It’s safe to say that Senior Living has had a hard time lately. With new variants of COVID-19 still disrupting normal life, especially for the particularly vulnerable, senior living has seen fewer residents moving in and fewer stakeholders investing their dollars. Still, occupancy rates are once again on the rise as we begin 2022, having rebounded promisingly in Q3 and Q4 of 2021 according to reports by NIC. Now that the industry is approaching some semblance of its previous stability, what new trends will emerge as new developments and rebrands hit the market? These five emerging senior living branding trends are setting the tone for senior living marketers in 2022, and we can’t wait to see which trends make the biggest impact on the industry as the year goes on.
Health & Safety Are More Central Than Ever
Of course, the pandemic is far from over, and potential residents are still prioritizing health and safety in their housing decisions. Senior living brands are responding with messaging that highlights the health and safety of their communities, with amenities like on-site COVID vaccination and higher staffing ratios featured front and center on home pages and brochures.
In addition to messaging updates, new brands and rebranded communities are also gravitating toward names that signal reliability and health along with logos that signal wellness and stability. In many cases, this is simply a doubling down on themes that already dominated the senior living space, with natural motifs like trees, lakes, and mountains having long since become ubiquitous in the senior living market. Some developments, however, are looking for fresh takes on the themes of health and safety in order to establish themselves as modern yet still reliable. In these cases, similar symbolism is incorporated, but in novel, less on-the-nose ways. Instead of names like “Terrace Grove” and “Sagewood” you might find more names like “Wellstead” and “Aegis.”
Digital-First Strategies Extend into Branding Claims
With senior living marketing teams now prioritizing digital tactics like virtual tours, digital brochures, and video advertising, the digital-first approach to real estate marketing has finally taken root in the senior living market. But it’s not just the tactics themselves that are getting digitized. These digital-first approaches are extending into brand identities as senior living communities seek to establish themselves as great places to stay connected and live life to the fullest.
Even more than before, residents are coming to rely on digital forms of connection with family and friends, so having tech amenities like high-speed internet is a must. In fact, health needs and digital needs are intertwined more than ever, with telemedicine becoming an important resource for some seniors and video calls becoming central to maintaining the social connections that are crucial for mental health. The importance of the digital sphere within senior living communities is being reflected more and more in branding, with new brands boasting their modern technical side in addition to the traditional human care side.
The Borders of “Senior Living” Are Excluding “Active Adult”
Although some lump Active Adult housing and senior living together under the same umbrella, Active Adult is quickly becoming its own separate entity. In many cases, Active Adult communities share more in common with their multifamily counterparts than they do with traditional senior living communities offering Independent Living, Assisted Living, and/or Memory Care.
While there is some overlap in the needs of residents in Active Adult housing compared to Independent Living, more and more Active Adult communities are specifically using “Active Adult” and not using “Senior Living” in their branding and marketing. This effort to differentiate took on added importance during the pandemic as Active Adult communities catering to adults 55 and over sought to distance themselves from senior living communities that were dealing with COVID outbreaks and negative press coverage.
Market Consolidation Is Leading To More Umbrella Branding
With senior living brands facing a more uncertain market than before the pandemic, market consolidation has accelerated in recent years. That’s because the big fish in senior living tend to be the best equipped to adapt to the rising challenges presented by COVID. For example, these top senior living management companies, owners, and developers are able to create mutually advantageous partnerships with Medicare and other Health Care programs. Meanwhile, the smaller fish are struggling to keep up with increasing staffing demands and so on, sometimes leading them to sell existing communities or halt new development projects.
Among the “big fish” of senior housing are umbrella brands like Atria Senior Living, Brookdale, and Five Star Senior Living, each having dozens of communities across the United States. Communities managed by umbrella brands like these tend to use the same branding as their parent company from top to bottom—name, logo, colors, messaging, etc.—but others may take select elements of the umbrella brand like logo and colors but achieve added individuality by incorporating slight variations on logomarks and other branded elements in addition to selecting a unique name for each property.
“Luxury” Brands Are On The Rise
The senior living industry is beginning to bounce back and investors are ready to get back in the game, which means we could see a wave of new developments breaking ground in 2022. Those that have emerged within the last few years are reminiscent of luxury multifamily properties when it comes to their branding. Phrases like “resort-style” and “five-star,” which have long been buzzwords in the multifamily vertical, are now making their way into senior living websites and brochures too. Active Living communities may have helped spur on this shift, bridging the conceptual gap between luxury multifamily brands and the senior living industry. As active adults are coming to expect more from their housing communities, so are seniors and their family members looking for Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Memory Care.
In spite of evidence to the contrary, some marketers still operate under the incorrect assumption that today’s seniors don’t spend time online or rely on technology to make purchase decisions. In reality, seniors are more tech-savvy than ever, with 88% of adults aged 50-64 and 73% of adults over 65 identifying themselves as internet users. In fact, today’s target audience for senior living communities will rely on online searches, online reviews, digital ads, and your property website to help make their final housing decision much the same way younger generations do. Still, that doesn’t mean you should use all the same digital marketing strategies for senior housing as you would for student or multifamily communities. There are some crucial nuances to be aware of.
When it comes to Active Adult housing, digital marketing strategies should focus on the platforms where these active adult prospects spend most of their time. For Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Memory Care, your strategy should also appeal to the adult children of senior prospects who are often assisting or directing the housing search. Your digital marketing should also take into account the prolonged digital renter’s journey that can be common for senior prospects, who often have more flexibility regarding when they choose to move out of their current home. Finally, a digital marketing strategy for senior housing should be tailored to address common priorities for senior prospects, including sense of safety, reliability, and community.
