Putting Interactive Touchscreens to Work in Student Housing

By |March 11th, 2016|
Student Housing Leasing Center

On-Property Marketing to Gen Z

Though the oldest of its ranks are just now celebrating their 21st birthdays, the collective fingerprints of Generation Z (aka “Gen Z”) can already be clearly found beside many of the newest entries in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), where “retweet,” “photobomb” and “webisode” have all debuted within the last year.

So how can savvy student housing marketers keep their communication with Gen Z from becoming, to borrow another new entry from the OED, a “hot mess”? Step One is to speak the language of Gen Z, which we covered in our last blog post. Step Two is to put technology to work in way that fits the way Gen Z thinks – viscerally, nonlinearly and connectedly. So it’s no great surprise that interactive marketing points the way.


Interactive Marketing and the Gen Z Mind

Gen Z Attributes
Let’s get the shameless promotion part of this post out of the way: Here at BrightDoor, we develop kiosks that student housing companies use to market to residents. Now, with that said, let’s talk about why interactive presentation tools align so well with the minds of today’s college students:

  • Their brains are “embedded” with technology: Brand experience agency FreemanXP puts it this way: “Generation Z sees technology not as separate from themselves, but integrated into everything they do. It’s an extension of their brain; it’s how they learn, figure out problems and even remember things.” So in a very real way, technology isn’t “second nature” for Gen Z, but rather “first nature”; it’s practically been hardwired into them.
  • They want feedback – right now: Raised on a steady diet of multiplayer video games, Gen Z wants an instant response. As educator and online teaching pioneer Adam Renfro says, “Gen Zs completely take for granted the amount of data that they have access to and the speed in which they can access it. It’s a natural part of their lives.”
  • They “sort to survive”: Given all that new rich data that Gen Z suddenly has seemingly unlimited access to, they’ve had to learn how to curate information like no generation before them. Put simply, they gather what they need, analyze it, and move on.
  • They expect to be entertained: The merging of more powerful mobile technologies and streaming content means Gen Z has never known a minute’s peace, unless by choice. According to Dr. Sheetal Patel, director of branding and digital communities at Stanford University, “Whether through ‘binge watching’ TV shows on Netflix or streaming songs on Spotify, Gen Z has instant access to a world of media and entertainment whenever and wherever they want… If they don’t enjoy something, they can just grab their smartphones from their back pockets and find something that does entertain them, no big deal.” That ups the proverbial ante for student housing marketers who want to keep their would-be residents engaged.
  • They want to be “communicated to” not “talked at”: Some researchers have drawn a distinction between Millennials and Gen Z by noting the latter demands more respect in marketing conversations. As design and innovation firm Altitude puts it in the firm’s recent “Through the Eyes of Gen Z” report, “…it’s critical to remember that Gen Z are seeking meaningful and relevant experiences. To be successful, companies have to connect with Gen Z by doing things for them rather than marketing at them.”


Zooming In with Gen Z

BrightDoor Kiosk Student Housing
Making a meaningful and memorable impression with the Gen Z mind requires a multichannel approach. Your mobile strategy, without doubt, will be an important part of that (and, in fact, will be the subject of our next blog post in this series). And when you put an interactive touchscreen to work in your leasing center, you capitalize on critical opportunities to engage Gen Z on their terms by:

  • Giving them Organized Content: As we’ve already learned, your Gen Z residents are used to taking in lots of content. But enabling them to sift quickly through information about your properties – your locations, room layouts, common spaces, amenities, etc. – helps you get them to “yes” faster. When you present interactive, swipe-n-choose content, you’re enabling them to consume marketing in their most familiar format.
  • Giving them the “Wow!”: By the time today’s Gen Z residents were graduating preschool, they’d probably already watched a couple hours worth of Mentos-meet-Diet Coke videos. So they’re used to seeing “the cool,” “the unexpected” and “the amazing” all wrapped into one. Deliver anything less and you’ll be feeding their inherent tendencies to tune out and shift attention to something else.
  • Giving them Control: By and large, your Gen Z residents won’t lack confidence. Which also means they’ll want control. As one educator puts it, members of Generation Z “are fast becoming the most successful problem-solving generation ever,” so the more command they have over how they learn about what you offer, the better chance you have to build affinity with them.
  • Giving them Meaningful Information Tidbits: It’s no surprise that Gen Z wants information delivered quickly and in small, Tweet-sized packages. Interactive kiosks provide the perfect platform for doing just that. Short lifestyle videos, floorplan galleries, meal plan infographics, parking and transit map insets – anything that can be consumed visually is likely to keep your Gen Z residents interested and engaged.
  • Giving them a Personalized Experience: Even identical twins Jo and Joe Smith don’t want the same college living experience: She’s wowed by your fully equipped kitchenettes, he’s more impressed with your 24-hour fitness center and poolside cabanas. By using an interactive kiosk connected with your CRM system, you give both of them an opportunity to flag their personal favorites for later reference.


Touch-and-Go… Forward

Once relegated exclusively to the ranks of developers with the biggest budgets, affordable interactive technologies are quickly moving from the “mainstream” to the “mandatory” among student housing marketing and sales teams. Gen Z residents, after all, walk in the door with mindsets that are high on expectations and low on attention spans. Thankfully, interactive touchscreens and kiosks provide the perfect platform for addressing both of those dynamics simultaneously – and successfully.

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of perspectives from BrightDoor on maximizing digital marketing in the student housing market. Read our first installment here, and stay tuned for our next edition on mobile marketing to Gen Z.