We’ve all heard millennials being coined as “the touch screen generation,” “digital natives,” and even “hyper-social.” But what does this all really mean anyway? What does this have to do with marketing to today’s college student and retaining them? While adapting technology trends with web design, online services, social strategies, and mobile have all become the concentrated focus over the past several years in student housing, it is still critical to never let go and loose focus on the touch. Do you deliver a personal touch through the technology you provide? If not, you may want to re-think your digital strategies as today’s student renter really craves it all!
Today’s college students are no different from college students a century ago. They are all seeking a higher education to enter the workforce. However, technology has entered into their world, facilitating digital connections and instant access to information. Students and professors interact more today through technology. However, students are still expecting this professor to be present. This is particularly true when it comes to how they discover, explore, and share content and information about where to live off-campus.
Knowing millennials validate on average of three to four digital touch points when exploring information online, can your off-campus communities be found? When students discover your community online, is the information easily accessible, user friendly, does it speak their language, can they share the information socially, and do you make it convenient for them to conduct business with you? We all know it all begins by the word of mouth from other students, friends, and parents, but the validation to lease always ends online.
Since 70 percent of students find that video showcasing a community’s living experience would help to impact their decision to lease, it’s more important than ever for your community video to be a prominent recruitment tool. Students can get a glimpse of your living-learning experience, as well as your brand’s personality, all through video. My suggestion for your 2013-2014 leasing season strategy is evaluating your current community video. Is it still relevant or does it need an extreme makeover? If done well, your community video can combine the personal and technical touch when attracting today’s student resident while developing your next brand ambassadors!
All of your technology efforts must be responsive, including RWD (responsive web design), enabling your content to flow seamlessly from PC, mobile, and tablet. In addition to design, some of the other “must have” responsive features are the ability to chat, apply, lease, and move-in all online. This means offering E-signing of leases for both students and parents. Let’s not forget about the secondary renter, the parent. They are just as tech savvy. Having a digital resource center for parents is helpful. But take it a step further and offer them the ability to ship care packages, explore community events, and even the ability to rent out a fully furnished apartment just for the weekend. Yes, all online through your community website!
While offering all these instant services online to students and their parents is key when serving to meet their expectation, it’s just as critical you have the processes in place to respond and react internally as these online transactions are taking place. Nothing will turn off this generation faster than not being able to instantly connect, explore and engage. They expect you to respond! Take the time now to evaluate the technology you provide and the processes in place on how to manage them. When it’s convenient and easy to interact with you online from the initial point of contact to application, moving in, paying rent, and service requests, you have officially started to develop and leverage your first retention tool . . . and many times before they have even signed the lease!
After it’s all said and done, technology and your personal connection must be responsive. Without the personal element and touch, the shiny new technology tools really mean nothing other than “buzz factor.” Now is the time to evaluate your technology focus. Just remember to ask yourself, does this touch the students digitally in a way they expect us to and do we touch all the connections personally?
Kim Cory is Director of Student Media at For Rent Media Solutions™