Digital Buyer's Journey

From a prospect’s very first search to the moment they sign the lease (and beyond), the buyer’s journey for the real estate market passes through several distinct phases, each with its own digital touchpoints and marketing opportunities. As prospects proceed from Awareness to Advocacy, you’ll need to leverage a variety of marketing strategies to influence your audience every step of the way.
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Awareness cartoon
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Reputation Management
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Public Relations
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Awareness
During the awareness phase, the prospect is speaking to peers, keeping an eye out for housing options, and often weighing the options they are already aware of on the market against their current housing.
Read More About Each Market:
StudentMulti-FamilySenior Living
The target audience for this market is primarily Sophomores and Juniors, followed by Freshmen and students in secondary education. Their housing search is highly seasonal, beginning in August and lasting through May, with a dip in December when students return home for winter break. Their search rates peak in the spring months as they search for housing for the following fall.
Brand Equity
  • Digital Prospecting
  • Social Media
  • Campus Housing Events
  • Signage
Research
  • Reputation Management
  • Google Searches
    (Potential ILS Interactions)
  • SEO
  • Google My Business Listing
  • Yelp Pages
  • Property Websites

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Parents, families, and adult individuals comprise the primary audience for this market. Multi-family prospects often make their housing decisions based on location—especially if looking for something near their job office—price point, and apartment size. The properties they are aware of may include apartments they pass every day on a commute to work or near a child’s school.
Brand Equity
  • Digital Prospecting
  • Social Media
  • Experience of Coworkers,
    Family, and Friends
  • Signage
Research
  • Reputation Management
  • Google Searches
  • SEO
  • Google My Business Listing
  • Yelp Pages
  • Property Websites

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An adult child looking for housing for their senior parent constitutes the primary audience for this market, with senior prospects themselves a close second. At this stage, both the senior and their adult child discuss the potential need for an upcoming move and conduct online searches to identify housing options—which may include senior living communities—near their desired location.
Brand Equity
  • Digital Prospecting
  • Social Media
  • Experience of Coworkers,
    Family, and Friends
  • Signage
Research
  • Reputation Management
  • Google Searches
  • SEO
  • Google My Business Listing
  • Yelp Pages
  • Property Websites

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Consideration cartoon
Website
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Reputation Management
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Social
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Display
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Email
Consideration icons
Consideration
When moving into the consideration phase of the customer journey, the prospect has selected a set of apartment options and now begins looking deeper into amenities, price points, location, and online/peer reviews to compare their options.
Read More About Each Market:
StudentMulti-FamilySenior Living
Students often have limited budgets, making it essential to provide easy-to-find pricing info on your property website in order to make it through this phase. Additionally, though tours may be an influencing factor during this phase, students tour in person less than other audiences, so virtual tours, high-quality photos, and comprehensive amenities lists are great ways to bridge that gap.
Property Tours
  • Staff Interactions
  • Easy Tour Scheduling
  • Follow-up Email
  • Email Communications
Property Details & Pricing
  • Property Website
Secondary Sources
  • Reputation Management
  • Yelp
  • Google My Business
  • Apartment.com
  • ApartmentRatings.com

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During consideration, prospects will often tour a handful of properties before signing a final lease. Though price point is still a chief deciding factor among their options, this audience tends to have more disposable income than others, making amenities and apartment size more important factors in their decision than for other audiences—pricing, amenities, and floor plans with square footage listed should all be highly visible on your property website.
Property Tours
  • Staff Interactions
  • Easy Tour Scheduling
  • Follow-up Email
  • Email Communications
Property Details & Pricing
  • Property Website
Secondary Sources
  • Reputation Management
  • Yelp
  • Google My Business
  • Apartment.com
  • ApartmentRatings.com

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During consideration, both the adult child and senior parent are likely to tour multiple properties to find the right match. Many of these prospects are moving from an owned home, so they are not limited by a concrete move-out date. This means they can afford to be picky, sometimes taking 3-6 months to find the perfect long-term home.
Property Tours
  • Staff Interactions
  • Easy Tour Scheduling
  • Follow-up Email
  • Email Communications
Property Details & Pricing
  • Property Website
Property Tours
  • Reputation Management
  • Yelp
  • Google My Business
  • Apartment.com
  • ApartmentRatings.com

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Purchase cartoon
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Email Nurture
Purchase icons
Purchase
At this stage the prospect has narrowed down their options to 1 to 2 properties and will begin the application process through the property’s website or in person. When applying online they will be influenced by the online process and its ease or difficulty as well as staff interactions when signing an application or lease in person. A negative experience with the online process or office staff at this stage may cause a prospect not to go through with the purchase.
Read More About Each Market:
StudentMulti-FamilySenior Living
Parents of these students may also influence final purchase decisions, especially if they are acting as a guarantor.
How Can The Tenant Apply?
  • Online
  • Website
  • On Property
Staff Engagements
Partial Applications
(started but not finalized Apps)
  • Email Nurture

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While amenities inspire excitement for multi-family prospects, price point is the single most important factor in leasing decisions for this market. Among competitors with comparable price points, amenities are the next most influential factor on a multi-family prospect's leasing decision.
How Can The Tenant Apply?
  • Online
  • Website
  • On Property
Staff Engagements
Partial Applications
(started but not finalized Apps)
  • Email Nurture

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These tenants will not typically submit applications to multiple properties, but rather make their decision and then look for the leasing process to support and confirm their decision to live at the community. Personalized interactions are key during the Consideration and Purchase phases.
How Can The Tenant Apply?
  • Online
  • Website
  • On Property
Staff Engagements
Partial Applications
(started but not finalized Apps)
  • Email Nurture

