April 8, 2019

Marketing property to Generation Z: how to adapt to get noticed


By Jamie Till, Account Director, Construction and Real Estate team, Instinctif Partners’ corporate practice

Take notice of Generation Z

Generation Z, comprising people born after 1995, are about to enter the housing market if they haven’t already. Labelling people can be unhelpful, and can be a slippery slope to sweeping generalisations or, worse still, discrimination. However when discussing broad trends, it can help those in Government and business make sensible decisions about how best to communicate with an important section of society. This is no less true when thinking about how to market and have conversations about homes and property. An understanding of the challenges a particular generation has lived through and is set to face, will help those selling and building homes build a bond of trust and start relevant conversations.

A unique set of challenges

Generation Z is faced with a unique set of challenges both in terms of the property market they need to navigate and the environment they grew up in. The last decade has been characterised by economic and political uncertainty, with Gen Zers witnessing parents and the adult population fall on the hard times of the 2008 economic crash, and the unfolding story of the UK’s divorce from Europe. Millennials were the first generation to be worse off than their parents since the 19th Century, a fate set to befall Gen Z too, but with the added sting of an unsteady career trajectory. Due to a combination of technological disruption and increasing life expectancy Gen Zers will need to have the ability to adapt in their careers multiple times, changing pathways as dictated by technological advances at the time. This suggests their property habits will be equally erratic, buying later (if at all) and moving around more.

Gen Z and the housing market

The greatest challenge for this generation is housing affordability. Although house price growth has generally been decelerating over the last two years, across most of the UK house prices have been accelerating much faster than wages, which have in turn been stagnating. The current trajectory suggests young people today will struggle to save to buy a home whilst paying rent. Alongside this, Gen Zers are facing a much depleted Bank of Mum and Dad (BOMAD). The parents of Gen Zers are less likely to be affluent middle-aged people born in the 1950s and 1960s with significant property wealth ready to be unlocked and passed down the generations. Millennials, the generation up from Gen Z, have been major recipients of BOMAD, with some reports stating that more than half of millennials have received supplementary funds from their parents.

The upshot of all of the above factors is a generation of time poor individuals, without significant financial backing and whose view of what the economy and society will provide to them, even with hard work, is generally pessimistic. Housebuilders and estate agents should consider these characteristics and the associated housing issues when marketing themselves and their homes.

How to talk to Generation Z

Be authentic, intelligent and don’t talk down to them. In the age of fake news Gen Z has a heightened sense for when they are being spun a yarn. Brands that have a down-to-earth feel and own topics of conversation when they have a right to do so will resonate the most

Authenticity also comes from a focus on your values. Of course, these should be carefully thought through and reflect reality, but it isn’t just the house or tenancy agreement Gen Z want to buy into, they are interested in your whole ethos. A housebuilder, for example, may wish to highlight their sustainability credentials, both in terms of new communities they build and the jobs they create in the local area.

Traditional ‘blanket’ advertising is dead, Gen Z want to be treated as individuals. Data is important here, for understanding people and what makes them tick. Conducting bespoke research into the issues Gen Zers face in your region, what interests them and where they like going during their free time will help you to tailor your messaging. Investing money in targeted advertising on social platforms will inevitably be money well spent. Any key messages should also be conveyed quickly and concisely.

Finally, it goes without saying that mobile first is the way forward for Gen Z; say goodbye to the traditional desktop. Your website and any connected apps must be mobile friendly and create an absolutely seamless experience.

Concluding remarks

There are such stark generational differences when it comes to property and housing habits it pays to take a breather and think about the next wave of people who are set to become customers and what makes them tick. Standing still won’t cut it given the pace of technology and the information we are all bombarded with constantly. This all boils down to identifying your audience and always tailoring your message and channels to them, because what works for Baby Boomers won’t necessarily work for Gen Z.