How to "hack" your property to cater to Millennials
When it comes to generations, there might not be a more studied, more analyzed and more misunderstood one than Millennials. They are often accused of being lazy and self-absorbed. While this certainly represents a segment of them — or any generation, for that matter, — it certainly does not represent the group as a whole. In 2015, Millennials are as old as 34. And, while a lot of companies are busy trying to figure them out, others are embracing this generation as the recent entrants to adulthood and consumption. Take, for example, MuseumHack. They have developed a museum touring company "for people who don't like museums." It's touted as "not your grandma's museum tour." They hire actors, educators, scientists and musicians to lead people on a fast-paced, fun adventure throughout the museum.
Founder Nick Gray has become a thought-leader in the space and is well regarded for his forward-thinking approach to Millennials, of which, he is one. He has undoubtedly accomplished a synergy between the generation and the museum industry, and he will stand to have a million dollars in sales by the end of this year.
So, how can you revolutionize the apartment industry like Gray has for the tourism industry? You have to hack it, as they say. Gray explains that to him, hacking is when you "understand a system so well that we can reorganize it to create something new."
If you aren't doing exactly this for your multi-family property, you are missing the mark with Millennials, which represent not just the future of the apartment rental/condo-buying community, but the present, too!
Recently, Gray spoke at the Skift Global Forum, a conference for the travel industry, and sought out to reorganize another largely un-Millennial segment — Cruises.
Gray and nine of his friends embarked on a 16-day cruise from Vancouver to Japan and he put his hacking skills to work. He explains that while onboard, they “Millennial-ified” the experience with just a few minor, but critical improvements so that they could create the Ultimate Travel Experience (as thought of by a Millennial).
One of the biggest overhauls was in the communication department. They created a live chat server on the local network where they could interact with each other easily and effectively. After a few days of seeing how greatly this improved their experience, they opened it up to other passengers by creating an Intranet server where passengers could log onto their website and "post rumors and gossip on board the ship." Things like whale sightings, a "missed connections" forum like on Craigslist, and a little bit of matchmaking. They also hacked the daily newsletter that went out and included bios of the individual Millennials on board, how to access the Intranet, and other information that they wanted their "readers" to know about them.
But, not everything was tech-based. They created rituals like a secret handshake they would teach to anyone who wanted to learn it, they gave out mardi gras masks for Formal Night, and they even initiated a Call and Response where when other passengers recognized one of the Millennials, they would yell out, "Cruise hard!" to which the Millennials would respond, "Cruise Life!" By the end of the cruise, they had a 75% participation rate.
Finally, they created a spontaneous award ceremony where they identified a passenger each day who most represented the “Cruise Hard” spirit. Each night, they would form a large conga line, and march in to dinner to give out the trophy. It was over-the-top and an experience each time. It's no doubt they changed the experience for every other passenger and created the Ultimate Travel Experience — not just for the Millennials on board, but for everyone.
"We felt like we had a sense of agency over an otherwise programmed experience," Gray explained.
This is exactly the kind of thinking (or hacking) it takes to attract a Millennial to your property. They thrive on an authentic experience in every interaction. They crave spontaneity, personal growth, community and experience. If you are not fulfilling this for them, then your brand stands to become as threatened as museums and cruising; until a Millennial gets his or her hands on it, anyway.
Hack an MDU
So, how can you hack your property to give them what they are demanding? You must consider the experience they are getting. Hosting a pizza party isn't enough anymore. Offering yoga in the courtyard isn't going to cut it. Instead, you must "take the system you know and reorganize it into something new".
The move-in Experience
Consider moving in. In the Student Housing world, this is an all out, multi-day extravaganza. Every resident moves in during a one- or two-day time period. Hundreds of eager college students and their parents infiltrate the property in a single swoop. And, guess what kind of experience they create? Hotdogs. Yup. The MDU with the most Millennials at any given time and all they can come up with is hotdogs.
And, although the move-in process is slightly different for an apartment, the experiences they create aren't that new or fresh either. Most of them just give a key and send residents on their way.
