The number of people who searched villages.com.au about retirement villages increased 9.3% across the 71 days from 1 May to 10 July, compared to the same period last year.
This is despite Phase 3 easing of COVID restrictions only being announced by the Prime Minister on 12 June and then gradually being applied by State Premiers.
This result is even more significant when you look at the impact of a full shut down which was still being experienced in April and then climbed out in May. With people unable to visit villages, enquiry was delivered a short term hit.
This is clearly demonstrated by the graph below for the search traffic for SE Victoria – taking the popular retirement regions down to Cranborne. Check the plummet for last Wednesday to Friday (circled) when the renewed Melbourne lockdown was announced.
This all suggests that COVID lockdown creates a customer that takes action to search options as they pull out of isolation and then gets hit when lockdown is reimposed – which makes sense.
Our vision of the villages.com.au traffic and the email requests now sees 70% of emails asking for information from villages are now from the children. This tells us there is a new, active driver for retirement communities. Mum and dad are alone and the support systems they had assumed are not so secure.
This matches the early research results from our DCM 2020 Prospect Profile Research that sees concern for isolation and loneliness jumping from a very low 2% in January 2018 to 27% in June 2020. (You can get the research prospectus here).
This new customer is good news for the retirement community sector, but it won’t last forever. Operators need to understand who these people are and equip marketing and salespeople with the tools to remodel value propositions.
It plays to the really big challenge for operators, which is to generate a significantly higher number of enquiries now because settlements will be so much harder to achieve for many buyers by the Nov/Dec when the real economic impact of COVID hits ‘confidence’.
Operators will need to overfill the sales funnel. The message – ‘go early and go hard’ with marketing and sales, with the right tools.