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AIM 2020 Webinar Recap - Digital Marketing in a Contactless World

Providing Internet is “table stakes” in apartment marketing these days. Marketers can and should be bragging about their impressive bandwidth, smart features and overall technology– and why not?

Demand has never been higher and capabilities have never been greater. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a lot to do with the acceleration in these trends. There’s work-from-home and learn-from-home, both preceded by “shelter in place.” This year, all consumers have realized just how important the Internet has become in their daily lives as they spent countless hours in their residence.

Consider that this year, by May 2020, residents had spent as much time in their apartments as they typically would have in a full year, according to Apartments.com.

Gone are the days when in-home connectivity was viewed as “entertainment.” Today, it’s a necessity. And there’s no turning back – even after a vaccine becomes available.

“Digital Marketing in a Contactless World,” a webinar produced as part of the AIM Conference webinar series, sponsored by Cox Communications, discussed trending consumer behaviors with Elizabeth Parks, President of Parks Associates; Sce Pike, CEO & Founder, Iotas; Ken Bukauski, Executive Director, Digital Marketing & Sales at Cox Communications; and moderator Steve Lefkovits, Executive Producer, Joshua Tree Conference Group.

Lefkovits asks, “Will the value of the value proposition that is internet connection go away post-Pandemic?” It depends how you market it.

Wi-Fi reception and overall connectivity have always rated high on prospective residents’ preference list, but “in the past seven months, there’s been hyper awareness about it,” Pike says.

Parks says there is no going backwards: “When you look at the convenience, comfort, security and safety that strong broadband connections can bring, residents have come to expect this and rely on this even more since March.”

More and more Americans are working from home, out of necessity, but soon, they will do so based on personal preference, and because of available at-home capabilities powered by the Internet. “Consumers look at technology today and ask, ‘What’s it going to do for me?’ ”

Corporations are realizing the benefits, too, Parks says. “Had you asked senior executives about the likelihood that working from home would gain such traction and be effective, they would have told you, ‘It will never work.’ Now look at us.”

The Internet’s Rising Value

Parks and others brought plenty of data to back up these accelerating tech trends.
Parks says all demographics are indicating an increase about how much they value tech compared to six months ago – especially those ages 25 to 44.

She shares that even of those ages 65-74, nearly two-thirds have a smart phone and 20 percent have a smart-home device.

For the population overall, 88 percent of the country has a broadband connection, 74 percent use a home router, 70 percent have a video-streaming device, 54 percent have a smart TV, 42 percent have a connected health device and 30 percent have a smart-home device.

Parks says that her surveys show consumers’ intentions to purchase more Internet-powered devices is rising. She forecasts that each household will own an average of 20 connected devices by 2025.

Parks points out that more and more consumers are purchasing connectivity devices such as mesh networks and extenders at retail stores to enhance their experience. “What we’re also seeing, is that there’s no such thing yet such as subscriber fatigue,” she says.


“Consumers are willing to pay this amount here and this amount there per month as long as the product delivers the way they want it to.”

Bukauski talks of how consumers believe that the Internet has become as important to them as air and water – and that was even before the pandemic struck, he says, adding, “And just think, with connectivity, there’s always going to be a higher gear. Most consumers don’t realize “just how far they can take this.”

Leasing on Your Smartphone

Smartphones are taking over from tablets and laptops when it comes to greatest usage. Mobile devices continue to play a larger role in apartment marketing.

Bukauski says 90 percent of prospects did some of their apartment search with their cellphones. Knowing this, apartment communities can think differently about the touring process. For example, they can set up QR codes along the tour path and have residents download the information they need on their smartphones.

Bukauski said that a survey published in late 2019 showed that 14 percent of renter prospects are willing to sign a lease without ever seeing the actual property live. In those cases, and a more robust and dynamic and website – created through more powerful broadband connections – played a key role in providing they kind of marketing messaging and contactless service to persuade the prospects. Additionally, Parks says, “there’s nothing preventing us from being able to offer these prospects the ability to sign a lease document from their smart phones.”

5G and the ‘What’s Next?’ Question

Developers and wireless providers are doing what they can to promote these advancements. Parks says, according to multifamily developers, “Variety of integrations with apartment management software” ranked as the most important criteria for choosing a smart apartment service provider at 74 percent.

Pike says bulk Internet services are much preferred for communities that want to deliver such connectivity to enable smart-home devices. “Cellular networks won’t be enough,” she says. “Developers would be smart to invite companies responsible for these smart amenities to be part of the construction planning from the get-go to make sure they build what is needed.”

Looking further ahead, the panelists said that 5G is something that could enhance the experience, once it is better deployed and available to a greater part of the country.
“Consumers at this point don’t really understand 5G and Internet speeds,” Parks says. “These providers’ marketing of it is ‘wonky.’ They say they have it, but they really don’t.” In consumers’ minds, when it comes to broadband, “it either works or it doesn’t,” she says.

Bukauski said consumers need to understand that 5G does not stand for 5 gigabits, it represents density in the networks and in Wi-Fi delivery.

“But for fast and reliable service, it’s best found on wireline; [Cox] has it at 1 gig right now, and eventually we’ll have 2 gigs and even 10 gigs,” Bukauski says. But first “we’ve got to ask ourselves: What’s going to be the next typical thing in our lives that goes virtual? We see it being used with things such as telehealth now, but what else? What’s next?,” he says. “Over time, [the need for more] is going to accelerate and snowball.”


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