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Virtual-Style Tours on the Rise as Social Distancing Impacts Housing and Rental Markets
LWS Releases New Virtual Tour Update For Ad Syndication
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, "social distancing" has caused in-person tours to scale back. As a result, the rental housing industry must provide a workaround to show properties to potential tenants.
In addition to providing you with rental market data over the last few weeks, our team has also been working behind-the-scenes to provide you with a solution to this ever-pressing issue. Today we are pleased to announce our new virtual tour ad syndication feature. This feature allows users who have video or Matterport 3D tours in our system to now push them to their ads (via Rentsync).
As of right now, the only ILS that supports this new automated ad syndication feature is RentBoard.ca, while the Zumper network, including Padmapper, supports it on their featured ad packages. That said, we do anticipate more ILS' will support this feature in the coming weeks and months.
In the meantime, if you haven't implemented "virtual touring" as part of your marketing strategy, now is the perfect time.
In fact, our data1 shows that lead volume is now rebounding since the initial COVID-19 announcement, and is up 7% week-over-week. This, coupled with Airbnbs and short-term accommodations being banned in Ontario, could be an early sign that we're now heading into a renter's market.
If so, rental properties must arm themselves accordingly, and virtual tours are just one way to ensure you stand out from the crowd.
To better educate users on how to effectively implement virtual touring, we've put together the following guide to help you along:
- The Benefits of Virtual Touring
- Types of Virtual Tours
- Marketing Your Virtual Tours
- Activating "Virtual Tours" in your Ads via Rentsync
What Are the Benefits of Adding Virtual Touring Options?
If you're wondering whether or not implementing virtual tours is worth the hassle or the cost, here are 5 data-backed reasons why you should:
- Virtual tours enhance your presence on search with google business view. A 360 degree virtual tour will help you showcase your business and stand out from the competition. According to the WAV group, listings with virtual tours get clicked on 40% more than listings without virtual tours.
- Increase your visitor retention. Statistics have shown that websites with virtual tours are viewed 5-10 times longer than those without. A virtual tour offers extra confidence in your property as prospects can view inside and gather details they otherwise could not. Renters naturally feel more affinity with buildings they can see.
- Increase web traffic and engagement. Virtual tours get over five million visits a day because they spark interest and are an important part of the decision-making process for renters. The conversion rate for pages with virtual touring is up to 27% higher than ones with standard two-dimensional images.
- Fill vacancies faster. Evidence suggests that prospects are more willing to rent from you if they have a clear understanding of what your property offers. In fact, 75% of visitors consider a virtual tour to be a major decision-making tool before signing a lease; and 18-34 year olds are 130% more likely to book based on a virtual tour.
According to Malcolm Mo, Marketing Director at Rhapsody Property Management Services2, a premier multifamily property management firm in Canada focused on purpose-built luxury rental communities, realizes renting sight unseen can be difficult. That's why guided tours are so important right now.
"Through guided virtual tours we are able to provide an elevated service to prospects looking to rent at one of our communities. Through guided tours, leasing agents are able find out a prospects needs and wants and be able to highlight community features and resident services that could be important for the renter when deciding where to live."
Malcolm has also seen the early results of deploying virtual tours during the pandemic:
"Throughout this time, I believe there will be a shift in renter behaviour to adopt virtual touring as the primary method for finding their next home. So far, people have been very understanding and we have successfully signed leases using virtual tours."
Since in-person tours are currently slowing down, virtual tours are crucial for filling vacancies right now by giving renters peace of mind when deciding on their next move.
Types of Virtual Tours: Self-Guided vs. Guided Virtual Tours
There are many ways for properties to conduct "virtual tours" right now. To help clear things up, let's divide "virtual tours" into two categories: self-guided virtual tours and guided virtual tours.
Self-Guided Virtual Tours
Virtual tours, like those by Matterport, include options such as 3D interactive floor plans, and photographs of a property stitched together into a video format, allowing renters to preview the property through self-navigation.
Guided Virtual Tours
For many Class-A properties it's important to provide a guided tour experience to fully capture your offerings. A guided tour is usually conducted by the leasing agent, and allows for a two-way virtual conference between agent and prospective renter. Users can perform tours through apps such as FaceTime, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, or Skype to get a more accurate, and more customized understanding of the property, and ask questions along the way.
How you choose to conduct virtual touring is up to you, but we recommend a combination of both options to give potential renters the best experience during this time.
How to Effectively Market Virtual Touring to Prospects
Virtual touring is essential to your marketing right now. But how can you utilize this tool most effectively?
While speaking to Rhapsody and other property management companies who are currently implementing virtual touring right now, we found 4 tactics properties can use to increase bookings:
- Create compelling sponsored posts. Make sure to include sponsored posts about virtual tours with eye-catching imagery and copy. By creating compelling marketing messages and adding visuals that tell a story are a great way to engage and convert prospects.
- Update your ad copy. Get your message across to multiple audiences at once by adding virtual tours to your ILS and Google Ads copy.
- Include pop-ups and calls-to-action on your website. Add visually compelling pop-ups to your website, and include a clear call-to-action to inform prospects about your virtual touring capabilities.
- Communicate to your email list. Last but not least, email your leads with messaging about your virtual touring capabilities. By including copy in your subject line and in the body of your email, you can drive leads to book virtual tours.
Ready to start advertising your virtual touring options?
If you're not currently listing your properties on RentBoard or Zumper, chat with our sales team to get started on creating an account, and begin syndicating virtual touring in your ads.
Already have virtual tours? For step-by-step instructions on how to activate "virtual touring" in your ILS ads see the documentation below.
We will continue to update this page as more ILS partners become available.
And as always, stay healthy!
In response to COVID-19, remote work and social distancing are among the top precautions being taken to fight the virus. As a result, LWS has quickly responded to these developments by adapting Rentsync to meet the multifamily industry's unique needs during this time.
Introducing Virtual Tour Ad Syndication.
The following is a breakdown of how to access this feature in Rentsync from within your LIFT System account:
Adding Virtual Tours in LIFT
If you currently don't have virtual tours in your LIFT System account, you can easily add your virtual tours to LIFT, by editing a property and choosing the "Virtual Tours" tab.
Already have Virtual Tours?
To activate virtual tours for an ILS (via Rentsync), simply turn on your properties inside the Advertising panel in Rentsync. Voila! Existing enabled properties that have virtual tours in LIFT will now automatically include them in your listings.
Supported ILS & Types
Rentboard: Matterport & YouTube
Zumper/Padmapper (featured ads only): Matterport, YouTube, Panoskin & GeoCV
RentCanada: All tour & video types (except Panoski Tours)
REW: Matterport, YouTube & Vimeo
1 From LIFT System / Rentsync
2 Full disclosure: Rhapsody is an LWS client.