I remember my very first trade show with JANIIS. I had jumped head first into the short term rental industry, and walking around VRMA East in 2017 in Savannah, I probably had a permanent look of concern on my face. There was a lot to learn, and I needed to learn it quickly. I sat in break out sessions frantically scribbling notes and questions to ask Blake and Jason later...and then I walked into a session called "Digital Insights".
To my surprise, I turned out to be the resident expert. It started off talking about using social media to increase exposure for your short term rental...but then quickly segued to MILLENNIALS.
The minute the word left the presenter's lips, there was a submerged groan. Opinions were voiced calling the general 18-34 age group pesky to say the least; responsible for the radical changes in their daily marketing operations at most. Qualities of millennials were listed: flighty, impulsive, demanding, fickle, last minute. They didn't book weeks in advance, they booked days in advance; they wanted to check in early and check out late; and they didn't even want to talk to you! They wanted to do it all online and the less interaction with an actual person the better. What weirdos.
I won't lie to you, my first thought was: "wait...doesn't everyone vacation like that?" ...I can neither confirm nor deny that this singular thought supports the notion that millennials are a little wrapped up in themselves.
Change is hard. I get that, believe me. When you have a comfortable way of operating it's difficult to switch that up, especially to something that you personally don't like. Real talk though: the average millennial is now 26 years old. They're not pesky teenagers anymore, they're adults. They're settling down. They're having children of their own...children who will never know life without a smart phone. The expectation for instant gratification...and bookings...is only going to be compounded as our industry grows. Those that don't jump on the quick response instant booking train will be left in the dust.
Oof. I know. I'm not mincing words.
That being said, I have the answers to the main question the breakout session devolved to: How do we market to millennials? These impulsive, last minute, demanding creatures? There's way more ways to do so than can be contained in a single blog post, but here are a few easily applied pointers to get you started:
There are short term rentals all over the world; it's cool, and cheaper, to stay in a local home versus a hotel. Millennials are hungry for an experience- they want to view an area from the perspective of a resident. Being labeled a "tourist" is almost a curse word. That being said, they're also shrewd shoppers and accustomed to being able to view inventory at the click of a button. If one source doesn't have what they want, then somewhere else will. With that in mind, it is an absolute necessity that your property be listed on MULTIPLE channels. The more visible it is on as many channels as possible, coupled with a great price, the more likely it is to be booked.
All the Visuals
Have you heard of Tinder, Bumble, or Hinge? Chances are high if you're dating, you have one of these apps. In it, you add (very flattering) pictures of yourself, along with some facts about you. Now, it's understood that no one is going to read those facts unless they like your pictures...and the same applies to your property's online listing. It is essentially an online dating profile. No one reads the description until they've scoped out the pictures and find it attractive. So- the more pictures with incredible lighting, the better. Blake actually wrote a blog post about how to take the best pictures of your listing which ROCKS. You can peruse that bad boy here.
When someone is booking a property, you want as few barriers to them booking as possible. My Mom booked a vacation rental and mentioned the property manager called her prior to her paying the deposit and interviewed her. Had that been me, it would have absolutely turned me off to the listing, and it's more than likely I would have canceled the stay. People don't want to jump through a whole bunch of hoops prior to booking. If there's a full interview before someone can even pay the deposit that they don't even want to pay in the first place, it's going to be an enormous deterrent...and decrease the number of bookings you receive.
Another aspect of making booking easy is quickly responding to inquiries. The sooner questions are answered while the potential guest is excited about the property, the more positive the experience will be. This goes without saying, but a positive experience increases the likelihood of a repeat booking and, more importantly, a great recommendation. Blake, Jason, & I actually had an experience with the Airbnb we booked for the conference. The power went out in the morning while we were getting ready (it had nothing to do with my hair dryer). It was already inconvenient enough for me to have to put on my make up in the dim morning light, but our host was incredibly responsive! Within an hour of us letting him know, he had someone come fix it. A+ interaction. Would 100% book again.
Mushy moment: Going to VRMA East over a year ago was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Though it was incredibly intimidating (there's a lot that goes into property management) I was immediately hooked. There's still so much to learn, and quickly, but I'm right there with you.