With 2020 bringing about a sea change for the real estate industry, we can expect those changes to ripple throughout 2021 and beyond. But aside from the effects of the pandemic, there are other industry shifts we’re anticipating in the coming year too. Not only that, but many of the emerging trends offer promising new ways to think about creative and digital apartment marketing.
In other words, while folks in the apartment marketing industry may have grown accustomed to thinking of change as an uncomfortable inevitability in 2020, there’s actually a lot to get excited about in 2021.
Personally, we can’t wait to be part of the cutting edge as the industry adapts. From new branding trends to the growth of under-utilized digital strategies, here’s what we can expect in 2021.
Improved Lead Attribution Will Make Digital Advertising More Powerful
Lead attribution refers to the ability for marketers to show what specific actions or sources impact the number of leads coming in for a given property (or, in the case of B2B marketing, how many leads are coming in at the corporate level).
Lead attribution can be notoriously difficult because while Google Analytics will show how much traffic your site is getting and you can count the number of leads who complete a contact form, you can’t always track where each leads comes from. When you can track their source, you’re usually only capturing information about where they last clicked before arriving to your site (e.g. whether they linked over from your social media page, clicked on an ad, or typed your URL directly into the address bar of their browser).
Here’s the thing though: only tracking the last click of a user loses out on the full picture of the lead journey. What if they saw an ad for your property, then instead of immediately clicking, chose to google the property name and read some reviews. Upon reading the reviews, they then decided to learn more by clicking on the link to your website from your Google My Business page. If we use the last-click model of lead attribution, it looks like the lead came from organic traffic, not the ad campaign, when in reality, the ad played a huge role in generating that lead.
So what do we expect to change in 2021? We expect more real estate marketers to tap into lead attribution tactics like Google’s Multi-Channel Funnels Data-Driven Attribution or any of the growing number of third-party lead attribution softwares emerging on the market today. These platforms and softwares allows marketers more visibility into the steps a user took on the way to becoming a measurable lead.
This means that savvy marketers can get a better sense of how much a given marketing tactic is really contributing to lead-generation and optimize their marketing mix accordingly.
It also means that real estate brands will enjoy more ways to hold their marketers accountable. With more visibility into the user journey, marketers can prove their impact and the brands they serve can work with them to ensure that data-driven optimizations are happening regularly and strategically.
New Regulations for the Digital Landscape Will Emerge, Forcing Digital Marketers to Adapt
Regulations for digital marketing have always lagged behind their traditional marketing counterparts, but legislators and judges continue to further define legal requirements for this digital frontier.
In particular, we can expect to see concerns over data privacy come to a new head, likely resulting in new regulations to protect it. Federal data regulation will be a topic that will evolve quickly, with the protected industries such as loan, credit, and housing to see the first wave of this regulation. This trend has already begun, with Facebook and Google facing regulations on ad targeting for housing ads in 2020.
Similarly, we can expect lawmakers to continue to define and enforce Fair Housing requirements for digital apartment marketing.
Data privacy has been a hot-button issue in the last few years and we can expect data privacy regulation to become firmer and better enforced in 2021. More specifically, here’s what we can expect on the data privacy front:
For starters, large media organizations such as Facebook and Google will be facing governmentally-demanded breakups, especially in areas where they both sell ad placements and the ad auction of advertisers. This evolution may lead to apartment marketers having to manage multiple platforms that were previously consolidated in a single place and increase the time and effort to run digital marketing campaigns.
As data privacy concerns rise, we can also expect further regulations on what data can be collected about a user and how that data can be used. This will inevitably affect the options available for user targeting when it comes to advertising.
Likely, platforms will begin removing the capability to target specific audiences or demographics to avoid any liability of advertisers’ violations. Likewise, tier 2 vendors such as Geofencing, TikTok, and others will begin thinking about how they are compliant as they see the large media vendors such as Facebook and Google facing legal pressure to comply.
Fair Housing Compliance
Major advertising platforms like Google and Facebook adjusted their ad targeting capabilities last year for housing ads after facing legal pressure to bring their advertising platforms more in line with the Fair Housing Act. Although these adjustments have reduced the potential for inequitable housing outcomes, there is still more that can be done to ensure equal access to websites, housing ads, special rates, and more.
