Self-guided tours became a leasing tool of necessity during the pandemic. Many operators did what they had to do and accelerated implementation of whatever solution they could get immediately up and running.
Unfortunately, in their haste, operators sometimes skipped critical considerations in the self-guided tour experience. Property managers were forced to take a reactive approach and often overlooked security concerns for residents and ease of the overall tour experience for prospects.
Now a foundational piece of the leasing strategy, it’s clear the self-guided tour option is here to stay post-pandemic. Owners/ operators now have an opportunity to take a proactive approach and refine the self-guided tour experience while leveraging different resources to create effective and efficient tours.
Bolstering the self-guided tour experience benefits prospective residents and employees alike and can increase conversion rates on leases while ensuring safety for residents. From security measures to data use and creating strategic tour routes, the following are some of today’s best practices for self-guided tours.
Bolster security measures
Self-guided tours allow an unaccompanied prospective resident to walk around an apartment community at various hours of the day. Owners/operators have an obligation to residents to protect their safety and respect their privacy. Property managers need to create parameters around the self-guided tour to mitigate risks associated with unaccompanied visitors touring communities and common spaces.
“Implementing self-guided tours presented its share of challenges in the beginning, with one of the most obvious being the security piece,” said Jim Losik, Sales and Leasing Director at Draper and Kramer. “First and foremost, we wanted to ensure we were providing a secure environment for residents and the property, but with proper safeguards, and many of our initial concerns have been addressed.”
New technologies are helping to mitigate and eliminate most self-guided tour risks with wayfinding technology. Wayfinding technology with “blue dot” features and tracking beacons help onsite teams keep tabs on which prospective resident is touring the community, their real-time position within the community and how much time someone spends in each location.
Include other visual elements
An enhanced presentation and experience for self-guided tours includes additional components like photos, videos, interactive maps and 3-D floor plans to help prospective residents get a better feel for the community. Allowing people to know where they are in the apartment community, where their home is located within the community and where all the common spaces, parking, entrances and exits are in proximity to the apartment is an effective way to boost conversion rates. People want as much information as they can to visualize what life would be like at the community and will be more likely to sign a lease if they have all the information up front.
Based on an Engrain Insights Report for multifamily property owners and managers, 82% of prospective residents say a map is helpful to a successful tour and 92% say it was easy to find the apartment with a wayfinding platform.
“Self-guided tours with more visual content just makes for a better presentation overall,” Losik said. “They’re sleek and effective, and features like interactive maps and comprehensive floor plans really enhance the prospect experience and help promote the community as forward-thinking and cutting-edge.”
"Self-guided tours with more visual content just makes for a better presentation overall. They’re sleek and effective, and features like interactive maps and comprehensive floor plans really enhance the prospect experience and help promote the community as forward-thinking and cutting-edge.”
Sales & Leasing Director, Draper & Kramer
Control the tour content
Self-guided tours are a dynamic experience for prospective residents. From narration and images to the actual tour route, owners/operators and leasing teams should own the content and control each piece of the self-guided experience.
“Our in-house and onsite teams created the tours and all the narrations because we know the properties far better than the tour app designers,” Losik said. “We want to make sure the community branding in the tour app is consistent with the photography, sitemaps, colors and overall brand guidelines established for the property.”
Controlling the content enables property managers and onsite teams to dictate the flow of the tour, influence the pace and control the community branding. Every apartment community is unique and it should be up to the community teams, not the supplier partner, to capture those nuances and infuse community branding into the tour.
Gain buy-in from the leasing team
When implementing self-guided tours, one of the key pieces is a buy-in from the
leasing team. Owners/operators should take time to reassure employees that self-guided tours are not trying to replace personnel but to support the leasing team.
“While we are always looking for new and improved technologies to enhance our leasing efforts, it is vitally important to engage the onsite leasing teams throughout the entire process to ensure its success,” Losik said. “Our leasing teams have been our greatest proponents of this new technology and they recognize its potential to assist them throughout their efforts to convert leads to residents.”
Cutting-edge, self-guided tour technology helps leasing associates more efficiently and effectively do their jobs and provides an opportunity to expand leasing hours to increase the prospective resident pool.
“We want to set up leasing teams to be successful,” Losik said. “One way of doing so with the tour technology is through clear and ongoing instruction on how to harness the new technology and effectively follow-up with prospects based on data and insight from the self-guided tours.”
Include staff in tour development
Leasing team involvement in tour creation is just as important as buy-in. Leasing agents know the communities better than anyone and can provide meaningful insight into tour routes, popular amenities and which spaces potential residents typically like to see the most.
“I wanted to hear from our leasing agents in terms of what their typical path is, if they take prospects to the model apartment or the pool deck first and how much time they usually spend in each location,” Losik said. “Working with leasing agents to draft and create the tour route helped us make an effective route while also allowing for flexibility when prospects look for different unit types and amenities.”
Optimize leasing to target demographic ‘sweet spot’
Owners/operators need to understand the demographics each community caters to in order to better reach those prospective residents. Millennials and Gen Z comprise the largest demographic of modern renters and are technologically savvy. Leveraging different platforms enables prospective residents to engage with the community through their preferred medium.
“Millennials comprise one of our demographic sweet spots, and smartphones play an important role in how they shop for new apartment communities,” Losik said. “It struck me that we needed a tool to appeal to this demographic, so integrating self-guided tour technology with a smartphone and app was perfect for that.”
Mind local laws on data use
Self-guided tour technology is a great tool to gain key data and insight, but that doesn’t mean all data should be stored and used. Local privacy laws dictate what leasing teams can and cannot do with collected data. Owners/operators should factor in local privacy laws to avoid possible legal challenges.
Biometric data is information taken using unique body measurements, like fingerprints, the irises of eyes or voice, and this is a prime example of a data point that falls within the parameters of a local privacy law. Multiple states, including Illinois, Texas and Washington, have either implemented biometric statutes or expanded existing privacy laws to include the prohibition of collecting and storing biometric data. And even more states have pending biometric privacy legislation.
While self-guided tours were in use prior to the pandemic, they quickly became one of the foremost tactics to manage the unique challenges presented to owners/operators by social distancing protocols. Now is the perfect time to reassess what is and is not working for self-guided tours at their communities. From bolstering leasing efforts with self-guided tour technology to leveraging data and insight for effective follow-ups, refining processes to implement best practices can really enhance the tour experience for prospective residents.
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