One of the common problems for apartment communities when designing their website is how to find photos to put on the page. Plain-text sites are boring, but getting professional photography can be really expensive--so many apartment communities do what many small businesses across the country do: Turn to the stock photo.
Unfortunately, stock photos have a proven--and quite disastrous--record of under-delivering for websites. You can see for yourself here, here, and here. If your site relies on stock photos, consider yourself warned: The numbers aren't pretty.
How bad are stock photos?
The most alarming result of all might be from the case study done by the folks at VWO. According to their case study, one moving company saw a 45% increase in online leads by dropping a generic stock photo and replacing it with photos of the company's employees posing by a company sign or a picture of a company truck. When asked what impact such an increase would have on revenue, one employee said that "assuming a constant value per lead, this test has added about $10,000 / month in interstate moves so far."
If you take this same point and apply it to the typical multifamily community, think about what you could do with 45% more leads if you kept your conversion rate basically the same?
Why are personalized photos so much better than stock photos?
There are two main reasons that personalized or customized photos are so much better for your website than boring, generic stock photos. We'll discuss both below.
They show that a human being is behind this website.
This is a key point for your first touch with a prospect. It can be easy to forget this, but the internet can be a really spammy, really untrustworthy place. (Actually, it's not that easy to forget.)
Because websites are built and used remotely, there is no personal touch required for the communication to happen between the creator of the site and anyone who finds it online. And so lots of websites get set up that present themselves as legitimate businesses, but are actually just scams.
In addition, there are also many businesses that create websites and, though they are a genuine business, they aren't very good at marketing themselves--and this tends to be reflected in their website. So you might get a community that is actually a fantastic place to live but doesn't look like it is when you find them online.
By having high-quality photos of your specific community--the amenities, grounds, and, most importantly, the floorplans--you are establishing trust with prospective residents. You are showing them both that your community is real and you're not running a scam and that you aren't trying to hide anything. You run a high-quality apartment community and don't mind publishing photos of the community online.
They help prospects learn more about your community.
The second point is just as important. Part of the reasons that people ignore stock photos is that the stock photos don't provide any sort of service or value to them. Website users will look at the content that helps them do whatever it is they are wanting to do that moment. So if your photos are useful in some way, they'll look at them. Stock photos, however, don't really address any need your prospective resident might have. They're just... there.
Photos of the clubhouse or floorplan, however, provide something useful: They can look at the photo and learn something about what the community is like from it. They can figure out if the bedroom looks big enough or if they like the kitchen. And the cool thing about educating your leads via your website is it saves your leasing staff time when that lead decides what to do next. If the lead sees your photos and says "not for me," then you've saved your staff the trouble of disqualifying someone who was never signing anyway. On the other hand, if the lead sees the photos and decides they want to know more, you've just made it easier for your leasing staff when they call because the lead is already warm.
How should you use photos on your website?
The best approach to apartment photography is to have an amenities page with community photos and then have all of your floorplan photos on specific floorplan pages. So you'd have a page for your two bed floorplan that includes photos specifically of that floorplan. This approach is ideal because prospective residents aren't leasing the community, they're leasing a specific floorplan. That's the product you're offering. So it only makes sense to give each distinct product its own page on your website so that prospects can learn whatever they want to about that specific offering.
That said, if you have the more common set up in which there is a general photos page for all your community photos, at least label the photos by floorplan so that prospects know exactly what they're looking at. You don't want someone to see a photo of the two bed unit, come in for a tour of the one bed, and begin the tour with disappointment when they realize it's not the unit they thought it was.
The temptation toward stock photos is understandable. Professional photos sound like a hassle and you want to have something there on your site. But the data cited above would suggest that stock photos add nothing to your website and may even be hurting you by driving away leads who think you aren't trustworthy and who can't find the information they are looking for.
By providing prospective residents with floorplan-specific photos taken by a professional, you are making it easier for them to find what they want and to make an informed decision about whether or not to sign a lease.