We can expect to see more explicit regulations emerge in the coming year, especially with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 3.0 scheduled for release in 2021.
To learn more about Fair Housing compliance for apartment marketers, check out our post on How To Make Your Marketing Fair Housing Compliant.
Video Marketing Will Become More Affordable, But Also More Essential
For years now, marketers of all stripes have been heralding the age of video marketing, but 2020 has shown us just how essential video can be.
Though real estate brands have tended to be late adopters of new technologies, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the industry to adjust to virtual leasing strategies that bridge the conversion gap for prospects who cannot visit the property in person.
At the same time, the cost of creating high-quality video assets continues to fall, with free editing software proliferating and better cameras and microphones becoming standard on the devices we use every day.
Virtual and video tours have emerged as the foremost strategy in bridging the conversion gap for people who prefer to lease 100% virtually or cannot visit a property in person. Now that the pandemic has forced real estate brands to adopt this technology, we can expect the use of video to continue growing in this area. Soon, these assets will come to be expected by prospective renters, and brands who fail to provide them will quickly fall behind their competitors.
The expanded use of video tours will also pave the wave for the adoption of other video asset creation, including video ads. We expect to find real estate brands who once managed without these innovations to enjoy a lower barrier to entry for video ads than existed previously and extend their learnings about the power of video tours to enter the realm of video advertising as well. Plus, with social media platforms thriving in a moment of increasingly virtual social habits, capturing attention on these platforms with the use of more engaging ad types will pay off.
A Wave of Rebrands Will Hit the Market
As competition builds in our increasingly saturated market and properties struggle to attract new renters, new developments and existing properties alike will be forced to differentiate themselves from the competition. We expect to see real estate brands put more thought into brand development in 2021 as they work to establish their key differentiators and captivate their audience with a compelling brand story.
As branding becomes more important, we expect naming to become more bold and diverse. Gone (we hope), are the days when new developments are named simply after their street address. Instead of the ubiquitous ‘University Whatsit’ or ‘Such-and-such at Garden Creeks,” we expect to see innovative naming conventions that take more risks in order to stand out from the crowd.
Likewise, amenities offerings, interior design, and the messaging surrounding them will likely be forced to innovate in order to differentiate. For example, the buzzword “luxury” will likely fall out of vogue as its ubiquity causes it to lose all meaning and a wave of COVID-impacted renters during the coming recession search for more down-to-earth and affordable brands.
These shifts will not only impact the new developments we see arriving to the market, but will also likely kick off a wave of rebrands as existing communities adapt to new market demands.
Student Living Communities Will Make the Shift to Multi-Family
With university enrollment rates continuing to drop and virtual classes becoming more common even before COVID-19 radically altered the higher learning landscape, purpose-built student housing developments are bound to slow in 2021. Not only that, but a wave of existing student housing communities have begun making the switch to multi-family, adopting a hybrid marketing approach that targets both university students and non-student renters in order to fill vacancies.
We expect this trend to continue, potentially kicking off a new era for the student housing market. After all, we’ve heard reports of universities explicitly advising students not to renew their leases or sign new ones until we know more about what next the next academic year will look like. Student living communities are likely to see slow leasing velocity in this time of uncertainty, with fewer students willing to pre-lease months in advance of their move-in date.
Addressable Campaigns Will Thrive in the Senior Housing Market
Addressable marketing is emerging as the direct mailer for the digital age. It allows ads and other media to be served to individual households across a number of personal devices—TVs, smartphones, personal computers, etc. These ads can be targeted based on consumer behaviors, allowing marketers to reach people who are most likely to convert.
After a year of mail delays and COVID concerns, we expect more senior living brands to adopt this style of marketing as a safer and more sustainable way to drive the same results direct mailers had offered—or better. We expect this trend to grow in the coming years even after COVID’s impact wanes, since seniors are becoming increasingly tech-savvy and accustomed to communicating in digital spaces.