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Service cartoon
Email
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Property Operations
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Customer Satisfaction
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Social
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Service
The service phase represents the customer's time as a resident after they have signed their lease and moved in. It is impacted by staff interactions, maintenance experiences, use of amenities, community events, and lots more.
Read More About Each Market:
StudentMulti-FamilySenior Living
Student residents are particularly cognizant of online experiences and looking for hassle-free service through a variety of online portals. A well-functioning property mobile app or online portal and the ability to pay rent and submit maintenance requests online will go a long way in impressing this audience during this phase.
Maintenance Requests
  • Mobile App
  • Tenant Portal
Complaints Handled
  • Reputation Management
Payment Process
Current Resident Surveys
  • Email Communications
Surprise & Delight Moments
  • Email
  • Referral Programs
Common Facilities
Property Events & Updates
  • Social Media
Property Notifications
  • Email Communications
  • Mobile App
  • SMS Communications
  • Crisis Communications

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For the multi-family audience, responsiveness and upkeep are key. This audience needs to feel they can rely on apartment staff when things go wrong or when maintenance is needed, and values well-maintained amenities throughout the community. Rent changes over time can also impact this audience’s experience during this phase, with large rent increases likely to have a negative impact, especially when they are not matched by improvements to the community.
Maintenance Requests
  • Mobile App
  • Tenant Portal
Complaints Handled
  • Reputation Management
Payment Process
Current Resident Surveys
  • Email Communications
Surprise & Delight Moments
  • Email
  • Referral Programs
Common Facilities
Property Events & Updates
  • Social Media
Property Notifications
  • Email Communications
  • Mobile App
  • SMS Communications
  • Crisis Communications

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Community events and personal staff interactions make a huge impact during this phase for senior residents. Senior residents often value the feeling that they are part of a community, and value opportunities to connect with neighbors and on-site staff. Hassle-free maintenance requests and payment options are also key for this audience, since their housing goals tend to include reducing the hassles of home ownership and enjoying greater ease of living.
Maintenance Requests
  • Mobile App
  • Tenant Portal
Complaints Handled
  • Reputation Management
Payment Process
Current Resident Surveys
  • Email Communications
Surprise & Delight Moments
  • Email
  • Referral Programs
Common Facilities
Property Events & Updates
  • Social Media
Property Notifications
  • Email Communications
  • Mobile App
  • SMS Communications
  • Crisis Communications

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Loyalty cartoon
Social
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Email Nurture
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Reward Programs
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Customer Satisfaction
Loyalty icons
Loyalty
The loyalty phase is an ongoing process around finding the moments in which the resident is a loyal customer and is willing to share their experiences through online channels of reputation management, surveys, or their participation in loyalty programs. Leveraging loyal residents can help improve your reputation and gain new residents through referrals.
Read More About Each Market:
StudentMulti-FamilySenior Living
Students spend much of their time in contact with other students who are potential prospects. Word of mouth and social media sharing are especially strong for this audience as a result.
Offers
  • Email
  • SMS Text
Surveys
  • Email Communications
Incentive Programs
  • Social Media
  • Email
  • SMS Text

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This audience can be encouraged to renew their lease repeatedly, becoming a long-term resident as long as they receive the right nurturing in the Service and Loyalty phases. With the right nurturing, they may even spend decades in the same home.
Offers
  • Email
  • SMS Text
Surveys
  • Email Communications
Incentive Programs
  • Social Media
  • Email
  • SMS Text

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Senior living residents often make purchase decisions with the intention of “aging in place” once they are settled in a property. They may hope never to have to move to another property, making them likely to be highly loyal customers.
Offers
  • Email
  • SMS Text
Surveys
  • Email Communications
  • In-Person Surveys & Satisfaction
    Questions
Incentive Programs
  • Social Media
  • Email
  • SMS Text

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Advocacy cartoon
Reputation Management
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Social
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Email
Advocacy icons
Advocacy
The advocacy phase begins at the end of the journey; this is often conducted as the resident is leaving the property through exit surveys, promoting online reviews, and word of mouth after their experience.
Read More About Each Market:
StudentMulti-FamilySenior Living
Students are more likely to be persuaded by online and peer reviews than any other audience. Don't neglect your reputation management; use the advocacy phase to your advantage by asking residents to leave an online review or refer their friends before (or shortly after) they move out.
Online Reviews
  • Reputation Management
  • Social Media
Word of Mouth
  • On-campus Events
Recommendations
  • Tenant Surveys

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Friends of tenants who visit the property may also participate in the loyalty and advocacy phases for multi-family properties. They may leave online reviews or refer their friends to the property, especially if the parts of the community most visible to them (amenity spaces, apartment interiors) have been well maintained by property staff.
Online Reviews
  • Reputation Management
  • Social Media
Word of Mouth
Recommendations
  • Tenant Surveys

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Since in many cases, this audience wants to spend the rest of their life in their senior living community of choice, the advocacy phase can be less relevant for this digital journey. When relevant, it may rely more on the adult children of this audience than on the residents themselves.
Online Reviews
  • Reputation Management
  • Social Media
Word of Mouth
Recommendations
  • Tenant Surveys

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View Our Webinar
Looking to learn more? You might enjoy viewing our webinar on today’s real estate buyer’s journey! Our Director of Digital Marketing, Brett Fails, teamed up with Google’s Phil Willett to discuss the buyer’s journey across student, multi-family, and senior housing as well as the newest technologies for the housing industry that you should be using.
View Webinar
Get Even More Insight in Our One-Page Guides
Download the full journey details for student, multi-family, and senior housing markets to view these industry-specific journeys at your convenience. You’ll also learn how to align a variety of marketing services to each stage of the buyer journey so you can translate your learnings into powerful marketing strategies.
Student Housing Journey
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Multi-Family Journey
Download the PDF
Senior Living Journey
Download the PDF