The student housing sector continues to set the pace for the multifamily industry in terms of Internet technology, wireless access and online and mobile marketing. To keep up with students’ voracious appetite for bandwidth to support their video and Internet usage, a number of student housing providers at the 2014 NMHC Student Housing Conference & Exposition said they are delivering 1Gigabit high-speed Internet to their communities and are looking at cable, Internet and wireless services more as a utility than an amenity.
These shifts are having enormous ramifications for marketing in the student housing space. Executives noted a few chief areas of focus:
- Mobile marketing. This year, Internet usage on mobile devices like cell phones and iPads will eclipse that of PCs. At a minimum, this means student housing providers need to be sure that their websites are more than just mobile friendly. Increasingly companies are ditching their mobile optimized sites in favor of truly mobile responsive websites, which dynamically adjust website content to be more readable and navigable on handheld devices.
- Online advertising. Because online advertising dollars can add up fast, student housing marketers are constantly looking for ways to get ensure that the dollars they do spend on online advertising are hitting their intended audience. More companies are looking at retargeting services as a way to get more lift out of their online dollars. Retargeting allows companies to get a second bite at the apple, so to speak, by serving up ads on other websites once customers have visited their sites. So, if a customer visits a student housing site but leaves without requesting more information, for example, a retargeting service will place an ad on, say, Facebook that shows up the next time the customer visits that site, reminding the customer to return to the student housing site.
- Social media. While social media started as an add-on marketing and advertising avenue, student housing companies now see it as a mainstream channel that requires a well-articulated strategy. Many student housing executives indicated that they have a full-time team dedicated to social media and consider it a critical part of the leasing and brand experience.