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As the mother of two teenage girls, Lisa Trosien, the founder of ApartmentExpert.com, knows a thing or two about members of generation Z, the next demographic on the horizon. She’s been watching their technology consumption and purchasing decisions for years, and sees them as the ultimate trendsetters.
“They are the ones who kind of start all the trends, and then people kind of pick up on them afterward,” she observes. “Usually when they start using something, they’re ahead of everybody else.”
This includes apps, web features and even different uses for traditional social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram.
As Trosien says: “My kids use Twitter completely differently than I use Twitter. They don’t go on Twitter to find information. I go on Twitter to find information for research and products I’m thinking about buying, or I’ll throw a question out there to the masses on Twitter. They are only really friends with their friends on Twitter, and they do a lot of pictures and a lot of video. They use it for much more social than most people do because they don’t really have jobs that are affected by Twitter.”
Those in generation Z also prefer texting over email, she adds, and until they go to college or need to communicate long-distance with family, they really tend to avoid Facebook.
This overall change in media consumption will begin to affect apartment communities in the coming years, so now is a great time to start updating systems and marketing efforts to capture this up-and-coming group when they do hit the market.
Here are a few things to note:
1. Video should be at the center of any marketing strategy. Generation Z is a highly visual demographic, and its members have a short attention span. And without a YouTube presence, communities may have a hard time reaching them.
“[They] never, ever use Google — always use YouTube for anything that they want,” Trosien notes. “So if they’re going to look for an apartment, they’re going to find it because the apartment community has a video.”
This may sound like a large investment for some communities, but generation Z is open to videos of all production quality.
“It doesn’t have to be a really fancy video, because they’re used to their friends putting videos on Google that are very organic in nature,” she explains. “So they don’t care if it’s really polished or anything like that.”
These teenagers also place a high value on authenticity, so make sure that whatever is stated in community marketing campaigns is clear, concise and correct.
“They don’t like people who are fake,” Trosien warns. “They don’t like things that are fake. They don’t like products that make false claims. If they buy something based on something that was in an ad that said it was going to do x, y and z, and if it doesn’t do that, they get mad. They want to return the product, and then they tell all their friends not to buy it either. And they don’t trust it. They’re completely turned off.”
2. Generation Z will rely on personal references, not reviews and ratings sites. Similar to their varying use of Twitter and Instagram, which is influenced by the comments and opinions of their immediate social circle, those in generation Z are not particularly interested in the opinions of the masses.
Trosien explains: “They don’t look at ratings or reviews at all. They talk to their friends, and get their friends’ ratings and reviews just by asking them directly. They don’t go to Yelp. They don’t go to anything like that. And it will be interesting to see if they even go to review sites when it comes time for them to find apartments, because they’re really, really focused on what their peers and friends will say.”
Gen Zers are also conscious of the smoke-and-mirrors techniques used on some sites, she says. So similar to their interest in authenticity, they’re skeptical of the truthfulness of the reviews provided on general Internet portals. Thus, they’re more apt to trust the opinions of friends and family acquainted with certain products or communities, Trosien adds.
3. Tailor amenities to generation Z’s entrepreneurial and social tendencies. Unlike millennials or previous generations, the Z crowd is more sedentary and may not be as interested in traditional amenities such as swimming pools or fitness centers. What will pique their interests, however, are areas where they can socialize and create.
One recent feature Trosien came across in an Indianapolis-based community was a “maker’s room” — basically, a small area devoted to crafting or other creative endeavors that residents may pursue as a hobby or side business.
“I would think that would be something that would be a strong amenity that a gen Z would want, because we’re in the age of Etsy and things where people can make things and sell them online to support themselves,” she notes. “I don’t think they want to be just confined to their apartments. I think they want amenities that let them socialize, but also they aren’t just a pretty space. I think they want usable space.”
And don’t forget to include or spotlight popular or convenient food locations.
“Food is really important to them,” Trosien relates. “Their generation is the biggest of all the foodies.”
4. Move as many processes online as possible — now. Lack of an online presence hasn’t been an option for quite some time, but generation Z’s need for streamlined, convenient interactions may require communities to add or enhance current technological features to bring themselves up to speed in time to capture this group.
Three key features that Trosien suggests are a website, a resident portal and credit card processing. Operational upgrades, such as the introduction of electronic signatures, will also be crucial for this generation, not only for convenience, but because Z-ers have such a short attention span that “to get them to sit down and read through a lease and go through it point by point — wow, that’s going to take some time,” she explains.
“Move as much online with them as you possibly can,” she advises. “If you haven’t started to move it online, start moving it online now, especially because it will take you a while to get there.”
For more information on generation Z, check out Trosien’s upcoming breakout session, “Bye-Bye Millennials, Hello Generation Z,” at the 2015 NAA Education Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas, June 24-27, 2015.
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