Current global and national events have thrown our daily lives way off-course, to say the least. Many cities continue to be on lockdown, children have been out of school for months, and the only place you’ve been on a weekly basis is the grocery store. Our human behavior has shifted in general, from the 85 percent of people that report washing their hands or using sanitizer more often than before to the 22 percent stockpiling food, water, and other household essentials.
However, one aspect of American life has bounced back sooner than others: apartment hunting. A recent study claims that most renters do not anticipate postponing their moving plans, with an astounding 62 percent saying that they intend to move as soon as they find an apartment.
Since apartment searches have returned to their pre-pandemic volumes, it’s apparent that multifamily leasing agents must resume pursuing leads. Yet, the adoption of social distancing practices has left many businesses unsure of how to connect and convert leads into customers. With numerous scientists and disease experts still recommending social distancing as a practice, our “new normal” looks increasingly isolated.
But, like any challenge in the business world, we must view this time in history as an opportunity—not an insurmountable obstacle. Since we can no longer rely on the in-person touchpoints traditionally peppered throughout the leasing process, we must turn to technology to reshape our apartment leasing strategies, promoting the safety of prospects, residents, and staff over everything else. Simply put, your property’s digital footprint is no longer a luxury—it’s a necessity.
It isn’t just the property management companies still using analog workflows that need to take notice of these marketing shifts—it’s also those, who have mastered these digital strategies, that will also have to rethink how they attract, nurture, and convert leads. According to The New York Times, the virus is changing “the way we Internet,” and as we search for ways to connect digitally, we’re also turning away from our usual devices, such as our smartphones.
With many stuck at home, Americans are able to expand their device usage across desktops, laptops, and tablets. This means that your lead is spending less time staring at their tiny smartphone screen and more time in front of their traditionally sized computers. Use this to your advantage by leveraging a full suite of online leasing tools to attract new leads, schedule and conduct virtual tours, sign lease agreements, and more.
After ensuring that your apartment website can handle incoming inquiries, double check the community information available on your social media channels and businesses listings. Whether you’ve temporarily altered your business hours, phone number, or other important business information, you will want prospects to know how to get in touch with your community’s leasing staff. People need consistency, especially considering current conditions.
You can also communicate announcements and other important information through these channels. Just choose the platform based on the audience you’re targeting, then your medium, i.e. grid/wall post, story, livestream video, or direct message. And, if you choose to remain active on your social media channels, you might as well fine-tune your reputation management strategy, too.
Over 82 percent of consumers read online reviews regularly, and since in-person interactions are significantly impacted, you can bet that consumers will look to online reviews more than ever before when making a final purchase decision. Remember, it’s vital to respond to all reviews posted to your online channels—even the negative ones. If you have a lot of them to wade through, consider using management software that can aggregate all of your reviews into a centralized dashboard.
Once you’ve converted your lead into a resident, be sure to maintain a solid level of engagement, even if it’s strictly digitally based for now. Since some properties are no longer able to hold events, offer in-person incentives to residents, or offer shared amenities, multifamily owners and operators need to get creative with how they promote community interaction. Give a free yoga class on Zoom, advocate for local businesses with delivery or pick-up options on your Instagram Story, or share activity ideas to your website blog. All of these suggestions will show residents that you’re committed to their well-being in a time of crisis.
Even though in-person foot traffic has come to a halt at most rental communities, prospective residents are still on the hunt for their next apartment home—no matter what’s going on currently. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring this surge of potential residents or their needs. By investing time or money into the power of various digital channels, your property management team can make the most of a challenging time, while assisting residents in their search of a new place to call home.
Kerry W. Kirby is a global entrepreneur, technology innovator, philanthropist, and the founder of 365 Connect, an award-winning technology firm within the multifamily housing industry. Over the course of his career, Kerry has been the recipient of an array of highly acclaimed awards, including the esteemed Louisiana Governor's Technology Award. He has been named to the Silicon Bayou 100 List of most influential entrepreneurs for nine consecutive years and has received a prestigious Titan Entrepreneur Award for his technological achievements. An acclaimed speaker, author, and award-winning podcaster, Kerry has appeared on the BBC Digital Planet program, NPR News, and various media platforms and outlets. Kerry has contributed to an array of articles and studies on the convergence of technology in the rental housing industry.
Kerry serves on the Board of Advisors of Rainbow, a national nonprofit organization that provides service-enriched housing programs for affordable housing communities across the country. He also serves on the Board of Advisors of the Multifamily Women’s Summit, an event that allows women to strengthen their expertise, influence, and professional network in the multifamily housing industry, and is Chair of Technology Initiative for the Multifamily Innovation Advisory Council, a private, members only group focused on assisting owners and operators of multifamily communities by reducing risks associated with vetting new technologies and implementations.
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