Can Searching for Apartments Online Be Luxurious?
Apartment rental company The Bozzuto Group's differentiator is luxury. How does it convey its value proposition and capture customers as they search for apartments online?
Looking for a home – whether renting or buying – is stressful. Back in the pre-Internet dark ages, people would pound the pavements in neighborhoods they liked, trying to find apartment buildings with openings or homes with “for sale” signs. They might also look in newspaper classified ads or go through a realtor.
Thanks to the Internet, a lot of that has changed, especially for the rental market.
Many people still tour buildings in person but identify which buildings to tour based on online searches. Some people even rent sight unseen, especially if they are moving from out of town. From the comfort of their couch, they browse photos and reviews before filling out an online application form.
Sounds great, right?
Well, for luxury real estate companies like The Bozzuto Group, it’s a mixed bag.
Bozzuto’s goal is to “create extraordinary experiences of home and community.” They do so through developing, building and managing high-end apartment buildings. Each building is unique, playing into its neighborhood’s history and architecture. Their service goes above and beyond: for example, the building concierge will water plants for tenants while they’re on vacation.
Bozzuto’s biggest challenge is articulating these luxurious differentiators online, and doing so in a way that will reach apartment hunters during their search.
Bozzuto’s Divided Online Presence
Bozzuto has one company website on which each property has a page that describes its apartment features, community amenities and available floor plans. (See images 1 and 2.) If apartment hunters start on the home page of the site, they can search for available apartments in their desired location and price range.
Bozzuto’s company site does not clearly articulate its luxurious edge, however. The site search function is clunky, and the individual property pages are filled with dense copy. An apartment hunter would not be able to tell from this site that the buildings themselves scream luxury and elegance.
In addition to its company site, each Bozzuto property has a website that reflects its individual brand rather than the Bozzuto brand. These sites are completely different from each other: they showcase each property’s personality, features and amenities. They do a much better job of articulating the incredible experience Bozzuto offers. (See images 3 and 4.)
A Typical Apartment Hunter’s Online Search
Most apartment hunters start their search with aggregators like apartments.com, Zillow or Trulia. These websites make it easy to search by location and by price. Hunters like them because they see all available options – not just buildings managed by one company like Bozzuto.
These websites showcase all properties in the exact same format, knowing that hunters are looking primarily for location and price. They list features and photos in the same way for each listing. (See image 5 and 6.) Since these websites aggregate listings, there is no way for Bozzuto to let their differentiators shine through. In fact, since Bozzuto rentals tend to be more expensive – and many hunters are price-focused – these websites probably do not help drive leases.
As it stands now, Bozzuto’s online presence is not reaching its target audience at the right moment, if at all.
Bozzuto should aim to achieve three goals:
- Drive more people to the Bozzuto website (or to its property websites)
Bozzuto already invests heavily in ads on Google, apartments.com, and other sites. But Bozzuto should invest in Facebook and Instagram ads that focus on lifestyle. These campaigns would emphasize the beauty of the architecture, the appeal of the neighborhoods, and the incredible service. This type of campaign would raise awareness among their target customer group before they are even considering moving.
- Better convey the luxury experience on the Bozzuto website
Bozzuto should redesign its website to emphasize the extraordinary experience that the company offers: the site itself should be an extraordinary experience, which, right now, it’s not. Moreover, Bozzuto should invest in its mobile site, which is even worse than its desktop website. These changes would better convey Bozzuto’s value proposition and would improve conversion rates.
- Improve the experience of Bozzuto properties on aggregator websites
Right now, Bozzuto can buy ads that push their postings to the top of the search results lists. But the company should start conversations with aggregators to start customizing their individual property pages. With over 200 properties, Bozzuto has some leverage. The focus of this customization should be to encourage the hunter to visit the Bozzuto property site. Right now, if you look closely at Image 6, you can see a small link to visit the property website. But it’s hidden in the corner with no emphasis, meaning the hunter still misses Bozzuto’s value proposition.
The Internet and smartphones have unleashed new possibilities for the apartment rental markets. Bozzuto needs to tap into those possibilities to improve its sales funnel.
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- The Bozzuto Group, Home Page, https://www.bozzuto.com/, accessed November 2016.
- The Hecht Warehouse at Ivy City, Home Page, https://www.hechtwarehouse.com/, accessed November 2016.
- Apartments.com, Home Page, https://www.apartments.com/, accessed November 2016.
- Zillow, Home Page, https://www.zillow.com/, accessed November 2016.
- Trulia, Home Page, https://www.trulia.com/, accessed November 2016.
Student comments on Can Searching for Apartments Online Be Luxurious?
This is the first I’ve heard of Bozzuto but I feel that there could be sufficient demand for this type of apartment community within specific markets. I agree that they need to focus on building their brand awareness. One way to drive traffic to their website is to focus their advertising on a specific market, such as Boston, rather than scaling across multiple cities. By focusing their energy on one area, they can quickly pilot new ideas to understand which marketing campaigns are the most effective and which value propositions appeal most to consumers before scaling nationally. An approach to improve their listings on aggregators such as Zillow and Trulia is to change their pricing model. They can separate additional amenities into fees rather than including them in rent so that these results are not excluded when people limit the rent price range.
In recent years, virtual tours have been offered by an increasing number of event locations, apartment complexes, resorts, commercial buildings, and even schools. Consumers increasingly expect to observe and experience a location prior to committing to it. Since Bozutto has marketed itself as a high-end, luxury apartment brand, would it be possible for them to partner with a virtual reality or augmented reality firm to help promote its properties? It seems to me that the culture and ambiance of many of these buildings are unique and authentic to their local neighborhoods. Could VR/AR better help them tell their story?
I am not familiar with this company, but for luxury brands such as this I would think it would want to rely more on word of mouth marketing rather than being added to sites like Zillow or Trulia. I would think that being “lumped in” with the rest on these aggregate sites would decrease their brand equity. This being said, I would focus more on social media and real estate agent promotion.
When I look at a typical apartment hunter’s website, I find it easy to read thru and compare between candidate apartments based on price, house condition, location, etc. However, when I look at Bozutto’s website, I found it so fashionable that I got lost on the website as every page for each property looks quite different. For people who are looking for an apartment, it would be quite painful to read thru Bozutto’s websites. In addition, as Bozutto is targeting at HNW customers/organizations, instead of putting all information online, Bozutto should distribute its information in luxury hotels/clubs/office buildings and reach as many of its target customers as possible.