What if move-in was hacked? What would that look like?
Kristi Dengess with Multifamily Insiders suggests Ice Breaker BINGO designed to help new residents get to know their neighbors. With this version of BINGO, however, there is no one at the front of the room reading out ping pong balls. Instead, residents get a card with a list of traits and interests (i.e. is a vegetarian, has a dog, etc), and then try to find other residents who have those specific traits. Just like in BINGO, they try to fill in squares to form lines up and down, left and right, or diagonally. In technical terms, this is called "gamification" and Millennials love it.
For apartments and condos, Welcome Kits complete with some necessities you might need but not have immediate access to — like a single roll of toilet paper, a granola bar for a boost of energy, and toothbrush would be thoughtful and fulfill the sense of community that Millennials are looking for.
"Our move-in gifts are great. We have used the small compost buckets that we get from the Salvage company for free and in it we put some compost liner bags, an energy efficient light bulb, water bottle and tote bag. We get a lot of great feedback from our residents," says Ann Stack, a property manager with the John Stewart Company.
After a resident moves in, their ongoing experiences should also be considered. Many student housing properties and apartment communities alike have pizza parties, movie nights, Yappy Hour (for the dogs), and courtyard yoga. But, is that the best you can do?
For real-world resident-life hack ideas, we found a great forum published and updated by ResidentEvents.com.
College exams are a stressful time and one property manager found a way to capitalize on that by hosting a study party in their clubhouse that speaks directly to the personal growth that Millennials crave.
"We pitched it as an opportunity to study someplace quiet," Hope Joyner wrote. "We offered healthy snacks like dried fruit, trail mix, nuts and granola bars as well as some sugary candy. I think the biggest draw for our residents was that we also offered free coffee and energy drinks. In order to make the party as convenient as possible we extended office hours until 9 so people could use our wifi and printers for last minute studying."
Camino del Sol in Irvine, California hosted a virtual scavenger hunt designed to drive traffic to their Facebook page and increase the number of fans who like our page. It was spontaneous and the type of experience that Millennials thrive on.
"There are two ways to win free treasure," Property Manager, Lisa Bennett wrote. "Residents will find the plastic flamingo hidden around CDS and return to reception for prize or FB fans can answer trivia questions and engage in the scavenger hunt by doing activities like taking pictures/videos of themselves and post to the FB page."
For apartments and condos, theme parties are nothing new, but you can elevate your average pool party like William Hueppauff did when he was Regional Marketing Director for Monarch Management and Investment Group.
"Over the years Black Friday has become a tradition among many Americans. Host a Launch Party at your community very early in the morning with (strong) coffee, hot chocolate, donuts and fruit. In most cities the newspaper published the day before Thanksgiving is the largest of the year because of the Black Friday ads. Order enough copies for your residents and deliver them on Wednesday with print collateral promoting your Launch Party," Hueppauff suggests.
"One of the best benefits you can give a parent is FREEDOM!," he wrote. "Although I absolutely love my children and would do anything for them, sometimes my wife and I need to simply get away to retain our sanity! We recently joined the YMCA and found out that once a month they have a kids night out, where they will take your kids for 5 straight hours from 5-to-10pm! I thought it was odd that they named it a kids night out, when clearly the benefit was for the parents. This would be an absolutely great idea to implement at an apartment community - a service that would absolutely be RAVED about!"
The possibilities are really endless if you just start to think more like a Millennial. Spontaneity, personal growth, community and experience are all critical to these 18-to-34-year olds. Provide an experience that touches on one or more of each segment and you've got a home run, just like MuseumHack.
Whether you're a student housing property, and apartment complex, or a condo/coop, attracting Millennials is critical, and will only become more critical in coming years. Building meaningful experiences should be the strategy. At Elauwit, we can provide a part of that experience with customizable television options, the fastest Internet, energy-saving HVAC solutions, and high-tech security options. Want to bounce some innovative ideas off of us? We’re all ears. Call us at 800-948-5874.