4 Ways to Use AI to Improve Your Apartment Marketing
Tips from experts for greater efficiency and profitability.
Multifamily owners and operators are always on the hunt for tools that will allow them to run their communities more efficiently, and many are turning to artificial intelligence to achieve that goal.
AI can respond to inquiries from prospective residents, create content for websites, blogs and social media and even conduct predictive analysis to help apartment operators hone their marketing.
Here are just a few of the ways that AI is being used by multifamily professionals to market their communities more efficiently and profitably.
Many apartment websites incorporate the ubiquitous chatbot, one of the most common uses of AI, which pops up when prospects visit the site and then responds to their inquiries. Chatbots come in two varieties. Menu or button-based chatbots ask the user questions and present responses in the form of buttons for the user to select. These improve efficiency, save staff time and offer 24/7 availability for prospective residents who want information when the leasing office is closed.
Conversational AI-based chatbots use natural language processing and can understand and respond to questions posed in everyday English. These offer the same advantages as the button bots, but are capable of providing more information.
Morgan Properties uses a multifamily automated solution that uses AI to free up the time of leasing staff. Kim Boland, Morgan’s director of digital marketing, said the bot shortens the time for a lead to sign a lease. If a lead calls or emails, it typically takes 30 to 45 days until a lease is executed, she said. But when the bot is involved, the lead converts to a lease within 13 days.
Brandon Hegland, vice president of national marketing and leasing for Michaels Management in Camden, N.J., said that chatbots can be particularly effective for marketing affordable apartment communities.
“So many people want affordable housing that they call the property all day long,” he said. “The manager is fielding phone calls that take 10 to 12 minutes each just to tell somebody we’ve got 900 people on our wait list and we can’t help them. So, we use AI for phone calls to answer those questions automatically.”
One example is Keahumoa Place, a 320-unit affordable development in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, just west of Honolulu. The community had an 85 percent occupancy rate because the on-site office was too busy to answer phones or process applications. But the budget didn’t allow for additional hires, so Hegland redeployed the marketing budget into AI, adding an AI-based leasing assistant to respond to leads. The new tool worked so well that the community is currently 100 percent leased and 93 percent occupied, he said.
Alternative text, or “alt text,” is text that describes images on a website. It’s helpful to visually impaired users, for whom it reads a description of an image aloud. Alt text is also indexed by search engines and helps to improve SEO. But it’s often not used.
“A lot of times, our clients either don’t have time to do it or forget to add alternative text because it’s a manual process,” said Nomo Nagaoka, a project manager for RentCafe. “On our platform, when clients are creating websites and they upload an image, we automatically add that alternative text that they can choose to use or edit.”
Using AI to generate alt text helps apartment marketers avoid a repetitive task that could be daunting for companies with thousands of units. “It saves the staff time and gives them a baseline to start so they won’t miss an image,” Nagaoka said.
If you’ve played around with ChatGPT or Bard, you’ve used generative AI, commonly used to create content. It’s a great tool for even the smallest mom-and-pop landlords or others with limited budgets. That’s because it’s free and easy to use.
“Generative AI can generate really great content that’s humanlike,” said Nagaoka. “A lot of our clients will onboard a new property and need a website quickly, but it takes time to write welcome paragraphs on the home page, so we are building tools where we can use AI to generate those paragraphs.”
James Love, vice president of marketing and brand for Draper and Kramer in Chicago, said he uses Bard to produce copy for advertisements and social media posts. “It’s certainly not writing very complicated documents for us, but it’s a significant time saver to offer us a variety of different ways to word things for advertising copy,” he said.
Companies with large portfolios that find it difficult to keep up with original content for social media posts for all their communities can harness AI to generate content to help attract new residents, inform current residents and improve SEO.
“I use ChatGPT to write social media posts,” said Boland. “You can even ask it to speak in a certain voice. I asked it to write something in the voice of Jerry Seinfeld to add a little more humor.”
Ellen Thompson, co-founder & CEO of Respage, a multifamily provider of AI leasing and marketing solutions, said the company is now using AI in its CRM for predictive analysis and can predict, with 78 percent accuracy, whether a resident is going to renew.
“It uses AI to look at the data to understand residents’ behavior during their life cycle and to predict how happy they are and how likely they are to renew,” she said. “By predicting occupancy, we can then adjust our marketing spend based on actual needs.”
Of course, while many are touting the benefits of AI, the technology does have its downsides, including the fact that it is unregulated, and according to Boland, it can make things up, which is called hallucination.
“We have to keep in mind that it’s one more tool to help us become more efficient,” said Catriona Orosco, director of REACH by RentCafe. “But we still have a responsibility to make sure our brand is well represented and that the information we’re putting out there is accurate.”