The impact on the real estate industry can be seen through many different eyes. In the face of lockdowns, furloughs, and national shutdowns, businesses across the globe are analyzing consumer behaviors in an effort to quickly adapt their marketing efforts.
The initial focus primarily has been on operations and safety for employees, residents, and prospects. Multifamily marketing professionals are asking: What now? What should we change about our strategy, and where do we go from here? If we have to make changes, where should we invest our resources and focus?
In a recent webcast, LeaseLabs SVP Brock MacLean discussed the impact of COVID-19 on apartment marketing and the power of connection through digital channels. In light of this new landscape, data and online consumer trends are now the most important lens for our marketing strategies, giving us insights into what our prospects and clients are looking for, concerned about, and concentrating on.
the state of search and social
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been major shifts in what people need and when they need it. This has been displayed in user behavior. For example, the search query ‘apartment for rent’ immediately dropped 25% on the same day that the search term coronavirus spiked in the US.
For LeaseLabs clients, organic traffic was down 6% MoM. Last year, March traffic was 15% higher than February. Therefore, organic traffic has dipped 19% from the expected increase of the previous year.
In the past month, the following search query trends have shed light on current consumer interests. (Source)
your paid search ads are working
There has always been a correlation between paid advertising performance and global events. In light of social distancing, businesses have shifted their operations and the Internet (mainly search, streaming, and social media) has become the epicenter for relevant information and solutions. This presents new opportunities for some companies, and for others, a need to adapt.
Google Ad Spend in the US has shifted. “ In the past week, we’ve noticed Google search ad impressions begin to decrease modestly—7% below average. That’s not uncommon, particularly during holiday weeks, but it was certainly not expected by many advertisers,” reports Wordstream.
While the number of searches on Google is higher, lower conversion rates in real estate may be misleading. Keywords related to real estate listings and real estate agents have become more competitive, but their conversion rates have dropped significantly. This does not mean that people are not signing leases or figuring out where they plan to relocate.
"Moving and relocation services have seen a 11% increase in search volume while maintaining a healthy CTR, CPC, and CVR.” (Wordstream) Instead, this signifies that leasing agents will be challenged to set appointments, distribute helpful information, and provide ways for prospects to see their potential new homes virtually.
increased focus on resident retention
With social distancing as our new norm, people are turning to popular platforms for entertainment, information sharing, stress relief, and connection. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and even TikTok are experiencing a surge in activity. Facebook had over 5 million more active users last month and Instagram saw an increase of over 4 million users in the United States.
Multifamily properties are utilizing social media to support CDC regulations to stay at home. From DIY home decor and craft projects to the top Netflix shows to binge and books to read, social media can be a tool for safety, not just a feed for entertainment.
Since most leasing offices are closed, communities are swapping out CTAs that promote on-site tours for options to visit the website, view floor plans, and check out virtual tours.
“Social media is especially important in today’s environment to add a little positivity,” says Anna Coleman, LeaseLabs Digital Director. “A good example of this is a current Lincoln Property Company campaign: #LPCHomeTogether, where residents are asked to post a photo of how they’re spending time in their Lincoln apartments. There will be a winner selected weekly and user generated content will be re-posted to the Lincoln social channels.” Since we’re all spending time away from our family and friends, it’s important to still have social interaction online, and campaigns like this one help apartments promote a feeling of community while social distancing.
There has been a large decrease in CPM according to Socialbakers. “The most recent figure is less than half of the previous seven-month high in late November 2019.” This means advertisers have pulled back, allowing a large opportunity for communities to purchase prime social media real estate at extremely low prices.
adapting display to improve your digital presence
Falling right in line with shelter in place orders, store visits and foot traffic across the US has reduced significantly. Some sources have cited store visits decreasing by as much as 90%. For our GeoTargeter clients, this has resulted in roughly a 75% decrease in our geofence user pool. While the number of people out and about has decreased, the amount of time people spend in apps is on the rise.
e-mail volume and open rates increase
Hubspot reports that Marketing outreach, open rates, and database growth have increased since the start of the crisis. “Email open rates increased in March despite a significant jump in send volume. Corporate communications conveying COVID-19 related messages likely contributed to part of the growth in email volume, and we expect this metric to shift over time.”
Similarly, the number of average contacts added to HubSpot customers’ portals increased during this same time period.. With an increase of 29% in the average volume of emails sent the week of March 16, open rates increased by 53%.
Pay attention to your reputation and the feedback to your e-mails, posts, and ads. As your audience progresses through the phases of this pandemic- economically, mentally, and physically, it's important to ensure your messaging adapts as well. Reputation Management and Social Listening are two tools that can help you to ensure your messaging matches the needs of your audience while aligning with your business goals. If your posts are achieving low engagement rates, if unsubscribe rate increases, or if you are receiving negative comments, it's time to go back to the drawing boards, quickly! By ensuring your stategy focuses on showing up, being helpful, being relevant, and looking forward, we can confidently proclaim that we've got this, together.
At LeaseLabs, we convert the broken, disjointed customer journey into a single unified strategy. Our products are your multichannel marketing solution with only one goal in mind: driving qualified traffic directly to your website so you can convert leads to leases at a much higher rate.
The data from LeaseLabs’ and RealPage’s customer bases reflects benchmarks for companies that have invested in an online presence and use LeaseLabs and RealPage as a key part of their growth strategy. The spread of COVID-19 has had a different timeline in different regions, so we are using the World Health Organization's declaration of a global pandemic on March 11, 2020 as our “official” start date. However, some data represents the month of March in comparison to similar time periods. Because the data is aggregated from LeaseLabs and RealPage customers’ businesses, please keep in mind that individual businesses, including ours, may differ based on their own markets, customer base, industry, geography, stage, and/or other factors.