The clock is ticking when a prospect searches online for an apartment. Most marketers know that consumers spend only a minute or less—sometimes fewer than 10 seconds—before moving on if not satisfied with what’s on the screen.
As far back as 2011, the Nielson Norman Group, a West Coast consulting firm that specializes in the user experience, said surfers leave web pages in 10-20 seconds if they can’t find what they want. To effectively communicate your value proposition, the corporate elevator speech has to shift in high gear.
It’s probably safe to say that the patience of apartment seekers or others searching for who knows what hasn’t gotten any better. If anything, that 10- to 20-second window has shrunk in the past seven years. Some marketers employ a seven-second rule when attempting to engage searchers.
“We all have a certain high level of expectation and reduced patience for something that is inefficient or doesn’t provide our desired information,” says Brock MacLean, Senior Vice President of Consumer Solutions for RealPage, Inc. “We’re very quick to go a different direction, and it’s got to meet our anticipated needs very quickly. We expect content to be immediate, but also vivid and immersive. We anticipate that the brand we’re dealing with, or the property in this case, knows us on some level of intuitiveness and displays images and provides navigation that appears personal in nature.
“We’ve become a very immediate sort of society.”
MacLean, who has worked in the multifamily industry for nearly 25 years, said the evolution of technology has transformed apartment seekers to almost assume that websites know what they’re trying to find before dropping in. Otherwise, they move on.
The trick, he says, is to meet consumers on their terms, and exceed their level of expectation in the search experience, the shopping experience and ultimately the living experience.
‘It’s really how technology continues to drive consumer trends’
MacLean will join industry leaders in May at the Apartment Internet Marketing conference session, “Aligning Prospect and Resident Touchpoints to Deliver a Superior Living Experience,” that will discuss how to catch prospects and heighten conversion rates while creating a better living experience for residents.
“It’s really around how technology continues to drive consumer trends, or in the case of our industry the prospect and resident trends,” he said. “It emphasizes our expectations with respect to experience. Regardless of whether you are looking for your next apartment home, searching for anything online or the self-discovery process utilized in how we find things, technology has really changed our expectation of that experience.”
Prospects and residents have high expectations of the quality of content and the ability to communicate with a property in whatever way suits their style, whether by phone, email, text or chat. Properties must have digital display consistency across the desktop and mobile experience in addition to their leasing office or contact center, MacLean said.
Sound mobile connectivity critical for driving engagement
Above all, top-notch mobile accessibility is critical: The world does business on mobile devices, either through searching websites or engaging in social media. As recent as four years ago, a GSMA report on the mobile economy noted that “mobile has become the cornerstone of the global economy.” The mobile industry directly and indirectly contributed around 3.6 percent of the global gross domestic product or close to $2.4 trillion in 2013. By 2020, the GDP is estimated to increase to 5.1 percent.
According to the latest data from Pew Center for Research, 95 percent of Americans own a cellphone of some kind. The number who own a smartphone has grown 35 percent since the first survey in 2011 to 77 percent this year.
As users dial in they have high expectations for engagement, MacLean says.
“We have a sense of immediacy in the mobile experience,” he said. “This seamless connection that mobile technology has created has also heightened the expectation of a prospect and resident in the way they engage with a brand. Mobile devices have been single greatest acceleration in technology advancements, as well as engagement with prospects and residents.”
Mobile searches have enhanced the need for attention for detail in not only how apartments capture prospects but create an experience that they find valuable enough to become a resident. Once they are residents, property managers are tasked with converting them into long-term residents.
Connecting renters through capable technology platforms
MacLean says properties can best engage prospects and residents through an effective platform that meets critical touch points in every step of the marketing, leasing and living experience. RealPage’s newly positioned Renter Engagement Suite, which integrates with most property management systems, connects renters from search to lease and throughout their experience living at a community.
At AIM, the discussion will focus on how properties can bring together an entire leasing equation and resident experience and improve retention strategies. MacLean says the best way to engage a consumer base driven by technology is to have the tools that identify with apartment seekers.
“The more you can relate to that person and meet them where they want to be met, the more relatable you become as a brand, the more likely you are to engage a prospect and ultimately convert that prospect to resident at a much higher level.”