Duties of multifamily marketers of the past included arranging bouquets for grand-opening parties and tracking a community’s promotional activities on paper-based spreadsheets.
Fast-forward to 2019 and the industry’s marketing teams are much more of a tech-savvy bunch. By utilizing innovations such as chatbots, self-touring software, virtual reality, customized resident apps and more, today’s marketers serve in more of a strategic capacity. A panel at the Entrata Summit 2019 session The Future of Marketing From AI to Z shared some of the ways marketers are currently employing these technologies in their everyday efforts.
“With many students coming in from out of state, leasing online has dramatically increased for us,” said Ariel Garcia, director of marketing for Pinnacle Campus Living. “Students want immediate action and aren’t going to wait for the next day, so we want to make sure they have all their answers available through chatbots and have virtual and self tour capabilities. While virtual tours aren’t necessarily new, we want to take the next step so they’re getting that instant gratification.”
Chatbots, of course, aren’t only relevant in the student space. Collect.Chat estimates that 85 percent of customer interactions will be handled without a human agent by 2020, that 50 percent of enterprises will spend more on chatbots than mobile apps by 2021 and that companies will save a combined $8 billion through the use of chatbots by 2022.
In addition to tech that enhances the leasing process, many apartment operators are seeking partnerships with third-party services such as dog walkers, food-delivery services and several additional providers as means to market their communities. Lincoln Property Company, for instance, is partnering with Hello Alfred.
“It’s pretty much a virtual butler,” said Nicole McLemore, national marketing operations manager of Lincoln Property Company. “It’s anything from sending flowers to your home to getting your laundry picked up, even making your bed if you forget to do it. We’re starting to use it at some of our properties in the Southeast and excited to see what’s going to come of it.”
While social media has become a primary means to market communities, it’s not as simple as making regular community-related posts. Tracking Google analytics and the ever-evolving tendencies of each social media provider can create an edge.
“I’ve been encouraging our teams to post more videos than photos because Facebook is prioritizing video publications,” said Brooke Dollen, director of marketing and opening for Hanover. “If you can expect 20 to 30 percent more people to see your post, video is the way to go. And make sure to use vertical videos, not horizontal, because when prospects are scrolling you want the whole screen covered.”
Certain channels can generate a greater impact, particularly when marketing to targeted demographics. Staying on top of these trends is paramount in the marketing sector.
“We’ve seen crazy amounts of growth on Instagram over the past year,” said Taryn Silva, marketing director of Paradigm Management. “We’ve been encouraging our teams to redirect a lot of their marketing spend toward that channel.”
The panel also imparted the importance for community websites to meet WCAG guidelines. Websites live in the public domain and should be accessible to all—and multifamily is labeled a “high risk” industry for lawsuits. These can cost up to $40,000 to settle, not including the cost to make your website compliant. The panel recommended using the ANDI test tool.
With all of the tech-based marketing tactics to track and risks to consider, marketing teams of the present hardly resemble their predecessors of previous decades. One can only believe the future of marketing will continue to trend in a tech-focused direction.