Marketers love web technologies for many reasons, not the least of which is because they make finding information about their companies and communities easier to find and faster to access. However, the growing number of channels coupled with advancing mobile technologies is making it increasingly difficult for marketers to figure out where their budget dollars are best spent to deliver not just leads but actual leases.
During a discussion at the Top Trends in Marketing
session, industry executives highlighted some critical stats about the
way people make purchase decisions. The average shopper uses 10.7
sources of information before making a buying decision. Roughly 54
percent of information found about companies online comes from sources
other than the company website. And 89 percent of consumers begin
online shopping on one device and switch to another.
Given consumers’ multitrack approach to purchase decisions, apartment firms are finding that lease attribution is more difficult than ever. Earlier models that credited the first or last touch with the consumer are proving to be anything but the right model for the future because they only capture one step in the process. The best model going forward will be weighted, so apartment executives can use data to see how people are flowing through the different touch points and understand whether there should be different calls to action depending on where the consumer is in the process-awareness, consideration, intent or decision.
Janet Hazen, the director of marketing for Prometheus, said, “At some point in the process, you have to give credit to the right source. We use Google Analytics very heavily and we can see when the consumer made the final decision. Attribution will be key, but we [also] need data to help drive how we are going to find the best quality lead to figure out who will convert.”
This focus on distinguishing between lead generation and lead conversion has many apartment marketers looking twice at various online marketing channels-and Craigslist in particular. While Craigslist had been a top referral site for many apartment firms, technology changes are forcing many apartment marketers to move away from the online classifieds provider. From Craigslist’s “ghosting” issues, where online posts were never made visible to the site’s visitors, to the company’s recent decision to eliminate all HTML in real estate postings, affecting custom templates, links, photos and tracking capabilities, these changes are disrupting industry marketing methods and techniques.
“Craigslist made big changes in the past week that have changed the game,” said Gary Redmond, a multifamily digital marketing consultant. This will affect how the industry uses those tools and tracks leads from the site, particularly because Craigslist isn’t a free lead source when its subscription tools and the time spent on the postings are factored in. “You’re getting close to spending $10 to $15 per lead, and it doesn’t convert well in some markets,” he said.
During a technology integration roundtable, industry executives noted similar issues with lease attributions for more traditional Internet listing services. Both industry executives and service providers debated whether the traditional pay-per-lead model was applicable anymore, given both the power of organic search and the industry’s shift toward lead conversion rather than generation as the key metric.
But as the industry works toward better data integration and tracking, it’s clear that a company or community’s website will be the finish line for prospects. Apartment firms need to make sure that the site is optimized for use across all devices from desktops to tablets to smart phones.
“There will be a day when people aren’t executing leases in person. We are seeing dramatic increases in the number of people completing leases online,” Redmond said. “We need to adjust our websites.”