AIM Report: Studies: Websites, Emails More Effective with Relevant, Authentic Content

How can apartment marketers turn the crunched numbers into action to improve the digital marketing programs of their apartment communities?
(From left to right) Aaron Beach, SendGrid; Angie Amon, RentPath; Jennifer Nee, Mill Creek Residential.

(From left to right) Aaron Beach, SendGrid; Angie Amon, RentPath; Jennifer Nee, Mill Creek Residential.

When assessing the ways individuals search online and use their email, data is available by the truckload with sets, subsets and subcategories of the subsets.

But obtaining that data is merely the first step. The most important question is: How can apartment marketers turn the crunched numbers into action to improve the digital marketing programs of their apartment communities?

That’s exactly what RentPath Director of Research Angie Amon and SendGrid Chief Data Scientist Aaron Beach answered at the AIM 2016 Conference in Huntington Beach, Calif., while evaluating Mill Creek Residential’s marketing emails and community websites. The duo shared the findings of their recently conducted studies and what apartment marketers can do about the results during the Evaluating Online Search and Email Behavior session.

Among the vast data gleaned from a recent RentPath study of the motivations attitudes and beliefs of thousands of recent renters was that over half of recent renters are former homeowners and approximately half are over the age of 35, meaning not all are millennials. That data indicates that apartment owner/operators should ensure their online photos and content reflect the diversity of renter ages, Amon said.

The study also found that many have families, only 19 percent move every year, 88 percent want real-time pricing and availability on websites and 89 percent want to see a community in person before signing a lease. The latter statistic underscores resident desires for authentic content and photos that accurately reflect what residents will experience when they tour the community, according to Amon.

“When you talk about location photos, you might want to think about hiring a professional photographer,” Amon said. “You want to stay away from the stock, lifestyle-type photos. Instead, you should have a photographer take wonderful photos of shopping, dining and other types of things that represent the neighborhood.”

Amon also advised apartment marketers to put special emphasis on certain amenities based on the findings of her study. More than 65 percent of residents own pets, making a case for apartment owner/operators to highlight the pet friendliness of their communities along with pet amenities, such as dog parks and pet washing stations. In addition, residents ranked apartment interiors, location and apartment amenities as No. 1, 2 and 3 in importance respectively, meaning these elements must be front and center on community websites.

Amon also recommended adding more required fields to the contact form, such as number of bedrooms and projected move-in date, in order to increase the quality of the leads. The more concrete information a prospective renter releases, the more likely they are to rent, according to Amon.

Email marketing

Much of the same advice can be applied to apartment email marketing campaigns, which may provide a higher return on investment, according to Beach. Beach, who has studied the results of nearly 5 billion emails, noted that email provides companies with their highest ROI, roughly $45 for every $1 spent.

In order to capture that ROI, apartment marketers need to implement some important best practices to stay out of the spam folder, according to Beach. One way is to have a good balance of text and images in any emailed content, as those with just text or a one-page image are indicators of spam.

While apartment companies should beware of the legal ramifications of spam, Beach noted that emails have boasted a higher open rate but a decreasing click through rate over the last year.

“Therefore the call to action must be very clear,” Beach said. “Get to the crux of your message within the first 100 words.”

Based on the billions of emails SendGrid distributes worldwide, Beach suggested that targeted emails generate a better open rate which helps prevent the threat of being labeled as spam.

Beach also indicated that there is no correlation in his research that the time of day an email is sent has any significant effect on the click through rate, but it might affect the way it is read. For instance, those receiving a promotional email on the weekend might not opt to open it until the workweek, or to react to it until then.

Paul Willis is a content specialist at LinnellTaylor Marketing.