. With search, however, it can be very simple indeed.
The key to making this search function useful, is to offer shoppers necessary fields to find their preferred community. Those fields will likely be a combination of the following options:
Number of bedrooms
Number of bathrooms
So, when prospects use this search feature, they're able to tell the website where they are looking for an apartment, what size unit they are looking for, and what kind of rent rate they are able to pay. With that data, the site can generate results that match their specific needs, which helps them to shop more quickly.
Additionally, the number of apartment units in the United States is dramatically increasing. What's more, thanks to Google, it is very easy for your prospective residents to find other communities. So you have more competition and it is easy for potential residents to find your competitors. This means that if you make them work harder than they need to, they will not sigh and do the work; they'll quickly leave your site. A bad search function isn't going to make it harder for your prospective residents to find you, it will just make them abandon your site and look elsewhere.
Provide Useful Photo and Video Content
The best way to make apartment shopping easy is to allow people to see the inside of their new home online. After all, while amenities, pet policy, rental rate, and other factors influence leasing decisions, if a person doesn't like the way an apartment looks, they probably aren't going to sign a lease. "What does the apartment look like?" is the most important question most prospective residents are going to ask as they shop.
One of the best ways to serve your potential residents, and to gain a major competitive advantage relative to many of your competitors, is to provide them with floorplan-specific photos and video tours. This visual content will help prospects make decisions about leasing from the comfort of their home without ever talking to a leasing agent. This, of course, is how most people prefer to shop today.
If you want to shoot videos or photos of your floorplans but are unsure where to begin or how to do it, we have extensive blog resources to help you. We have written extensively about the value of video and how to shoot superior apartment photography.
Good community websites help potential leads turn into warm leads, making it more likely that they will eventually become residents at your community. That said, company websites can do something even more valuable: They offer shoppers with a wider range of options to consider, thus making it more likely that they find something they like, without leaving your company portfolio. It offers the utility of an internet listing site, in other words, but rather than providing value to a third party, it offers the value directly to the management company or ownership group that runs the various communities.
If you have a larger multifamily portfolio, a corporate site can be a great way to build out your online marketing.