Dawn Ford, Paige Perry and Megan Orser
Smart Apartment Solutions
The Millienials demographic is presenting vast and unique opportunities to the student housing market.
Millennials, also known as echo-boomers, are those who were born between 1980 and 2000. This year, this demographic will outnumber both Baby Boomers and Gen-X’ers, and is presenting vast and unique opportunities to the student housing market.
While not wanting to generalize, one might surmise from this generation that they are:
• Extremely technologically savvy.
• They have involved parents (sometimes referred to as “helicopter parents”).
• Visuals need to quickly catch and hold their attention; because of their activity on video/computer games at a very early age, this generation is accustomed to a high level of mental visual stimulation.
• Now more than ever, they are entering the ranks of the traditional and non-traditional academics with higher expectations of their standards of living than we have ever seen before.
• Statistics have shown that Millenials often change housing every year.
In any type of marketing and leasing strategy compelling the Millennial generation must not only appeal to this demographic, but also to the parents of this generation, as this age group relies heavily on input from their parents (the same phenomenon with senior housing, in reverse).
The impacts of the current economy have left their marks on nearly all areas of the multifamily housing industry, with considerable impact on the student housing market. With pennywise parents and technologically savvy Millennials, we find ourselves struggling to satisfy the wants of both. If your properties are within a close radius to local universities and community colleges, you may find yourself impacting this unique market and must find a way to bring your properties’ awareness to the forefront. With social networks such as Facebook and Twitter growing at an explosive rate, the impact of marketing to the Millennial in the housing arena has become more about engaging in the conversation, rather than just presenting information in a traditional manner. Projecting your property image through these social networks will allow you to reach these specific demographics by utilizing the tools such as events, photos and fan pages.
Here are some ideas to build brand awareness to consider for this specific niche:
• Partnering with sponsors of products that are Millenials “must haves,” such as Red Bull energy drinks, as an example, is a great way to attract future and current student to your property. Host a pool party for prospective new residents and have a company such as Red Bull at the event sponsoring drinks.
• Advertising your property on Facebook ad pages.
• Reach out to high school counselors and establish a particular day for each local high school in the area with that days events being in the name of that particular school.
• Sponsor high school events.
• Masterfully blend the students’ wants of luxurious amenities, such as Starbucks coffee carts, tanning services, vending machines with a choice of healthy snacks and high-speed internet with the parents’ wants of supporting education. Compromise with items such as swanky coffee study lounges complete with Wi-Fi connections and areas where tutoring and quiet study areas are available.
• Limo rides to school.
• Offer apartment cleaning and laundry services for an additional fee.
• Offer meal delivery options.
• Include a “Club Med” for students; advance amenities to a spa or resort quality. For instance, if there is a tanning facility, have lotions available. At the gym, provide bottles of cold water and heated towels all with the community logos.
• Employ student residents to post blog and host mixers.
• Establish a play and stay for the family to book on weekends.
• Create a roommate compatibility service. This initiative could be multi-layered. Not only could the community host a web based listing with pictures and profiles to choose possible roommates from, but offer a compatibility quiz that asks questions about study habits, housekeeping, diet and exercise preferences, bringing others to your website to utilize the compatibility quiz. Take advantage of one of the lead tracking software packages and use this tool to generate new leads.
• Offer a liberal transfer clause, should there be a bad match with a roommate.
• Use organized events and trips over school breaks to attract potential residents.
• For this generation, advertising needs to be entertaining and engaging. We find ourselves attracting an info-lust generation looking for info-tainment. For our clients, we have used with a great deal of success a 60-second animated commercial, or more aptly described as an animated billboard. This product, done as a mini-animation with a story line, is bright and sends a powerful and distinct message in a subtle and entertaining way. Use this venue at high school fairs, trade shows, college recruitment efforts, coffee shops, events and community rooms. The finished product is provided to the client in an electronic and DVD format, so the link to the message on YouTube can be forwarded on an infinite number of times.
• Offer rental discounts based on academic performance.
• One of the constants to keep in mind, when getting inside the heads of this uniquely qualified generation, customization and changes are a must. This generation spends billions of dollars annually on items like cell phone ring tones and wallpapers, and if you can accommodate that need on some level, their desire to carry that customization throughout other aspects of their lives will tip the scales in your favor. One inexpensive suggestion is allowing the student/resident to select, from a pre-determined palate, the color of their apartment home front door.
Keeping your property image current and staying in contact consistently is a must with the Millennial generation. Millenials require constant stimulation and a strong need to consult their parents on decisions, your ability to cater to these demands while creating a unique footprint will allow you to speak the language the Millenials are talking.