Written by Kathy Jones, Agency Operations Manager
With an ever changing real estate industry, developing a real estate marketing plan informed by strategic thinking is absolutely essential to be able to stand out from your competitors. When it comes to your print marketing strategy, you may feel that your number one goal is to create the perfect flyer or brochure that your team can distribute in high traffic areas. However, what happens next when the prospect receives and reads the flyer is oftentimes an afterthought. In reality, it takes careful consideration of the full leasing/sales journey to create print assets that really make an impact on your prospects.
While COVID-19 brought a large decrease in the number of prospects touring leasing offices and sales centers in person, that number is quickly on the rise again and so is print marketing. Since the real estate industry is quickly changing, your strategic plan should also be changing. Your vision will likely remain the same but your goals should be frequently reviewed. For most clients to the real estate industry, the enduring vision is to impact your bottom line (e.g. improving occupancy rates or increasing revenue), but you can’t get there unless you set more specific, granular goals along the way. For example, one goal might be to increase the number of leases or sales contracts that are signed each month. In order for you to achieve that goal, you need to build a hand-crafted strategy that will push prospects into your leasing office or sales center to close the deal.
Every community is different. One might have a great location where others might have strong brand awareness in their market. If your community is located in a great location, guerilla marketing can be a great supplement to your existing digital marketing. But what happens once your prospect receives your flyer? The prospect will likely view your website and head into your leasing office or sales center for a tour.
Furthermore, your strategic plan shouldn’t end once the prospect walks through the door. A well thought out tour is your next step. In what order should property information be presented to your prospect? In most cases, this is the order of operations that yields the best results:
- Property overview
- Apartment amenities
- Community amenities
- Property location
- Floor plan types
This gives prospects the ability to get to know your property and hopefully be wowed by amenities so they’re already picturing themselves living in your community and exploring the local neighborhood by the time you get down to the specifics of floor plan options. This makes many prospects eager to lock down a specific floor plan as you broach this subject with them during your tour.
Leasing offices and sales centers are likely your last chance to wow your prospect and can make or break your prospect’s likelihood of signing a lease. You may have a well thought out strategy to get them in the office and a tour strategy that piques their interest, but what is really going to make you stand out from the crowd? Creating an experience that will resonate is key, so environmental graphics within your leasing/sales center are important factors in sealing the deal. Living green walls, Instagram walls with neon signs, or custom corkboards where you can add photos of prospects signing are all unique ways to achieve that wow factor. If you stay on top of trends, you won’t be surprised. In fact, you’ll be far ahead of others because you’ll have had years to strategize and adapt, so that when disruption hits, you not only have a plan, but are already implementing it.
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.