Remember the craze in multifamily Web design just a few years ago that had residents and prospects alike splashing onto your home page to be treated to luxurious lifestyle imagery, soothing spa music, and pithy tag lines? Virginia Love does. “We all had websites that said, ‘Welcome to a world of peace and serenity,’ and people loved that; they were enthralled by it,” recalls the vice president of training and marketing for Chicago-based Waterton Residential, which manages 14,000 units nationally. “Now, people want to get onto your website and immediately know how much an apartment is and when they can move in. When it comes to information and the user experience, you need to give it to them right off the bat.” Otherwise, it’s off they go, creating a bounce rate—a unique visitor that navigates to a website and then leaves without taking any further measurable action. For transaction-oriented Web platforms (think Amazon and iTunes), bounce rates are a critical measure of marketing success that indicates whether a customer is making a purchase and provides insight into how buying habits are specifically influenced by Web architecture, design, and branding. The conversion from website visitor to bona fide customer has, thus, always been closely linked to bounce rates, which for some time have been a carefully watched—if not entirely understood or correctly applied—metric for all websites, regardless of whether they follow a transactional model or not.
“A conversion for Apple is someone making a purchase, so Apple is constantly trying to provide the information and experience that make someone comfortable with a transaction,” explains Chris Brasher, marketing manager for Provo, Utah–based Property Solutions, a prospect and resident portal and payments provider to the multifamily industry. “On the apartment side, you likewise need a clear idea of what you want to accomplish with your website. Do you want to do marketing? Generate guest cards? Do you want leads? Maybe you don’t want your resident prospects to stick around. Maybe you just want them to do something there, from calling a unique phone number to just being saturated with your brand. These are all different things that might compete with each other from a design and functionality standpoint.”