State of Search- Week of April 20th
Kristi Fickert, Senior Vice President of Engagement and Growth
Patrick Laycock, Senior Manager of Digital Strategy
Our team of strategists spend the majority of their time digging into data. It’s their job and it’s what they live and breathe, every day (even outside of the COVID-19 era). Numbers tell a story that can more effectively guide all of our marketing decisions and now more than ever, it’s imperative we keep a pulse on what’s happening in the apartment industry today. Each week we’re reviewing the ‘State of Search’. How are prospects and apartment renters shifting their priorities? What search terms are they using, and what’s happening with search volume? Are large metropolitan areas seeing a variation in online leasing velocity compared to other markets?
During this critical time, we’ll scrutinize the data, help you make sense of the trends, and more importantly, determine the exact actions you should be taking to maximize your marketing efforts (while being mindful of potential budget constraints).
This week’s State of Search (April 12th to April 19th):
This week brings more good news regarding apartment searches. While it’s not quite time to pop open the bottle of champagne just yet, the trends are continuing to show favorable results for our beloved industry. One of the popular search terms we’ve watched closely, week-after-week, is ‘apartments for rent’.
Initially, we saw a drastic decline in online searches, but the demand has slowly climbed in the last few weeks. This week, search volume for ‘apartments for rent’ is up 10% week over week. And, it’s also 5% higher than it was during the holiday season of 2019. Data from other sources and online marketing tools are also eluding to a slow, albeit steady comeback for online apartment searches and this matches those metrics.
As landlords and management companies anxiously await the May 2020 rent cycle and as residents work to navigate their employment situations, we’ve also been monitoring searches for ‘can’t pay rent’. The number of people searching for information related to ‘can’t pay rent’ is still up nearly 82% year-over-year, however, it is down 105% from its peak, which occurred between March 29th and April 4th. We’re cautiously optimistic that this means the May rent cycle won’t slump as much as some have anticipated. And, as more states continue to unveil plans for re-opening their economies, we should continue to see this number fall and get more in line with 2019 and pre-COVID-19 trends.
Here are a few additional takeaways for this week:
The search term “luxury apartments” is down only 2% from what it was at the end of April 2019.
Dial up your leasing. Really! I don’t mean dial up your advertising budget, necessarily. Rather, use this time to get your marketing stack in order. You may have dialed back advertising over the last few weeks, but now is not the time to ignore the fact that some prospects are still looking for luxury living.
This is the perfect time to put ‘luxury’ into your prospect’s shopping experience. Walk through your online leasing process, step-by-step from the customer’s perspective. How many clicks does it take for someone to schedule (and get a confirmed appointment time) with your team? Can you identify holes in the process? Have you incorporated an online tour scheduler and given prospects the ability to select their own tour date and time? What kinds of follow up messages do they get – and how do those read? Have you added personalized touchpoints to your self-service or virtual tours? Can you add more?
Earlier this week I hosted a webinar for the National Apartment Association, where I reviewed 5 ideas for creating high-touch experiences in a no-contact world. You can watch it for free, here.
Remember, ‘luxury’ can be something physical – like high-end finishes or top-notch amenities. But it’s also something we do – a service we provide. Does your online shopping experience exude luxury? Without prospects being able to touch and feel your physical luxuries, it’s critical you’re layering in ‘luxury’ throughout their online experiences.
Searches for ‘open apartments’ are up 10% week over week and are up 22% from the same period in April 2019.
Given the state of social distancing and mandates to stay home, many prospective residents and customers will assume your offices are closed. Even if you’re not physically present on-site, it’s important customers know you’re virtually open for business. You may have updated your office hours online and on your Google My Business page weeks ago, but are you making it crystal clear to customers that you’re ready to do business with them? Add a banner to the homepage of your website to announce you’re open (whatever that looks like for your state or region). Make it easy for customers to determine how they can do business with you. Can they take a virtual tour? Can they visit the community on their own to browse around? How quickly can they see a real apartment in-person, if they’re ready to rent? The more you communicate, the more likely you are to convert.
This is also a great time to put conversion tools in place on your website. Adding a smart pop up and giving interested prospects the opportunity to ‘sign up for updates’ is an incredibly smart and inexpensive addition to your marketing stack. The prospects who are browsing online today will want to be the first to know when you’re fully operational again. So, find ways to be building a list of interested prospects, now.
As states announce plans for re-opening, apartment searches by geographical region are also swinging up, slightly. Dallas seems to be the big winner this week, with a 26% increase in apartment searches compared to last week.
This is the third week in a row that Dallas has seen consistent improvement in apartment search volume. Continue to monitor your specific geographical markets. As we’ve mentioned before, if the trends stay favorable for 2+ weeks, you’ll want to have your marketing plans and campaigns ready-to-go. If you’re in Dallas, you should be re-engaging your marketing efforts now, so you can capitalize on the increased demand.
Geographical Search Terms At-a-Glance
Large Market Search Terms:
“Apartments in NYC” is up 8% week over week
“Apartments in L.A.” is down 9% week over week
“Apartments in Dallas” is up 26% week over week
“Apartments in Chicago” is down 1% week over week
Mid Market Search Terms:
“Apartments in Columbus (ohio)” is up 15% week over week
“Apartments in Kansas City” is up 1% week over week
“Apartments in Charlotte is down 15% week over week
Looking for resources on how to handle your marketing during times like these?
We are here to help guide you through this trying time with your business.