There are many strategies you can employ to meet these unique demands of the senior housing market, from unique ad types to website design. Here are some of the top digital marketing strategies for senior housing.
Addressable Marketing Campaigns
Addressable Marketing is emerging as the direct mailer for the digital age, making it a particularly excellent choice when marking housing to seniors. It allows ads and other media to be served to individual households across a number of personal devices—TVs, smartphones, personal computers, etc. These ads can target prospects based on household location, age, income level, home equity information, number of household members, and a variety of interests, resulting in highly qualified online and offline traffic from prospects who are more likely to convert.
Because it targets your audience household-by-household, this tactic shares many of the benefits of the direct mailer while also saving on design and printing costs and allowing you the flexibility to target your audience with data aggregation tools rather than requiring you to have a list of addresses ready at hand. These data aggregation tools and fine-tuned targeting factors can help you hone in on senior prospects who may be ready to move, like empty nesters who may be looking to downsize, for example.
When creating an Addressable Marketing Campaign, you start by defining the audience you’re hoping to reach across factors like household location, interests, and other demographic information such as age, income level, etc. Then, though data aggregation tools, micro-geofences are drawn around each physical address that meets those data requirements. Next, a conversion zone is drawn around a specific location where you want to measure foot traffic (e.g. your leasing office).
When a prospect enters your micro-geofenced locations (e.g. physical home address), they will be targeted with your ads on their mobile and desktop devices for a set amount of time (30 days is typical). When the customer enters the conversion zone (e.g. leasing office) with their mobile device after being served your ad, the conversion zone recognizes the prospect and attributes their visit as an offline conversion. OR, if a prospect converts online by filling out a contact form, that action is measured as an online conversion.
By now, it’s well-understood that most seniors and active adults have adopted social media. In particular, older generations tend to use Facebook. Many seniors use Twitter and Instagram as well—some even use TikTok—but Facebook reigns supreme for its focus on fostering connections with family, friends, and acquaintances both current and past. To get specific, 72% of American adults between the ages of 50 and 64 were on Facebook in 2016, as were 62% over 65 and those figures are even higher in 2021. Naturally, this also means that seniors between the ages of 50 and 70 respond well to Facebook advertising. After all, 15% of users in this age range spend 11+ hours per week on the site.
Facebook offers a wide variety of ad types, be we particularly recommend Traffic and Lead Generation Campaigns for senior and active adult prospects. Traffic Campaigns are especially useful as an awareness tactic, targeting users within a geographic area and proactively serving ads to users with relevant interests and demographics. This ensures seniors nearby are aware of your community when they are ready to start their housing search. And because seniors tend to take longer to finalize their housing choice than younger generations, building that awareness over time is particularly rewarding when it comes to these prospects.
Lead Generation campaigns allow users to submit their name, email, and phone number directly on the Facebook platform, sending this information directly to property staff for quick and easy follow-up. This tactic is excellent for senior housing marketing because it gets prospects on the fast track to a real conversation with your staff, which many seniors still find preferable to the experience of browsing a website and hunting for information online.
Facebook can also do retargeting campaigns, which target users that have already interacted with your ads or Facebook posts before, making it useful as a way to keep top-of-mind with prospects. But bear in mind that older generations tend to be more wary of data tracking than younger generations who tend to see these tactics as the norm. That means aggressive retargeting campaigns may strike them as eerie and invasive rather than convenient and friendly. However, retargeting them sparingly and with the right message can result in increased conversion rates.
When it comes to lead nurturing, Email Marketing is hard to beat. That’s especially true for seniors and active adults who tend to value personalized interactions directly from leasing staff when making their decision. So when developing your email marketing strategy, be sure to incorporate personalization as often as possible.
For more tips to enhance your Email Marketing strategy, Check out our article below.
Email Marketing for Apartments: Best Practices That Actually Earn Leases
Before signing a lease with you, your prospects are going to research your community’s online reputation on sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, Apartments.com, and ApartmentRatings.com. And that’s not just true for younger generations. Seniors (and their adult children who sometimes assist in or steer the housing search) also pay attention to reputation and use online reviews as well as word of mouth to determine whether they can trust a housing community.
When your prospects conduct this research, it’s important that what they find inspires their confidence. A poor online reputation means fewer prospects make it to your website, choose to schedule a tour, or take the plunge and sign a lease with you. In fact, a study by Harvard Business School showed that a one-star increase in your ratings can result in up to a 9% increase in your overall revenue.
There are many things you can do to improve your online reputation, including encouraging reviews from loyal residents and responding to the reviews you get, both positive and negative. For more tips on how to improve your online reputation, we have another article you should check out.
How To Make Online Property Reviews Work for You
Website UX Upgrades
A poor website experience is frustrating for everyone. Those who are especially tech-savvy may find their way around a poorly designed and developed website, but often prospects will just give up and look elsewhere. Poor website UX results in high bounce rates, low SEO rankings, less website traffic, and ultimately fewer digital conversions.
When it comes to improving UX for seniors, consider all the factors you normally would (page load times, easy scannability, a clear hierarchy of information, prominent calls to action, etc.). Also consider avoiding smaller font or icon sizes or images with poor contrast. This makes your website more legible to everyone, not just to seniors.
How To Improve UX on Your Property Website (and increase conversions)
Most importantly, ensure you have clear CTAs in prominent areas of the page to direct users to the actions you want them to take, such as viewing available floor plans, exploring amenities, and most importantly, contacting your leasing staff.