Believe it or not, a lot of the marketing happening within the multifamily industry isn’t completely connected with what’s happening in the leasing office. “We are in an industry where customers self-identify as prospects and spend a considerable amount of time finding us through search,” explains D2 Demand Solutions president Donald Davidoff. “The flipside is that those prospects are coming to us at a point where they know as much or more about our product and our competitor’s product—including pricing and reviews—as we do,”
As a result, the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) concept popularized by Google and trending across the multifamily marketing landscape is having a much more indelible impact, Davidoff says. ZMOT holds that consumer purchasing patterns and use of technology has empowered a new era of online leasing, targeted marketing and demand creation, and the ability to begin creating brand ambassadors at first (or zero) point of contact.
According to data from a multifamily ZMOT survey conducted this fall, only 64% of apartment searchers claimed to have used an online search engine to find their apartment, while 84% indicated they primarily sought out the opinions, advice, and recommendations from friends and family. The survey, which included 288 renter responses from 124 cities in 25 states, also found a strong connection between so-called “web appeal” and community curb appeal among the top five ZMOT influencers cited by respondents:
- 62% of prospects use their mobile phone during an onsite visit to compare apartments and prices elsewhere.
- 64% of apartment searchers claimed to use an online search engine to find their apartment.
- 69% of renters expect online, mobile, and physical marketing and promotions to offer the same pricing and discounts.
- 77% of renters confirm that they “showroom” or view a community in person but complete the purchase online at home.
- 84% indicated they primarily sought out the opinions, advice, and recommendations from friends and family.
That’s not to say search engines are becoming less important to apartment seekers. “Among the respondents who used a search engine, the vast majority of people consider it a 4 or 5 on a scale of importance between 1 and 5, so clearly search technology still matters a lot,” explains Property Solutions chief customer advocate Josh Albrechtsen. “But it is overwhelming that 84% talked to their friends and family about choosing an apartment. I love how human this result is. Even though technology pushes us forward, human interaction still plays a significant role in how people make critical purchasing decisions.”
As a result of the broad use of technology in apartment shopping, multifamily marketers are finding it more important than ever to engage in omni-channel retailing to secure zero moments of truth that lead to lease conversions. “It’s kind of funny how the hype around technology is always about big winners and big losers. But consider that in the music industry, vinyl records are seeing the biggest sales growth,” Davidoff illustrated. “It shows that things don’t go away, and certainly in our world, ILS doesn’t go away and desktop doesn’t go away, iPads just get added, mobile gets added, ratings get added.
Albrechtsen agrees, and sympathizes with the challenges apartment marketers face incorporating all of the latest tools in conjunction with traditional, proven engagement strategies. “These days conversion is less of a funnel and more like an air traffic control map,” Albrechtsen says. “But the old channels are still alive, be present in each channel, be consistent in each channel, and track the full shopping experience.”