To say that people are now comfortable purchasing products online before even touching and seeing them in person is a massive understatement. After all, according to the Census Bureau, e-commerce sales increased 15.5 percent in the third quarter of 2017, compared with a mere 4 percent growth in total retail sales.
Part of the reason for that bump is the amount of detailed information now available about products and services online. With numerous review sites, detailed specifications, and 360-degree-rotatable images, you can learn more about a product with the tap of a finger than with an in person examination.
Apartment shopping is following a similar path, transforming the skill sets of on-site teams at apartment communities across the country. With every detail about apartment communities available to prospective renters online – whether on the community website or on third-party review sites – there’s very little left to the imagination before the much anticipated apartment tour.
“The tour is now a verification point,” said Lia Smith, vice president of education and performance at Satisfacts at Entrata’s 2017 Summit. “At that stage, all your renter wants to do is match what was online with what is going on in real life. They’ve already read the information and gotten the pricing, photos, floor plans and availability. We have to turn leasing associates from tour guides to subject matter expert.”
In fact, according to Smith and a Satisfacts study, 80 percent of renters check out a community online before making any contact with the community at all. That begs the question: what do prospective renters want to learn when they finally decide to visit an apartment community?
The answer is “why.” Why a resident should live at your community, is very different from whether the community offers a swank fitness center or Quartz countertops in the bathroom. The “why” is emotional, and can only be answered by a passionate subject matter expert who knows the community, the neighborhood and the people who live there.
Today’s leasing associates must have deeper knowledge to answer specific resident questions in a number of areas, including:
- The neighborhood. There’s no doubt there’s a lot more information about neighborhoods available online today than ever before, but it can’t quite capture the emotional appeal online like it can when delivered from an experienced person. Leasing associates need to know the neighborhood like a hotel concierge who’s able to give you the name of the best waitress on staff at the best restaurant in town.
- The current residents. Prospective renters can generally find out what the demographics are of a community based on the location and amenities offered through a quick online search. But they aren’t going to know the lifestyles of the majority of the residents or whether they’d fit in with the lifestyle. But the leasing associate can get to know the residents at the community through resident events. This information is vital to convincing a resident that their community is the right fit for a prospective renter.
- The future of the community and area. Sure, residents can search the Internet for hours to find information on potential new developments and the upside to the neighborhood, but they probably don’t have the time or energy after they’ve researched everything about the apartment community itself. It’s much easier to find someone who can share the direction of the surrounding area, the apartment community itself and the future lifestyle in a renovated neighborhood. A strong leasing associate can identify the new developments taking place a few blocks away, future renovations at the apartment community and the next entertainment hot spot or hit restaurant.
Technology, eCommerce to be more specific, have changed the way people shop for products from heads of lettuce to apartment communities. Your onsite leasing associates have to adapt to the changing behavior to become subject matter experts that can confirm (or deny) the online banter and secure the lease. For more information about how Entrata can help your onsite team secure more leases, visit entrata.com/leasing.