The student-housing industry has been so focused on attracting millennials for so long that it's hard to believe a new generation has arrived at its doorsteps. In fact, members of the first wave of Generation Z already have entered their college years. Yes, you read that correctly. The mythical Gen Zs are now in college.
It’s imperative that the owners and managers of student-housing communities now design and operate their communities in a way that not only appeals to Gen Z'ers but keeps them. We will be tackling this ‘How To’ at next week's NAA CampusConnex 2019 conference at the Omni Resort at ChampionsGate in Orlando.
"Considering Generational Shifts in 2019 and Beyond" will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 13, from 2:45 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Joining me on the panel will be Jennifer Messina, vice president of marketing at San Miguel Management, and Mark Mitchell, director of commercial and hospitality interior design at BSB Design Inc.
How Gen Z Differs – Are they truly unicorns?
We all know there have been significant shifts in behavior from generation to generation, and we are certainly seeing this with Gen Z as compared to millennials. These shifts will present opportunities for owners and managers to address these shifts and capture loyal residents within this group.
To start with, members of Gen Z are even more digitally connected than millennials. Gen Z'ers belong to the first generation that has had technology at their fingertips since the day they were born. Consequently, they are extremely tech savvy and expect tech solutions for every aspect of their everyday lives.
And while it may seem like meeting these tech expectations could be an unattainable task, the student housing and multifamily industries are getting smarter about technology stacks and how to best implement them.
Gen Z'ers also want to be socially connected to those around them, but they don't have the same in-person social skills as previous generations. As such, they want spaces where they can feel connected to other people even when they are buried in their smartphones. Kind of like people watching – we all love it but sometimes we panic if someone actually strikes up a conversation.
Connecting with the Gen Zer
With that bit of background as a foundation, the "Considering Generational Shifts" session will also touch on how modern student-housing communities should be designed and operated to draw Gen Z'ers.
Among other topics, Mark will discuss how valuable exterior spaces are for meeting the needs of members of Gen Z. For instance, Zen gardens – complete with sculpted lawns, hammocks and water features – are sought after by Gen Z'ers because of the opportunities they offer to destress, commune with nature and study. Also, because of the increasing prevalence of emotional support dogs among Gen Z'ers, pet parks and DIY care stations are now a must.
Jennifer will explore a range of topics, including how to market to Gen Z and operate communities that match their desires. She will detail how operators can make use of YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. She'll also outline how communities should establish events, promotions and incentives that will create loyalty amongst their Gen Z residents.
Finally, the session also will discuss mobile and connectivity. We will examine the benefits of mobile-friendly leasing processes, mobile community apps versus resident portals, "smart" apartments and the absolute necessity of high-speed Wi-Fi.
It may be hard to believe that the heyday of the millennial in student housing already has passed. But, ready or not, Gen Z is here – and next week's CampusConnex can help make sure you're ready for them.