For many multifamily properties, the 18-34 year-old millennial demographic makes up the largest group of current and future residents. Ranging from college students to young professionals, this demographic enjoys the convenience and the urban lifestyle that are often associated with renting.
Aside from being the most coveted demographic, they’re also the most baffling for a traditional multifamily industry to understand. Compared to the generations before them, changing lifestyle preferences are beginning to propel several trends in multifamily development. Brad Taylor, Managing Regional Partner at JPI, TDI Companies, highlights some general millennial lifestyle trends that are changing the way properties are being developed and marketed.
Millennial Lifestyle + Rental Trends
- Renting longer. Renting by choice. Millennials are renting longer than generations before them, and oftentimes by choice. On the whole, millennials are waiting longer to get married and start a family, which is generally extending their rental lifetime well into their professional years.
- Location, location, location. Location is consistently among the top criteria for millennial renters. With the tendency toward a more urban lifestyle, millennials are increasingly giving up their cars for public transportation and walkable neighborhoods.
- The finer things in life. Millennials who grew up with granite countertops and hardwood floors are expecting the same from their rental properties. Thus, when it comes to developing for millennials, upscale finishes and “modern luxury” have become more of a necessity than an amenity.
- Smaller spaces. Bigger common places. The active, social millennial generation spends less time in their apartments; they’re also willing to cut down on square footage for prime locations. From a development standpoint, a greater focus is being placed on larger common areas (pools, courtyards, lounges, cafes), which are designed to fulfill any social or business needs they may have.
- Furry friends. Millennials are pet people, and they treat their furry friends as a member of the family. Therefore, not only are millennials looking for an apartment that’s pet-friendly, but they find great value in pet amenities like dog parks or washing and grooming stations.
- Technology focused. Millennials grew up with the Internet. They’re heavy smartphone users, and they’re accustomed to managing accounts and paying bills on their phones. Multifamily properties are increasingly taking these technology needs into account, whether that’s designing common areas with charging stations or accepting rent payments on mobile.
Marketing to Millennials
Millennial lifestyle preferences are driving key changes in multifamily development, but what does that mean for marketing? Quite simply, if you understand what’s important to millennials, then you can understand how to attract them. This is how to maintain a customer-centric approach. Keep in mind, however, that being familiar with trends is only a starting point. Your greatest millennial insights will come from the research you do yourself.
Developing Your Personas
The best way to conduct research about your target market is to develop resident personas. A persona is a semi-fictional character you create that epitomizes your residents. It captures their demographics, behaviors and motivations. Not only does it summarize your target market, but it give you ‘someone’ tangible to market to.
Host a small focus group with your residents (offer an incentive for participation). This is a chance to truly get to know them. Ask questions about their likes and dislikes. How did they find your property? What do they do in their spare time? What keeps them up at night? Listen. From the information you gather, you’re going to create two or three personas that epitomize the residents you talked to. Here’s an example—we’ll call him CrossFit Chris:
Chris is 28 years old, single, and living in a one-bedroom apartment in Uptown Dallas. He’s originally from Chicago, but he stayed in Dallas after college for a job opportunity. By day, he’s a financial analyst; however, every evening, you can find him at the CrossFit gym down the street. He enjoys the camaraderie of CrossFit, which is where he’s made most of his friends post-college. He frequents The Pickled Sub, a sandwich shop two blocks east, where he grabs dinner to-go two or three times a week. He always knew he wanted to live in Uptown, where he can walk to nearby grocery stores and restaurants. He has dog named Champ, who he likes to take out for runs. Most weekends, he’s out of town, either on business or visiting friends. He love his dog, but he underestimated the cost of grooming and boarding Champ while he’s away. He also finds the carpets in his apartment hard to keep clean…
In reality, “CrossFit Chris” doesn’t exist. Rather, he was created based on the insights we received from our focus group. Why did we go through the trouble of making up this story? Because it summarizes what’s important to our residents based on the research we’ve done. Plus, it gives us a tangible person to market to. We’re no longer trying to attract millennials, we’re trying to attract Chris.
What property features would Chris find attractive? Well, first and foremost is location. Chris likes the walkability of Uptown, and he likely narrowed down his apartment search using a location-based tool like Google Maps. (Marketer Insight: Is our information listed on major ‘business locator sites’ like Google Maps? If so, is it accurate?)
Chris’s greatest frustrations have to do with taking care of his dog, Champ. Therefore, our marketing message should focus on any pet amenities we have to offer (Can we partner with a local groomer to offer our residents discounts?). And when we talk to him about hardwood floors, we’re not only pointing out their luxury, but the practicality over carpet (easier to clean).
These are just a few examples of how we use personas to extract key marketing insights. Again, when we know what’s important to prospective residents, we can understand how to attract and engage them.