With the oldest representatives of Gen Z now 24 years old, this generation has already redefined the student housing market and is well on its way to doing the same for multifamily. As their coming of age continues to change the student housing and multifamily industries, here’s what you should know if you want to remain at the cutting edge of the industry and future-proof your marketing strategy. We’ll break down who Gen Z is, what motivates Gen Z’s housing choices, and how to market housing to Gen Z. Let’s dive in.
Who Is Gen Z?
First of all, let’s nail down some definitions. Although from a practical standpoint, generational boundaries are more of a guideline, the official birth years for Gen Z fall between 1997 and 2012. That means as of 2021, the oldest Gen Zers (or “Zoomers”) are now 24 years old. As a result, many Gen Zers are now becoming first-time renters in both the student housing and multi-family markets, and within the next decade, the entire generation will be 18 or older.
Besides their years of birth, Gen Z is defined by the digital and cultural trends that formed (and continue to inform) the zeitgeist of their formative years. This generation is dominated by digital natives—i.e. people who have not only never experienced a time without the internet, but who grew up using smartphones, social media, and other digital technologies and platforms. They are on track to be the most educated generation on average and tend to be socially conscious and climate conscious.
In terms of their values, Gen Z is considered to be similar to Millennials but antithetical to the Boomer generation. Many Gen Zers appear to reject the traditional values of the Boomer generation: for example, Gen Z is less likely to value buying a home, marrying young (or marrying at all), having children, achieving traditional career success, or conforming to traditionally-defined gender roles.
What Motivates Gen Z?
Gen Z’s digital and social sensibilities define their key motivations within the housing market. For example, it should come as no surprise that, even more than Millennials, the digital natives of Gen Z are motivated by smart home tech, access to high-speed internet, and a property’s digital presence. They prefer having the ability to learn about a property online without first having to visit in person and expect online options for lease applications, rent payments, and maintenance requests. In a similar vein, this group—accustomed to having so much of their life at their literal fingertips—appreciates convenience and will choose housing options that cater to it.
Beyond their digital expectations, Gen Z is also highly motivated by affordability. As this generation enters the market during one of America’s most staggering recessions, when tuition costs are higher than ever, and job security is hard to come by, they know they have to be frugal and cautious. For similar reasons, this generation values flexibility and efficiency. They want to get what they need without paying for extra; they want low utility costs and high value, and they want the freedom to change their housing when their needs change, especially during a time of instability.
Additionally, this climate-conscious generation is motivated by sustainability. They are early adopters of sustainable alternatives to everyday goods and services and likely to appreciate brands that they see as contributing to climate solutions rather than to climate problems.
How is Gen Z Changing the Housing Market?
As Gen Z enters the renting market, many developers and property management companies are beginning to see what is most important to these renters as well as what are some of the deal-breakers.
We’ve already seen a shift to online rent payment options, online leasing, and virtual tours. In addition to these changes, we’re beginning to see an incorporation of more smart-home technologies with new developments and upgrades to existing apartments. These changes speak to some of the shared values placed on digital convenience and tech-savvy by Gen Z and Millennials. While the latter have been shaping housing trends for over a decade, Gen Z will likely push these trends even further. In particular, smart-home technologies with phone compatibility are likely to be the next wave of upgrades. Some of the amenities we’re beginning to see in this area include:
- Smart thermostats
- Smart door locks and keyless entry (for apartments and amenity spaces)
- Package lockers
- Smart speakers (often given as leasing incentives)
- Smart lights
- Smart appliances
- App-based amenity reservation system
On the subject of sustainability, many developers are setting new standards with LEED certification. Since Gen Z values contributing to efforts that protect the environment, we may see an increase in LEED certified buildings and the marketing around these certifications to appeal to the interests of Gen Z renters. Other features and amenities we’re beginning to see in this area include:
- Vehicle recharging stations
- LED lighting
- On-site renewable energy
- Recycling options
- High-efficiency appliances
- Community gardens
Another interesting trend that could emerge is co-living. While it’s still a niche industry, co-living may appeal to the convenience and affordability motivators for Gen Z. Younger renters are accustomed to and actively seek out living with a roommate. The housing affordability crisis of today may even motivate Gen Z renters to seek out co-living options in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic and any lingering cultural shift it may create.
How To Market Apartments to Gen Z
Whether you’re marketing student housing or multifamily apartments, appealing to a Gen Z audience requires more than just running some ads on Instagram or creating a TikTok for your property. While most apartment marketers and asset managers already know that social media presence is a must when marketing to Zoomers, there are additional factors you should take into account.
Branding & Positioning for Gen Z
Gen Z likes to see authenticity, social impact awareness, sustainability, and modernity from their brands, and apartments are no exception. For new developments, it’s easier to steer your branding in this direction, but for existing communities, it can be a challenge to adapt to these preferences after the fact. Consider drafting new brand messaging guidelines for everything from your social media posts to your website and ad copy, then update these digital assets accordingly. Gen Z can smell inauthenticity a mile away, so brand voices that are conversational, approachable, and down-to-earth tend to resonate better with this crowd. And after all, there’s something inherently appealing about a brand that appears to “cut through the bullshit” and deliver straightforward facts. While some existing brands can achieve this with just some well-placed tweaks, in some cases, a full rebrand could be the glow-up your community needs to attract Gen Z renters.
Gen Z also tends to prefer a brand look & feel that is colorful, playful, and simple. In general, think organic shapes, minimalist composition, and hand-drawn patterns and textures. By contrast, the ultra-luxe look & feel of metallic accents, moody lighting, and elegant or crisp lines don’t tend to play as well with this audience. That’s not a hard and fast rule though, so consider which of these elements, if any, will play well with your interior design and existing branding.
Digital Marketing for Gen Z
You already know that a social media presence and social media ads are a must for Gen Zers. To maximize your impact on these platforms, video is a must. TikTok videos, Instagram reels, and Instagram Stories are excellent ways to give quick video tours of your floor plans, show off resident events, introduce your on-site team members, and more.
In addition to these platforms, your website and Google My Business page are also key to earning leads and leases from Gen Z renters. You don’t have to have the fanciest website, but a modern feel with solid UX (including, at a bare minimum, no broken links) can go a long way. That goes double for a GMB page with updated info, a working link to your website, attractive community photos, and positive reviews.
And because most housing searches begin with a Google search, especially among the digital natives of Gen Z, Search Ads are a must if you want to reach your prospects when they are most ready to click and convert.
Want to learn more about how you can adapt your apartment marking strategy for Gen Z? Drop us a line and schedule a chat. We’ve got lots of ideas to share.