The senior living landscape finds itself at a crossroads in 2019—many operators are challenged with national occupancy figures lower than they have been in recent years. At the same time, new developments are still under way. As a result, operators who are desperately trying to maintain occupancy are facing price pressure.
In light of these challenges, sales and marketing teams are exploring ways to attract new residents and show increased value. One cost-effective way is to utilize innovative technology to help set themselves apart in the marketplace.
“In senior living, we have become a little bit stale as far as the sales process, whether in new construction or existing buildings,” says Cissy Nickel, Community Integration Director for Hunters Woods at Trails Edge, a new senior living community operated by IntegraCare, located in Reston, Virginia. “Everyone has a tour that covers similar things—dining, wellness, activities center. We were looking for something that could engage our prospects in a way that would differentiate us in the market.”
Appealing to new prospects
Sales and marketing teams face a unique challenge when it comes to a new development because they don’t have a completed product for prospects and their families to tour. In the case of Hunters Woods at Trails Edge, the 210-unit community is scheduled to open in Spring 2019 and currently is accepting deposits.
“With a new build, it’s difficult for prospects to visualize and experience what it is going to be like when they move in,” Nickel says. “They are buying the vision. I wanted a tool to help us with that.”
IntegraCare opted to employ Touchtown to help address some of the challenges associated with opening a new community.
Touchtown’s Census Builder combines several tools to create a customized experience for prospects including digital signage, a virtual walkthrough and virtual reality tour. The community then enables the prospect to easily access move-in information, apartment availability, and community resources via Touchtown’s mobile- and web-based application. Additionally, prospects can receive personalized messages through mobile push notifications. Census Builder also allows the sales and marketing team at the community to track the prospect’s use of the app. Engagement analytics enable them to take a more personalized follow up approach.
“It provides a digital footprint of where people are going within the app,” Nickel says. “We can see what motivates them. A lot of people say ‘I’m just looking,’ but then we can see they have been on the app and are looking [specifically] at the two-bedroom floorplans.”
Surprises and successes
Hunters Woods at Trails Edge has used Touchtown Census Builder to help drive commitments and future move-ins among prospects, and has also found the platform to be particularly useful in specific situations. In one instance, a woman visited the community’s sales showroom after her husband had suffered a stroke. The woman had considered getting a medical transport for her husband so that he would be able to see the community, but was concerned about the time it would take to coordinate and the possibility of losing the apartment in the meantime. Nickel offered to visit him and provide a virtual tour via tablet. The couple put down a deposit immediately following the virtual tour.
In another instance, a family was interested in moving aging parents from Arizona to Virginia, and was able to show the parents the community via the Touchtown app. After the virtual tour, they committed their deposit.
“It’s invaluable,” Nickel says. “The adult children really want to be sure their parents are in a safe, comfortable, happy environment where they can thrive, and this technology can reinforce that.”
Future integration and differentiation
Based on the success of IntegraCare at its Hunters Woods community, the company plans to use Touchtown and Census Builder in several other communities, says the company’s Executive Director of Sales and Marketing Eric Walker.
“I think this is one of the future differentiators for senior living providers in different markets,” he says. “People want to live somewhere that is on the cutting edge of technology.”
Further, the organization is using capabilities like virtual tours and digital signage along with technology like Amazon’s Alexa platform to help enhance resident engagement. Touchtown integrates with Alexa so residents can find out what time their favorite activities and events are taking place.
IntegraCare also sees the platform as valuable from a staffing standpoint.
“In our industry, we know staffing is one of our biggest challenges, and here is a tool that lets us be more efficient in our staffing,” Walker says. “Second, it helps our residents maintain dignity and independence as long as possible. That in a nutshell is what we are all about.”
To learn how your community can easily implement Census Builder technology to help drive occupancy for new and existing communities, click here.
Original Article: How New Senior Housing Developments Can Drive Occupancy With Technology by Valerie Arko, January 2019