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Using Virtual Reality to Build Sales and Occupancy

New tools benefit senior living community marketing efforts

The date was March 18, 2020, and the location was Westchester County, New York — home to a new progressive senior living development located on a college campus. Broadview—Senior Living at Purchase College is managed by Life Care Services, An LCS Company and being developed by sister company, LCS Development. As the spread of COVID-19 began to have a ripple effect across the country, Life Care Services made the responsible decision to indefinitely suspend in-person visits, including visits to the sales office.

“Other than closing the door to the office and working from home, the truth is we really didn’t have to change much at all,” says Ashley Wade, marketing director at Broadview. “With the guidance of Life Care Services, we’ve been utilizing a virtual, digital selling experience to educate and engage our future residents. It isn’t an issue of ‘Why would we use virtual reality?’ We’ve always had the mindset of ‘Why wouldn’t we use it?’”

“Broadview is a forward-thinking community that aligns with the purpose of building a senior living community on the campus of one of the country’s top liberal arts colleges,” adds Erik Gjullin, vice president/director of marketing and sales at Life Care Services. “Most green field, blue sky developments have a sales office with scale models and physical renderings. But at Broadview, we believe virtual reality and digital technologies is a prudent approach, and it has proven to be very successful. No one had the foresight to predict the impact of a pandemic, and we certainly find ourselves well positioned to showcase the Broadview experience during COVID-19.”

Like most of the country, Broadview did experience a reduction in inquiries during the first couple months of the pandemic. That downturn was relatively mild, and the Broadview team remained nimble in using technology to address the inquiries and needs of future residents.

“Understandably, people are in very different emotional places during a pandemic,” says Wade. “We’re very mindful of preferences and can adjust accordingly. Our team has been using Zoom, FaceTime, video and virtual tours, so it’s very easy for us to keep our audiences engaged.”

The traditional sales office has a physical scale model accompanied by a large display gallery of renderings and architectural designs. At Broadview, there is a virtual reality room with large digital screens and comfortable seating. Future residents have the option of taking a virtual tour as a residency counselor narrates what they’re seeing on the screen. Or, using 3D Oculus goggles, prospects can explore the community, with the counselor narrating the journey. They can see more detail than ever regarding what their residence and the entire community will actually look like. Also, as more details are defined and constructed at the community, a virtual experience can evolve seamlessly and updates shown as they happen.

“Instead of physically walking a future resident through a furnished model apartment, we put them in control of virtually selecting and experiencing which type of residence best addresses their needs and preference,” says Gjullin. “Technology has enabled us to gradually replace the physical models with digital depictions and 3D experiences of the planned community.”

Gjullin added, “We can illustrate to a prospect what it will look and feel like, which is something you can’t achieve with a scale model. The prospect can get a bird’s-eye view of the community. and then swoop down into the common areas or into any of the planned residences.”

The consistent use of technology has allowed the Broadview team to maintain connection and confidence with future residents, and personalized video messages from the team are a common occurrence. Video conference calls have made it easy to bring future residents together and begin to establish relationships and common connections with their soon-to-be neighbors.

“We have several charter members from New York City, and they love the idea of doing a video call,” says Wade. “They can stay right in their Upper Eastside apartment, experience their future in Westchester County, and be quite content without ever stepping foot onto the grounds of the community. So, do we believe it’s the wave of the future? Yes. And whether we like it or not, it’s here to stay. And frankly, we love it!”

The doors officially open at Broadview in 2022. In addition to in-person engagements, the use of virtual reality will remain a powerful tool to foster meaningful connections today and tomorrow.

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