With state lockdowns, social distancing measures, and a significant increase in online shopping as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, one would think that "near me" searches would take a big hit in 2020. The spike in supply and demand for services like DoorDash, e-commerce shopping, and grocery store door-to-door delivery, have allowed consumers to avoid restaurants, malls, and grocery stores in response to the coronavirus. Nevertheless, based on online search data reported by Google's Head of Product Management for Local Ads in Search Engine Land, "near me" searches have increased over 100% compared to last year.
Why the increase?
People are obviously more cautious when going out into public than they were prior to the pandemic. As a result, they want to make sure that they are well-informed of the pricing, location, and availability of the goods and services they feel the need to go out in public to get themselves. Search data from Google also shows that "80% of shoppers will consolidate shopping to make fewer trips than previous years." Thus, people want to know exactly where they're going for what they need and how to do so in as few trips as possible to reduce any potential exposure to COVID-19.
How does this impact multifamily?
According to Google's studies, "67% of shoppers plan to confirm online that a desired item is in stock before going to buy it." With online shoppers taking fewer trips and looking to be more informed before going out to shop in-person, the same rationale should apply to your leasing efforts. Prospects want to know of real-time pricing, availability, and perhaps most importantly, when they can tour your community. Providing real-time online booking capabilities on your property websites will help prospective renters know when they can come to tour your community. Without such an option, it increases the likelihood that they won't visit at all vs. your comps who offer online booking.
Second, the need for your local Google My Business to be up to date and verified is crucial. While many are working from home, apartment searches that include "near me" are still some of the highest performing this year within our SEM campaigns. Ensuring that your GMB is up to date will help drive prospects to your property website organically when searching on Google Maps.
Lastly, if a prospect is coming to tour your community, you have clearly made their short list. With people making less trips out in public as a result of COVID-19, it is likely that they are touring less communities than they would have previously- similar to how people want to visit less stores when going out into public as mentioned before. If you are conducting in-person tours while maintaining social distancing and mask-wearing best practices, the odds of securing that lease have increased as you don't have as many other tours to compete with. Keep that in mind as you are communicating with your prospects prior to, during, or after they tour your community. There is an increased opportunity for you to make sure they are well-prepared and better informed when considering the move to your community.