Millennials. sometimes it seems like we in the apartment industry think and talk about nothing else.
This preoccupation is certainly understandable. In 2015, millennials replaced Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, making them the very heart of the renter pool. Given their love of live–work–play environments and the ongoing difficulties of buying a home, they’re expected to make up the bulk of multifamily residents for a long time to come.
But this focus on millennials can result in apartment operators overlooking other generations. That’s unfortunate, because baby boomers and members of Generations X and Z are important components of the renter pool as well. In fact, more than half of renters are older than millennials, according to a RentPath study.
Appealing to multiple generations requires some thoughtful planning. But as architect Mark Humphreys told MFE in 2016, reaching these different demographics “is our biggest challenge and greatest opportunity.”
At this point, how to appeal to millennials is hardly a state secret. For starters, we know they like communities in walkable neighborhoods, want ample and luxurious common areas for socializing, and demand lightning-fast Internet. They like studios and even micro units, and often aren’t concerned about parking.
Effectively marketing to them requires rigorously maintaining your online reputation, since they place such a heavy emphasis on online reviews.
The Rise of the Boomers
Reaching aging baby boomers requires a different approach. This generation’s presence in apartment living is growing due to a desire to shed the burdens of homeownership. In my experience, boomers want to be close to upscale restaurants and shopping. They want high-end finishes and plenty of organized social activities.
Like their younger cohort, boomers desire cutting-edge fitness centers and high-speed Internet. Unlike millennials, though, they covet covered parking and spacious units. Also, according to J Turner Research, they place a greater emphasis on living in a quiet community than millennials do. And like members of all generations, boomers want communities that cater to their pets.
And despite the unflattering stereotype, boomers are quite fluent in technology, so online reputation management and social media presence are important to reaching them. Operators might also consider “low-fidelity” tactics like billboards, direct mail, and ads in local newspapers and publications.
The X and Z Factors
Generations X and Z have their preferences as well. I’ve noticed that Gen Xers often are focused on how family-friendly a community is. Like their millennial counterparts, Gen Xers care about making a difference in their community and protecting the environment, so they feel drawn to communities that incorporate sustainable environmental practices.
Members of Gen Z are entering the renter pool, so the exact contours of their multifamily preferences have yet to take shape. It seems safe to assume, however, that they’ll place a high priority on Internet speed, technology, state-of-the-art fitness facilities, and abundant common areas for socializing.
Like they would with millennials, multifamily marketers should focus their marketing outreach to Generations X and Z online and through social media. According to J Turner Research, Gen Xers focus their social-media activity on Facebook and LinkedIn.
But with younger generations, it’s particularly important to keep tabs on which social media networks are emerging. Their preferences change at seemingly warp speed, and many of them consider Facebook and Twitter to be old school. Virtual-reality videos are another tool that may emerge as an effective way to reach Gen Z. Across all generations, mobile marketing, videos, and search engine optimization have proven effective tools for reaching prospects.
Apartment communities can’t be all things to all people, but through the careful planning of amenities and marketing campaigns, they can cast a sensibly wide net for qualified prospects.