Digible: Apartment & Multifamily Marketing Agency - Denver, CO

Digible Blog

Digible Simulations - Introduction

In 2017 we, at Digible, made a large commitment to research.  Our two biggest initiatives were Networked Surveys and Digital Simulations.  A lot of energy and resources were put into these projects, and we’d like to share some of that with the rest of the property management community :)

In this series, we'll speak to the digital simulations that we've been running over the past year = putting people in front of machines while they go through the process of looking for an apartment.  Out of our two initiatives, this was undoubtedly the most ambitious and costly endeavor.

What Inspired Us:

For years, my co-founder Reid Wicoff, has been interested in running a series of experiments he called "SimulSearch".  His idea was that someone should do what Nielsen did for the TV industry - get a panel of people to allow us to study how consumers search online.

Sure, Google provides advertisers with access to "search query reports" but this doesn't show us all of the activity that a searcher did before they arrived at a given website.  We as marketers also don't have great information on the demographics of the individual that conducted a given search before taking an action. With SimulSearch, Reid wanted to observe the entire customer journey.  For example, how exactly does a 40-year old, $85K / yr, office worker search for an apartment?

And so, in the Summer of 2017 we took action and started running Digible Simulations.

 One of our small apartment focus groups in a high-end Denver, CO asset.

One of our small apartment focus groups in a high-end Denver, CO asset.

Some of the things we hoped to uncover:

  1. How do apartment goers go about their apartment search

    1. Is it direct or meandering?

    2. What platforms are used?

  2. How do people get to an ILS?

  3. How do folks engage with the different ILS'?

    1. What's their opinion of the user experience?

  4. Do people with different demographics and socioeconomics search for apartments differently?

Setup:

  1. Survey the demographics and socioeconomics of our panel

  2. Run Digital Simulations

    1. Open Session (free roaming apartment searches)

    2. ILS Sessions

      1. Apartments.com

      2. Zillow.com

      3. ApartmentGuide.com

    3. Craigslist Session

  3. Post-Session interviews

  Nicole getting folks setup at an apartment SimulSearch in Gilbert, AZ.

Nicole getting folks setup at an apartment SimulSearch in Gilbert, AZ.

Tech:

  • Alternating PC's, Macs, and Chromebooks

  • Click-stream Tracking Installed

  • Desktop Screen Recording

  • Webcam Recording Enabled

  • Desktop Microphone Enabled

  • User Emotion Tracking Analytics

    • Move over heatmaps, we tracked people’s emotional responses as they surfed the web = for sure the coolest tech of the study and maybe the most fascinating

  Example of a user searching for luxury apartments.

Example of a user searching for luxury apartments.

  Some of the emotion data that we collected from a user while they searched for an apartment.

Some of the emotion data that we collected from a user while they searched for an apartment.

Findings:

After running more than 100 tests, and analyzing over 60 hours of tape, we’ve learned some things... In this series of we'll dive into the details.  To keep you interested, here are some quick nuggets:

  • Zillow is the ILS that is most like Google

  • People use Google Maps far more than you'd expect

    • (and almost no one is advertising there!)

  • Craigslist is not well liked for the user experience.... but it is SUPER effective

    • Even for a $10k / month penthouse apartment!

  • Apartments.com may feel like the industry gorilla, but few users get there purposely

  • Apartment websites are poor at converting

 

Upcoming Articles:

  1. Digible Simulations - The ILS'

  2. Digible Simulations - "The Google"

  3. Digible Simulations - Craigslist

  4. Digible Simulations - Conclusions and the future of the program

Stay tuned for more!