Vice president, Campus Suites
Allowing students and parents to lease through your website is a win for everyone.
In today's fast-paced world, creating and maintaining a digital presence is crucial for effective communication when marketing a student housing community. This digital communication begins with a strong interactive website that includes the vital component of online leasing.
Online leasing is a highly effective module, both internally and externally. Internally, online leasing creates a more efficient and organized workplace. The platform consolidates paperwork and eliminates incomplete lease documents. The beauty of today's online leasing platforms is their ability to monitor the application process by not allowing applicants to move forward in the process unless all steps and signatures have been completed.
Done properly, this method creates an easy-to-audit lease file. Externally, this saves your future resident's time and eliminates the frustration of having to make multiple trips to the leasing office for a simple signature. Communities will thus be able to generate more leases per day and maintain constant communication with prospects and future residents.
The option of online leasing is no longer considered a luxury in the eyes of students, but a necessity that will position a community above the competition. By including the component of online leasing into a website, the community is able to connect with the students on a 24/7 basis and in a more organized manner, without limiting the submittal of lease applications to the hours of the leasing office.
College students spend more than 12 hours a day connected to the Internet. They consistently demonstrate a strong desire to constantly be immersed in the digital world and are continuously looking for more efficient ways to communicate through e-mail, text and social media.
A college student's busy schedule may prohibit them from going into the leasing office during business hours, but having an inbound online leasing system will ensure a secured lease even if schedules do not align. Students prefer to make decisions when they are ready and from the comfort of their own surroundings, such as a freshman dorm room. Students applying without roommates can also utilize the online roommate matching form to select whom they want to live with. Let's not forget about the parents – this process is just as easy for them. The online leasing process will make the immediate difference to change a prospect into a resident.
The Varsity at College Park, a student housing community providing off-campus housing to the University of Maryland, is a perfect example of a successful online leasing campaign. While leasing The Varsity in College Park, MD, in 2011, the leasing team captured 70 percent of their leases online.
As soon as we launched online leasing, we noticed students on the portal at late night hours from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. In order to effectively roll out an online leasing campaign and make it successful, it is important to include the following key elements:
• Easy Website Navigation - It is crucial that your website is easy for students to navigate through, with an online leasing call to action on each page.
• Online Experience – This should be an easy to follow application process and should include all of the community aspects to create an overall online experience with virtual tours, virtual floorplans and direct links to social engagement.
• Live Chat or Email Hybrid – Many students may not have the desire to initially chat in-person, but by offering an online chat component, students can connect one-on-one with a leasing agent at their own convenience. When including an online chat feature, it is extremely critical to have a representative available 24/7, waiting for student inquiries. An alternative to the live chat feature is having an email hybrid system where a designated representative is available to respond to emails immediately as they come in, so students don't have to wait hours for a response. They appreciate the prompt reply.
• Generate Buzz – Once everything is set up, it is important to create awareness through the use of an integrated digital marketing mix, including dedicated e-blasts with direct links to the online leasing page, visual social posts with a strong call to action across all social channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
• Consistent Marketing Materials – It is also important to include an online leasing call to action on all marketing materials. An excellent element to this is including a QR code that links directly to the online leasing page on the website. These QR codes can be specifically designed with each property's logo.
— Deborah Fitzgibbon, Vice President Campus Suites. Campus Suites has developed more than 11,000 beds.