Student Housing Business

MAY-JUN 2018

Student Housing Business is the voice of the student housing industry.

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DATA AND ANALYTICS May/June 2018 63 ticular market. Where are sales spiking around this age group or where are parents reporting purchasing items for their children? Is it Bed, Bath & Beyond? Target? IKEA? GMH recently learned that IKEA products were popular in a market and parsed a data set down to see which specific furnishing and designs were being purchased most often by college-aged students or their parents. "This kind of data affects what we do operation- ally. It tells us it's time to switch the furniture package to a sleeker look if the clean, white sets are the trend in our market." Finding out how students find your property is also going to be impor- tant as data drives the evolution of the sector. "The concept of lead attri- bution is complex, and it's going to be a big deal for companies who are able to do it," says Billy Wilkinson of Austin, Texas-based branding and marketing firm Threshold/Carve. "Lead attribution means that you can create a very definable path and understanding to learn where your resi- dents come from and how they found you. There's not a lot of companies doing this yet, but as they do, they will continue to see added quantifiable results from their marketing efforts." For Austin-based Catalyst, the concept of customer experience data driving operational decisions has taken on a new importance in recent years. A few key areas where data is used to drive decisions and influence change are reputation management, lead generation and lease signing. "With the rise in importance of reputation data as a pure indicator of customer experience, Catalyst has started to detail operational concerns in our reputation management reports," says Vice President Christy McFerren. From lead generation to lease signing, Catalyst has implemented an internal monitoring process in which lead-to-lease conversion rates out of specific campaigns are tied to internal auditing processes that evaluate how campaigns were actually executed at properties, using photos and other documenting techniques. "We're finding a direct correlation between those properties that pro- vide a full, well-executed experiential marketing deployment with their lease conversion rates from different marketing campaigns," McFerren says. "This is enabling us to provide operations policy updates and site staff checklists that ultimately improve the potential customer experience. "Data is being used to inform many differ- ent layers of the decision making process," she continues. "It is informing acquisitions teams on where to consider property purchas- es based on market performance, informing operations teams on how to improve the cus- tomer experience, and informing marketing teams on where to place dollars from a tactical perspective to drive response from both pros- pects and residents." Data is a valuable tool, but not every col- lected fact results in a scientific forecast. "What do I wish data could do that it can't yet?" asks Skolnicki. "Predict construction costs under changing policy and environmental conditions. We look to construction firms that have databases and know where their materials come from so they can isolate certain concern areas and diversify where they're sourc- ing from." The student housing industry is still exploring the ways in which data is sourced and applied to business, and the future holds promise. Says Scion's Smith: "I think it's going to be an iterative process, but I think everybody is going to continue to shift toward this analytics-driven approach." SHB CHRISTY MCFERREN Vice President, Catalyst

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