As its names suggests, apartments.com is a US-based property portal focusing specifically on apartments. After a substantial promotional push in 2009, apartments.com has recently moved into the top 10 US real estate websites list.
Here, spokesperson Tammy Kotula talks to propertyportalwatch.com about how the website was promoted, what challenges it is currently facing, and where its focus will be in 2010.
apartments.com is a specialist portal. What does it offer that other apartment-focused portals don’t?
apartments.com has more than 10 years rooted in online advertising expertise. As an industry leader, apartments.com creates easy access to its listings through unmatched exposure on more than 1,000 websites including Yahoo! Real Estate, AOL Real Estate, Univision, and MySpace, and is an exclusive provider of apartment listings to a media network for more than 120 newspapers and their websites including the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, and The Washington Post.
After acquiring the popular social media website apartmenthomeliving.com, apartments.com advertisers now also benefit from having their listings on two of the nation’s leading apartment search websites.
apartments.com also creates the most relevant products to reach renters online. In addition to creating an iPhone app in 2009, apartments.com was the only Internet Listing Service with a mobile version of its website, which was launched in 2008. Today on-the-go renters can conveniently conduct their apartment search on apartments.com anywhere and anytime from any mobile device.
After conducting a national survey to renters, we found that more than 80 percent of renters prefer a walk-through style video. To offer a product unique to other Internet Listing Services and deliver a multimedia experience that renters demand, our “Walk Through Video” product takes renters on a tour of the inside of apartment homes and community common areas so renters can envision where their belongings will fit inside the apartment. It is through our powerful distribution network and product innovation that apartments.com is able to deliver one of the industry’s lowest cost-per-lead advertising solutions.
apartments.com ran its Roommate of the Year contest in 2009, offering free rent for one year. Can you tell us about the results of the competition?
The apartments.com Roommate of the Year contest challenged renters across the country to create a video, in two minutes or less, demonstrating excellent acts of roommate greatness. Throughout the process, we discovered there are a lot of fabulous roommates out there, but in the end, we believe we found the best in the country. Keaton Davis was our Grand Prize winner and walked away with free rent for a year, plus $10,000 and the coveted title of “apartments.com Roommate of the Year.”
We believe the contest was a tremendous success. In the inaugural year, the spartments.com Roommate of the Year contest attracted approximately 50 qualified video entries from across the country. As a result of aggressive promotional efforts including extensive press outreach, print and online advertising and social media marketing, nearly 80,000 videos were viewed on the Roommate of the Year microsite, approximately 20,000 consumers across the country cast their vote for their favourite roomie during the three week voting phase, and more than 100 media placements were secured.
What have been the benefits of running the competition for apartments.com?
The biggest benefit for us was elevating awareness of the apartments.com brand in a creative and fun way. By engaging renters and allowing them to interact with our brand, we deepened their connection with apartments.com. Now, when it is time to move, we hope more renters will remember apartments.com as a reliable renter resource. Increased exposure to our website also benefits our advertisers with more qualified leads.
In addition to the extensive exposure the contest secured for apartments.com, our 12 contest finalists all became brand ambassadors of apartments.com by promoting the contest during the three week public voting phase. During this phase, apartments.com invited America to weigh in on the decision of which finalists would advance to the next phase. As a result, we also saw our finalists aggressively campaign for votes through their Facebook pages and blogs. Some even handed out flyers at their college campuses. The enthusiasm we saw among our finalists exceeded our expectations.
apartments.com released an iPhone application earlier this year. What effect has this had on traffic and listings?
The iPhone app has been a fantastic addition to our mobile strategy. To date, we’ve had more than 100,000 downloads of the iPhone app, delivering tens of thousands of leads to our advertisers. We continue to find our mobile products a highly effective and efficient method of reaching renters and connecting them to our advertised listings, as seen by the 1 million visits to our mobile website and the nearly 500,000 leads those visits generated.
What are some of the challenges currently facing apartments.com and how is the portal tackling these?
Given the current rental market, it is more important than ever that we drive qualified rental leads to the front doors of our advertisers so they can fill and avoid vacancies. To answer this challenge, we continually strive to increase our advertisers’ exposure by driving renters to our website. We currently create easy access to our listings through unmatched exposure on more than 1,000 websites and are the exclusive provider of apartment listings to more than 120 media partners.
Because new online trends continue to reinvent the way renters access information online, we are also challenged with incorporating the most relevant means to reach renters. To meet these challenges, we have made significant strides in both the online video and mobile space to deliver renters a multimedia experience they demand while making our listings accessible from any mobile phone.
Additionally, we launched MyMedia, an online marketing solution and communication tool to help our advertisers increase closing ratios and strengthen retention rates. With MyMedia, our advertisers can send customized brochures, flyers and more to rental prospects and current residents in a consistent and timely manner, helping to fill vacancies and avoid resident turnover.
What can we expect to see from apartments.com in 2010?
We understand that moving is stressful. That is why we continually strive to simply the apartment search process by delivering a superior online experience to our renters. By providing the right tools and resources, renters are able to make informed rental decisions, driving even more qualified leads to our advertisers. In 2010, expect to see several enhancements to our website that answer the ever-evolving needs and expectations of renters searching online.
We are also continuing our commitment to mobile. We aim to grow our mobile audience through our mobile website and native apps while enhancing our existing products to meet the needs of both renters and apartments.com advertisers. In addition, we will be launching another apartments.com Roommate of the Year contest in the spring. Based on its initial success, we look forward to another nationwide search for America’s best roommate in 2010.