The Digital Customer Journey in Real Estate
In the ever-changing landscape of technology available to students, it can be hard to truly understand how today’s students’ are hearing about you, narrowing down their options and making their final selection. This makes developing leasing ideas for the student housing market especially challenging. Instead of driving around searching for “For Lease” signs in the front yard, students now have a plethora of options to locate, research and select a new home from the comfort of their own couch.
So the question now becomes, are you a part of their search for a new home or apartment? To ensure you are a part of this journey, we have broken down the major stages consumers go through when looking to find a new apartment rental and what digital services can enhance your apartment complex marketing ideas.
The Online Customer Journey
Awareness Phase: During the awareness phase our target audience speaks to peers, keeps an eye out for housing options and often times compares options to their current unit. They may be doing a few Google, map or other online searches to find available options in the area they would like to live in. Reviewing these properties at a glance, they are likely influenced by reviews and property ratings.
Key Tactics: SEM, SEO, Reputation Management, Social Media
Consideration Phase: When moving into the consideration phase of the customer journey, the student has a set of options to compare amenities, price points, location and online/peer reviews. If a parent is involved in the housing choice of the student, they will likely review these alongside the student and come to a decision together. The research for this phase is going to heavily rely on property websites to provide easily digestible information around amenities, pricing, and location along with online reviews to evaluate preview experiences of tenants.
During consideration, students will often visit and tour multiple properties before signing a final lease. This provides opportunities for the property staff to influence the experience and opinion, while email communication offers personalized and timely follow up messaging to stay top of mind.
Key Tactics: Website, Reputation Management, Social Media, Retargeting, Display, Geo-fencing, Email Nurture
Purchase Phase: During the purchase stage, the student has narrowed it down to 1 or 2 properties and begins the application process. This is typically completed either through the property’s website or in-person. When applying online applicants will be influenced by the online process and its ease or difficulty.
It’s possible for the student to apply to multiple properties, which creates an opportunity to stay top of mind through email outreach. This ensures they continue the process through to signing a lease.
Key Tactics: Website Functionality, Email Nurture
Service Phase: Congrats, you’ve added a new resident! The service phase covers their time as a resident and includes maintenance requests, staff interactions, payment experience, community events or surprise/delight moments as a resident.
Key Tactics: Email Nurture, Property Operations, Reputation Management, Social Media
Loyalty Phase: The loyalty phase is an ongoing process around finding moments in which the resident is a loyal customer. They express this by sharing their experiences through online channels of reputation management, surveys or their participation in loyalty programs.
Key Tactics: Social Media, Email Nurture, Reward Programs, Customer Surveys
Advocacy Phase: Advocacy 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.
Key Tactics: Reputation Management, Social Media, Email Nurture
How can you keep up?
The key to any customer journey is ensuring you understand and keep in touch with the consumer and their behaviors, especially when addressing the student audience. This research can be done by surveying your current customers or conducting focus groups. Each can deliver actionable information that may point to a new apartment marketing plan with digital channels, tactics, and services that you may be unaware of.
Whether it’s Google’s new map integrations with property websites or new reputation services, students are early adopters to many technologies and create new challenges every day to pinpoint the ideal channel to place your student housing marketing dollars.
The only guarantee when it comes to consumers is that change is inevitable, and that means we must be methodical in the frequent challenging of our real estate marketing plans to ensure they are accurate and evolve as needed.