Huntington Beach, Calif.—If you have a website, it’s important to gather meaningful reporting in order to be successful, according to panelists at the AIM (Apartment Internet Marketing) conference session, “Analytics that Matter.”
How well a job you do in the early stages of your web analytics has a big impact on your success in the future, says Gary Angel, co-founder and president of Semphonic, an independent web analytics consultancy.
Meaningful reporting is also key. “When people first get started, there’s a tendency to default to what the tools tell you are meaningful,” such as page views and number of visitors, notes Angel. But what’s truly meaningful, he adds, is segmented reporting that, for example, tells you how many prospects of a certain type came to your site, what they did there, what they cared about and whether they were successful in finding the information they were seeking.
“If you’re doing the reporting right, it will drive you to ask important questions about your business that analysis can help you solve to figure how to make the business better. Once analysis answers that question, that leads to segmentation and personalization, because now you have the opportunity to fix the problem,” says Angel.
Demand signals, which come from the retail sector, can be an incredibly strong model for the apartment industry, as managers can look at the way website views are trending to determine what will be in demand as seasons approach. For example, an increase in interest in a particular property may provide clues about the business two to three months ahead of time, allowing the industry to be proactive rather than reactive, points out Donald Davidoff, group vice president of strategic systems at Archstone.
“It’s the time between when the problem occurs, to when we realize it, to when we solve it, that we lose money,” he says. “If we can move that realization up in the timeline, we’ll [spend] less time dealing with the problem.”
Of course, the website is a lead generator, and one of the opportunities here is to do a better job of collecting the information of what people did on your website, scoring them and passing that along to the people who are processing the lead, says Angel. “We look at the way people are behaving on the website, and we correlate it to eventual outcomes in the business. If you can make that connection and do this kind of scoring to say the leads that turned out the best had these characteristics on the website, that allows you, on an ongoing basis, to take every lead and decide how you want to handle it.”
In order to properly target your audience, it’s important to segment your analysis; for example, as Angel points out, the amount of time spent on a page is important for only some types of visits. And, Davidoff adds, he has observed different behaviors in mobile versus desktop use—41 percent of residents who paid rent using a mobile app had never paid their rent online previously.
What is critical, however, is gathering meta data, including the search parameters of visitors. “There are cues in people’s behavior that allow you to help figure out what to do with that person when they generate a lead,” which is critical for targeting, Angel says, adding that focusing on things such as font color and images drives only minimal change.
“Little creative touches don’t change your business,” he says. “What changes your business is thinking about specific interests of customers and tailoring experiences to those segments.”
One of the biggest testing personalization opportunities, he adds, is for return visits; find ways to customize the return to what the visitor has already told you he cares about.
And, Angel says, this all can be tied to social media. As more efforts are made to get people to comment socially on sites, capture the lists of those people who are engaged with you.