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Generational Challenge: Keeping Pace with the Ever-Morphing Prospect Experience


A universal approach is tidy. It makes sense for things like bulk scheduling, distributing goods and for national coffee outlets that want your latte to taste the same in St. Louis as it does in Seattle. But when catering to the varying preferences within each generation of renters, the one-size-fits-all approach generally leaves something to be desired.

For the first time in the apartment world, four distinct generations constitute a significant portion of the renter base—Gen Z, millennials, Gen X and baby boomers. And while each generation has their signature tendencies, it's not as easy as saying "all boomers avoid technology" or "all Gen Z renters prefer digital communication."

As properties clamor to meet prospects in their comfort zone, an often-overlooked component is that of generational preferences. To be fair, the industry hasn't purely disregarded the topic, as it readily acknowledges that the types of communication preferences might vary between the four generations. But a blanket approach won't work, even if it's a separate approach for each generation, because of the nuances within each.

For instance, some boomers might be tech-savvy while some Gen Z individuals might crave the personal touch associated with in-person interaction, which would ostensibly throw off the model. That heightens the importance of offering several different types of communication mediums and enabling prospects to reach out on the platform of their choice, even if it doesn't necessarily fit their generational tendencies. They just all must be available.

That said, part of the prospect journey can fall into the generational buckets. With four generations looking for homes, operators must offer different types of advertising avenues to reach them. That takes a detailed understanding of what each generation wants to see before they visit the community and the ability to offer it all. Even if it's a 23-year-old who reaches out more in the manner anticipated for a 65-year-old, at least all options are on the table.

Accommodating the gamut of generational preferences takes a blend of new technologies while not abandoning tried-and-true traditional methods. For example, remote options such as video leasing and Zoom tours enable prospects to move in without ever connecting with a live associate, and that is a preferred method for many younger-generation renters. But if an apartment community only offered these options, it would be alienating a large segment of potential renters. That's why some segments of traditional leasing, such as phone calls with actual associates and guided onsite tours, must remain available if the property truly wants to be compelling to all generations.

No matter the generation, almost every prospect is going to do at least a cursory search online. That makes 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. leasing a thing of the past, as operators now must be an open store at all hours. Resources must be available to answer key questions at any time, regardless of whether their next step is a virtual tour or a phone call to the community. Even older prospects will move along if they can't readily find answers to their questions.

For the renters that crave a touch-free experience, communities must be equipped with the tech to make it happen, including smart-access entry and the ability to connect with a remote agent if questions arise. For prospects who want to visit in traditional fashion, the property must be ready to accommodate them as well.

While some communities that greatly attract a particular generation might be able to get away with a standard approach geared toward that generation, most operators must exhibit flexibility with options for each generation of renters. And there are more now than ever before.

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