Leading apartment real estate company proves a new Web presence with Sitecore’s CMS makes a critical impression on residents, prospects, and investors
Mid-America Apartment Communities is a leading performer in the apartment real estate industry with an award-winning portfolio of multifamily housing. The company’s current portfolio encompasses more than 48,000 apartment homes. MAA’s website serves as the main hub for apartment seekers, as well as the go-to resource for current MAA residents and investors. The goals of the website are to provide timely information, increase apartment rentals, enhance customer loyalty, and encourage investment. MAA had been using a third-party website-management system prior to its website relaunch with Sitecore’s CMS and determined that buying the Sitecore system would pay for itself in 18 months.
MAA was operating with 159 disparate websites, all individually maintained under different content management systems. These property sites lacked MAA branding, and there was no way to discern a clear affiliation with the MAA name. In order to access these individual property sites, a user had to navigate away from the corporate homepage. The corporate site itself lacked coherent structure, and the design was very out of date. Large scale and global changes were not possible because the site was built with flat files. New website launches were a frequent need as they would acquire new multi-family properties, and the ramp up process for new site development was cumbersome. Ability to update any of the sites was significantly weakened by the hosting arrangement that required content managers to file support tickets. Larger updates were not feasible because the site was built with flat files, rather than in a CMS. Investor engagement was being damaged because MAA’s website did not at all reflect the company’s growth or the caliber of the units they owned.
NavigationArts has been a Sitecore partner since 2007, and has worked with Sitecore previously on projects of this scale. On the technical side, MAA needed a CMS that could synthesize all its brands and centralize control and provide the flexibility and scalability needed for future projects. MAA also needed a platform that could easily integrate with other third party software, such as an apartment information database, financial reporting platform, and a faceted search application. On the marketing side, MAA desperately needed a platform that put content editing power in the hands of its marketing Team. The ease with which content can be created and updated without technical support completely evolved MAA’s business on the web, which prior to redesign was entirely dependent upon a technical team for site enhancement.
NavigationArts completely rebranded the MAA site as well as the 158 sub sites, synthesizing the MAA name into one vibrant theme. The information architects extended the same architecture to all the sites, so all the MAA brands were under one CMS, as well as integrating Sitecore with MAA’s real-time leasing engine and floor plan database. The information about communities can be reused through all MAA’s properties. A PDF generator was also created, that allows visitors to generate and download a complex-specific brochures. They have also launched a build-as-you-go brochure, allowing users to design a unique and custom brochure for their apartment search. Using various search facet selections (such as floor plan selection and desired move-in date), along with content components of their choosing, the customer is presented with a customized brochure that he or she may print and bring with them on the community tour.
According to Melintha Ogle, MAA’s vice president and director of marketing, “Twenty percent of applicants are now leasing online, and we’ve a 17 percent increase in the number of resident portal sign-ups since launching our new website. Currently, 70 percent of our residents have an active myMAA.com log-in account, and 34 percent pay their monthly rent online, compared with 24 percent the month before we launched the new website.”
Before the Sitecore implementation, MAA was operating without a central focus to bring all of its units together. The new MAA website is now transparent and eminently usable which sets the bar for other housing company websites across the board. Bringing 158 brands under one CMS while integrating complex search functionality with a third party real-time leasing application has strengthened MAA’s brand. Navigation Arts, created a design to showcase each property’s unique qualities and personality and presenting the co-branded relationship of the corporate brand. The websites integrates with MAA’s online application product, allowing customers to apply and receive an instantaneous screening result for an individual apartment and allowing residents to pay rent and submit service requests online. MAA transformed its websites into multidimensional destinations for transacting business.
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