This piece originally appeared in the December 2022 edition of DS News magazine, online now.
What can property owners learn from e-commerce giants like Amazon? Owners and operators can deliver an exceptional experience for the renter by following principles that have transformed the online shopping landscape. Rental hunting has three factors of success that are also critical in other types of online shopping: customer service, availability and ease of access, and community engagement.
“Everyone wants the Amazon experience online,” shared Max Morales, Director of Marketing at Cornerstone Group. In a webinar on how to optimize marketing for a variety of properties, Morales shared a fundamental truth about modern living and leasing. “People like simple.” Renters want to easily find and live in their ideal apartment. Much like successful e-commerce businesses, exceptional experiences in leasing require properties to make it easy for renters to find what they’re looking for.
While this is simple in principle, it can be challenging to implement without clear guidelines. We’ll get into each of these and how property technology comes into play.
Reduce Friction in the Leasing Process
“Customer obsession rather than competitor focus,” is one of the four principles guiding Amazon’s mission. This reveals why many of the company’s most sophisticated tech innovations deliver convenience, personalization, and speed.
Properties that champion the renter experience find out where there is friction in the renter journey. They then can use technology to remove the roadblocks and make leasing more effortless.
For property teams, the challenge is getting all the tools they manage to work together seamlessly. Single-point solutions have flooded the market to guide leasing teams through specific steps. However, the next phase involves operational efficiency. Seek out automated communications, integrated solutions, and FHA-compliant resources that are renter-centric.
Automate When Possible, and With Intention
Digital shopping allows us to take action, uninterrupted. Automated tour scheduling and email confirmations show renters that your property can swiftly lead them into the leasing process.
Ensure that your automated communications provide clear next steps for the renter and options to continue exploring in the meantime.
For example, your follow-up email may include appointment date and time. But also providing a virtual video of the apartment they will be touring or a link to the website for further details ties back to the whole experience and keeps them engaged.
Renters are also often under time constraints. Make responding easy with two-way email or text communications, simple rescheduling options, and clear directions for onsite tours.
Anticipate Common Renter Questions and Needs
Exceptional digital experiences answer common questions that shoppers are trying to solve for. Your property can answer frequently asked questions from your renters in a variety of engaging ways—from property photos and maps to reviews. Here are a few ways to develop digital experiences with common questions in mind:
- “What’s the neighborhood like?” Renters can quickly get a feel for your community if you have “places nearby” enabled on your listings. Photos and videos of events, partnerships with local vendors, and welcome kits with local recommendations also showcase your property location in a fun and experiential way.
- “Can I trust that it will be this good once I start living there?” Ratings, reviews, and social media are powerful word-of-mouth indicators of what it’s like for residents of the community. Ensuring that they are available, recent, and responded to will help you build trust early and get ahead of renters’ remorse down the line.
- “Is this property pet friendly?” Clear pet policies in listings and the website, fun photos of community pets, and other examples of your community (dog park photos, pet washing stations, etc.) are all ways to effortlessly address this.
- “What shape is the apartment in?” The key question most properties answer can inspire a variety of digital content. Think about how your 3D tours, videos, photos, floor plans, and other visual guides reflect the on-site experience.
Work With New Browsing Behaviors Without Working Against Your Busy Schedule
Touring schedules have changed post-pandemic. The rise in remote work has prompted many renters to research apartments on their own time—during what used to be off-hours.
In a panel at the 2022 Apartmentize conference entitled “What Do Post-Pandemic Renters Need? Data & Industry Expert Perspectives,” speakers shared how this has impacted leasing schedules. In the past, days surrounding the weekend—Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays—used to be the most popular times to tour. However, Tuesdays have recently become a popular tour day as workers make time to quickly explore a new property.
The digital evolution of leasing has also made late-night browsing easier. Instead of overextending leasing teams, properties use automated communication channels and support to fill in outside of office hours. To provide a high-quality renter experience, also ensure outside support teams understand your team’s priorities and can interact with renters as an extension of your team. Virtual leasing solutions, text and email communication, web chat, and other digital messaging services can fulfill this need. Important to look for here are services that integrate with your PMS (property management system) or other platforms and FHA-compliant vendors.
Can Your Leasing Process Pass the Ultimate Test?
The best way to fully understand the renter journey is by taking it. Test out the leasing process for yourself and with your team. Fill out a lead form on your listings and property website to see firsthand what automated communications you receive. Test out booking, rescheduling, and canceling a tour to see how simple or difficult moving through each process is. Write down any questions that come up (“Where could I call the leasing team from this page?”), natural responses you had (“I want to see more but am not sure where to find the website”), and wish-list items for where you want to see improvement. Then, use your findings to make tweaks to the current process.
The renter experience is constantly evolving. With simplicity in mind, you can make adjustments or shift strategies according to a time that works for your team, your budget, and your current processes.