The State of Search- Week of April 6th
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 COVID19 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 6th to April 12th):
We are definitely seeing some albeit small, but consistent improvements in online apartment search volume. Many of the popular keywords we’re tracking are showing slight upticks in volume (versus just one or two keywords or phrases that saw improvements in last week’s update). Another observation: apartment search terms and volume seem to be mirroring the U.S.’s COVID19 graphs. Online apartment searches bottomed out around the same time the U.S. began to hit the peak for Coronavirus cases. This also indicates that if people stop social distancing too early, our industry could likely see another massive drop in search volume in the coming months.
However, there are some positive takeaways and trends from last week:
The term “luxury apartments” is up 2.5% week over week. This isn’t a huge increase, but is significant if you consider that some apartment renters are still attaching the word “luxury” (which usually implies higher or more expensive rental rates) to their searches.
Remember that there are, fortunately, still apartment renters who haven’t been as negatively impacted by COVID19. Some are working in industries that have seen either little to no change in their workflows or, have even seen upticks in their work (and pay). Work to identify these segments and, while still following Fair Housing guidelines, be sure you’re marketing to them effectively. Whether in ad campaigns, lead nurturing emails or even via your preferred employer programs. Also keep in mind that if these prospective renters are still working, you may need to adjust the hours your team is keeping in order to accommodate calls or virtual tours for these people. Making these adjustments could significantly increase your closing and conversion rates amongst highly-qualified prospects – and give you a leg up on the competition. Make is easy for them to do business with you and you’ll win the lease.
Searches for “student apartments” are up 13% week over week. Universities are closed and many have shifted to even virtual graduation ceremonies for their seniors, but students are already starting to plan for next fall.
If you’re marketing to a student demographic, take note that students are online and attempting to make plans for their fall housing needs. Based on the regular student housing leasing cycle, they’re now ‘behind’ on their plans, so work to find ways for both students and their parents make housing decisions remotely. Most COVID19 forecasts project we could be back to a normal school routine by fall, so now is not the time to dial back your marketing efforts. Incorporate roommate tours into your virtual routine, address questions related to ‘what if I rent and school doesn’t resume in the fall’ and leverage social channels and platforms to reach your demographic. Social Media use is up – take advantage of that.
The search term “can’t pay rent” has dropped nearly 62% in volume from last week, which is obviously great news for both residents and for owners, investors and management companies.
Make it your highest priority to showcase value and exceptional service to your residents. Whether through strong communication tools (like email campaigns or a multifamily chatbot service that can respond to resident needs 24/7) or good old-fashioned human-to-human interaction, it’s imperative that you make living in your community easy and seamless right now. There are some customers who will have to choose which bills get paid (like rent) and which ones do not. And some will likely evaluate that dilemma based on their perceived value of your community. Make them love you so much that it’s easy for them to decide to pay YOU (their rent).
And, as we suggested last week, continue to deploy plans for your residents to help them overcome this obstacle, whether it’s designing a payment plan, getting strategic with lease experiation management and renewals or creating a list of resources you can refer residents to for assistance.
Some geographical markets are seeing an increase in search volume. This is varying widely by market right now, but some areas are seeing positive gains and even improvements year-over-year.
Continue to monitor your specific geographical markets. If the trends stay favorable for 2+ weeks, you’ll want to have your marketing plans and campaigns ready-to-go. If you wait too long and aren’t quick to adjust to the trend, you’ll likely fall behind and your competitors will seize the influx of potential renters before you know what’s going on. Be ready and craft a plan to re-engage. This could include:
- Updated ad copy and paid ad campaigns, with a slow re-vamp in spend
- Paid social campaigns. Social metrics are up (more people are using social while they’re at home social distancing)
- Utilize a website pop up/lead collector to naturally collect more of the online leads you’ll naturally be getting
- Add an online tour scheduler to your website – make it easy for the increased volume of leads and prospects to schedule with you right away. Don’t leave them waiting for a response from the leasing team.
- Don’t neglect your SEO efforts. You want prospects to find you organically once they’re coming back online to start their apartment searches, so keep up with your SEO maintenance right now. The more you invest in SEO, the less you’ll need to spend on paid advertising over time.
Geographical Search Terms At-a-Glance
Large Market Search Terms:
“Apartments in NYC” is down 24% YOY (up 1% from last week)
“Apartments in L.A.” is down 24% YOY (up 1% from last week)
“Apartments in Dallas” is down 46% YOY (down 2% fro last week)
“Apartments in Chicago” is down 33% YOY (up 1% from last week)
Mid Market Search Terms:
“Apartments in Columbus (ohio)” is down 37% YOY (down 16% from last week)
“Apartments in Kansas City” is up 4% YOY
“Apartments in Charlotte is down 14% YOY (up 26% from last 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.