By Adam Yarber, Director of Resident Experience
Those who have been in student housing for any period of time know that one of the most exciting things about it is that it’s always changing. New means of communication and technology plus ever-evolving resident needs, desires, and expectations create an industry that requires being at the forefront of innovation.
Nowhere is this more true than with a resident’s “journey” or “life cycle” with your property — they are your primary customers, after all. The experience with, and at, your property begins at the first moment a potential resident views a marketing message and ends with that last key turn upon move-out. It’s crucial that this experience be as seamless, integrated, and stress-free as possible. It’s what Generation Z, the new generation of college students, is looking for — as the first entirely digital generation, it’s expected that their interface with a brand be without lags. Slow them down at any point in their journey, and you might lose them as a valuable advocate for your property. And that’s nothing to laugh at — 86% of Gen Z reads reviews before making an online purchase, indicating the importance of word of mouth for this generation.
We’ve detailed below how technology can be incorporated through each phase of a resident’s life cycle with your property. The following tips will work to enhance a resident’s experience with your brand, increase renewal rates, and boost occupancy through word of mouth marketing.
When considering how to attract residents to your property, it is important to factor in an omnichannel marketing experience. Student housing marketing used to look like a straight line: a resident would see a communications message (likely a flyer on campus), visit your website, take an in-person tour, and sign a lease. Now, that line looks more like a zig zag. Potential residents see a couple of ads on Facebook, an Instagram post from a friend with your property tagged as their location, a video ad on YouTube, and more, before signing a lease. Their first experience with your property is likely (or should be) in a digital format.
Online advertising on multiple channels and platforms, while it may seem complex, is actually a highly cost-effective method. Years ago, sending out a mass mailer to potential residents and their parents or guarantors was a monthly activity. Now, you can receive a greater return on investment in a more efficient way through digital strategies. That’s not to say that direct mail has no place — we actually find that Gen Z responds well to direct mail campaigns because they view them as “retro” — but direct mail should exist in tandem with a digital strategy.
This digital-first approach doesn’t end when a resident reaches out to learn more about the property. Virtual tours, automated texts and emails, and being available through social media direct messages, keeps communication going in a way that makes sense for Gen Z. Connecting digitally, while still being easily available through phone or in-person if needed, will increase access and build trust when responses are timely and helpful — leading to great experiences with your property and ultimately, signed leases.
This seamless experience, aided by technology, ideally carries over into a resident’s experience at your property. Connection with staff and other residents should be easy and work to foster ongoing relationships.
One technology platform that’s non-negotiable for any student housing property today is a sophisticated resident portal. This portal serves as a hub for residents to submit service requests, get in touch with the property manager, and see upcoming community activities. At Campus Advantage we have a multitude of perks available to students through our resident portal, including a community rewards app, a career success portal, and RentTrack.
Our community rewards app gives residents incentives for positive behavior, such as paying rent by a certain time, taking a survey, or even following us on social media. The incentives are small gift cards for restaurants and other things to do in the area. Even something at this scale helps residents feel a part of the community and contributes to a positive experience.
The career success portal we have available to residents is a whitelabeled hub of jobs with half a million unique jobs only posted on this hub. We have seen that if residents take full advantage of this hub by using the online resume builder, connecting with people on LinkedIn, and more, they are hired three times faster than the national average.
RentTrack is a service integrated into our resident management system that allows residents to track their rent payments, which is then reported to major credit bureaus. Something as simple as paying rent on time can lead to a 180-250 increase in credit score through this app. It’s a great value-add for college students and another positive benefit of living at one of our properties that residents can tell their friends about.
Lastly, it’s important to continuously connect with residents, whether that’s through email or social media. Flyers around the property and emails should include social media handles so residents can follow the property for updates, events, and fun or educational content. Securing social followers while the resident lives at your property will make for a longer-term relationship.
Move-out can be a positive experience if it’s intentionally made as easy as possible. A digital move-out form that allows residents to check out online and proactively provide their mail forwarding address reduces pen-to-paper contact and keeps things efficient and fast.
Additionally, a resident deciding to leave your property for any reason doesn’t mean the relationship has to be over. If you were diligent about making connections while the resident lived at your property, it’s possible that they will continue following your social channels after they move out, increasing the likelihood that they’ll share one of your posts with a friend.
An integrated experience that makes technology front and center, while, at the same time, doesn’t lack in human connection, will create an overall positive experience at your property. Efficient processes paired with excellent customer service, up-to-date amenities and common areas, and genuine relationship-building, work together to make your property a standout.
If you’re looking for an experienced student housing management company for your property, we can help. We are student housing management experts and use time-tested systems that create a better living experience, leading to a more financially successful community. Contact us to learn more.