May 23, 2024

Apartment Marketing: What's Next for Email?


Taylor Davis


Co-Founder | Chief Product Officer

Yes, everyone still uses email to communicate. The other mediums have not taken over, nor have future mediums like OTT messaging (Whatsapp, WeChat, etc) replaced this form of communication. You’d think with enough time, email technology would wither away, yet it persists.

Why? Why does email marketing still hold value in the marketing stack for property management?

I would argue that email marketing has become an illustrative medium that enables direct, personalized communication with prospective and current residents. 

By "illustrative," I mean engaging, which is crucial to any marketing strategy. People are driven by their emotions, and illustrative content resonates with them. Email is the most cost-effective, long-form digital medium for reaching a target audience in this manner. While SEO and digital marketing can also achieve this, they are significantly more expensive and lack the direct targeting that email offers. Email allows you to deliver your message directly to specific individuals, making it an unparalleled tool in digital marketing.

If you’re not convinced of email marketing’s effectiveness in property management, I’ll give you the facts that show you why it’s a solution that’s sticking around:

  1. High ROI: Email marketing generates an average return on investment of $42 for every $1 spent.
  2. Wide Reach: There are over 4 billion email users worldwide, providing a vast potential audience.
  3. Engagement Rates: The average open rate for real estate emails is around 26.03%, and the click-through rate is approximately 2.78%.
  4. Engagement Rates: Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring customers than social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
  5. Customer Retention: Email marketing is highly effective for customer retention, with 80% of business professionals believing it helps retain customers.
  6. Personalization: Personalized email campaigns can boost transaction rates six times higher than non-personalized emails. 

Since email marketing is not going anywhere, an excellent question is how it will improve over the next couple of years. Specifically, how will it improve apartment marketing?

The future of email is how you use it.

All the major email marketing platforms, including Bonfire, have gone to extensive lengths to provide email marketing solutions that create value. While the small feature releases and minor improvements might excite some of our customers, the focus has always been outward, toward the horizon, where the next big thing is approaching us. 

Marketing Automation and Generative AI

Although marketing automation has existed for several years, it remains relatively new in the property management industry. Among all the industries, its adoption surged during the COVID era, addressing critical needs in B2C sectors facing staffing shortages, high employee turnover, and poor conversion rates. Designed to tackle these issues, the solution has proven effective based on the data. However, the property management industry was one of the few that prioritized cost efficiency over innovation, cutting spending to minimize risk. Considering the market conditions, this approach was understandable, but it did come with its own set of consequences.

Marketing automation, the very solution that could have addressed headline issues in the property management industry, such as staffing shortages, lack of training, and outsourcing core services, was often ignored or deferred with a "let’s discuss next year" response. This reluctance stemmed from the additional technology costs typically allocated to property management software providers. As a result, the potential of marketing automation was overlooked and has become an afterthought amid the rise of AI. While marketing automation represents the future of email marketing, it remains uncertain when the property management industry will widely embrace this level of automation.

If you’re wondering what exactly marketing automation is or why it would be such a valuable solution, here is some data for you:

  1. Increased Efficiency: 80% of marketing automation users saw their number of leads increase, and 77% saw an increase in conversions. 
  2. Improve Lead Management: Research by Forrester found that companies using marketing automation saw a 10% or greater increase in revenue within 6-9 months.
  3. Personalization at Scale: 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences.
  4. Better Analytics: A study by Lenskold Group and Pedowitz Group found that 78% of successful marketers attribute revenue growth to marketing automation. 
  5. Time and Cost Savings: According to Nucleus Research, companies that automate their marketing processes experience a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead.
  6. Consistency and Brand Compliance: Aberdeen Group reported that best-in-class companies using marketing automation were 67% more likely to use a marketing calendar to organize and align their marketing efforts.

A few property management companies are beginning to adopt marketing automation tools, but it has yet to become a staple in their marketing strategies. At Bonfire, we are collaborating with several customers to launch marketing automation initiatives, and we’ve already seen increases in time savings, productivity, and follow-up metrics.

Time savings, cost savings, productivity, and efficiency are the main drivers behind the adoption of marketing automation. Because this need still largely exists, we expect to see increased usage among property management companies. For that to happen, the industry must embrace changing the playbook in apartment marketing, and innovators like Bonfire must ensure seamless integration with property management software to make this solution accessible to the industry.

Now that we’ve discussed Marketing Automation, we shift our attention to Generative AI (such as ChatGPT) - how exactly will it shape email marketing for the property management industry?

One thing we’re already seeing is content generation. Ask AI to write an email for you, and it will. While, in theory, this invention seems great, there is still a missing human element. There is a level of personalization AI cannot match, a matter of relating that is still unachievable by machines.

Humans are still required to achieve authenticity.

Based on our preliminary research, we believe Generative AI is not yet ready to communicate directly with residents or prospects. However, it is highly effective in creating efficiencies for corporate marketing teams, particularly in idea generation, proofreading, editing, and revisionary work. It enhances the team's ability to excel in their core tasks and produce high-quality content for property communication.

It seems more viable for property management companies to focus on centralization, particularly in marketing, because ChatGPT is not yet capable of replacing the creative talents of the marketing team or grasping the human connection essential for crafting effective campaigns.

This is why you don’t see Bonfire making any announcements about Generative AI and adding it to our marketing platform. It cannot replace the marketers who we trust to deliver exceptional marketing experiences for apartment communities.

In conclusion, while Generative AI presents a landscape full of possibilities, the future of email marketing in the apartment industry lies in centralization and marketing automation. Significant progress is still to be made in these areas, which will enable property management companies to maximize their ROI and achieve critical efficiencies across their portfolios.

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