How Gen Z will Impact Hospitality Design
By Holly Welles
Generation Z, the younger siblings of the tech-savvy millennials, has never known a world without technology such as cell phones and smart devices, making them even savvier than their millennial counterparts. Generation Z, also known as iGen, is made up of roughly 65 million people, depending upon which charts you look at.
By 2020, Gen Z will make up approximately 40 percent of all U.S. consumers. With such a massive hold on the market share, their buying behaviors and attitudes will impact every segment of society, including hospitality design.
To design for Gen Z, you first have to understand how the generation as a whole absorbs information and consumes goods. This allows your hotel to come up with a plan to meet the needs of this unique generation. Here are seven specific steps you can take to attract this upcoming group of guests:
1. Implement Technology
Gen Z knows their way around a computer and are never without their smartphones. They could be called the “connected” generation. They’re savvy around social media, and they expect processes to run smoothly and technology to be fully integrated.
Grant Dupart, director of Hospitality Investments at McWHINNEY, comments, “Gen Z expects hotels to have the ability to connect wirelessly to in-room devices such as smart TVs and smart speakers. We continue to improve the technology in our new developments and acquisitions and have seen significant growth in this portion of our project budgets.”
Prepare for Gen Z now by increasing your business’ usage of tech. Add apps for easier check-in/check-out. Automate services such as room service, ordering additional towels and reserving other services.
2. Up Your Digital Game
Generation Z is obsessed with their digital footprint and very aware of the trail they leave behind. Around 54 percent of them Google their name often, and 10 percent admit to Googling themselves every day.
They are connected and tied to social media more so than any other generation. However, where they go also differs a bit from older generations. Although they may have a Facebook account, they’re more likely to spend their time on image-driven platforms, such as Instagram or Snapchat. Because of their focus on digital footprints, they really like Snapchat, where the post goes away and doesn’t live forever.
If you want to reach this generation and market to them effectively, you must go where they go on social media. Start a hotel Snapchat account and post a quick update when a celebrity arrives or you add a new dish in the restaurant, for example. Gen Z’ers appreciate loyalty, and if they feel you are upfront and loyal to them, then they’ll be loyal back.
3. Go Green
Gen Z cares deeply about the environment and preserving the earth for future generations. Around 94 percent of the iGen feels companies should also care about social and environmental issues and 89 percent say they’d prefer to buy from a company supporting the same causes they care about. Anything you can do to help the environment is always a good thing, so now is an excellent time to commit to going green.
For example, install systems that automatically turn off lights that aren’t in use. One way to accomplish this is with a Key-Activated TMS system. If a guest leaves their room and forgets to turn off the lights or turn down the AC, the system does this task for them. This reduces the hotel’s carbon footprint drastically and gives guests peace of mind. T
Other ideas include adding alternative energy sources, such as installing solar panels or using geothermal heat. You can save on water usage by encouraging guests to hang up and reuse towels for more than single night stays, and installing more efficient washers and dryers.
4. Change the Way You Market
Gen Z does not like blatant advertising. They have grown up in a world filled with advertisements that come at them through radio, television and their computer screens. They can spot an ad pitch a mile away and are kind of turned off by obvious promotion.
If you want to reach Gen Z on their level, you must change the way you market to them. They want to engage with companies. They want to know your story and why it’s different than anyone else’s out there, so begin developing your storytelling skills now. Save your money and throw it toward online marketing and face-to-face marketing rather than on print advertising.
5. Improve Your Reputation
Even though Gen Z loves technology, they are also self-learners and they know where to find reviews and information. For this reason, your online reputation matters. Ask your loyal customers to complete online reviews. Keep an eye on your online reputation.
One way you can create a positive experience for generation Z is to offer experiences they can’t find anywhere else. Create packages that let them check out local sites and team up with various third parties in your area, such as tour guides or local sites.
Tobias Strohe, AIA and partner at Johnson Nathan Strohe, shared his insight on changing demands with new generations, stating that as people age, they tend to want the same things older generations want in a hotel. He prefers to focus on life stages to determine people’s needs and wants.
“Generally speaking, hospitality properties tend to be refreshed every seven to 12 years, which means the designs and functionality change slightly more frequently than generational shifts. So it doesn’t make sense to think of design strictly in generational terms.”
This isn’t to say that guest experiences aren’t being improved as a result of a more modern landscape, however. Technology is taking a greater place in hospitality design for all customers.
“We continue to see a shift toward design that embraces technology (specifically technology that makes guests lives easier) and hyper-local experiences created through design, art and local programming,” Strohe comments.
Strohe points out that some designs are timeless and appreciated through the generations, such as easier check-in and a clean, comfortable environment.
6. Get Visual
Gen Z grew up with TV and videos, so they are highly visual. About a third of Gen Z watches at least an hour of video online every day, with YouTube ruling their viewing at 80 percent.
Some ways you can tie into their love of video include adding television screens in the lobby and using YouTube videos to reach new customers. Install smart TVs in hotel rooms, so users can tap into online forums such as YouTube for viewing pleasure.
7. Add More Fitness Options
The world as a whole is becoming more focused on fitness. Studies show that Americans are more focused on fitness than ever before, so hotels are adding advanced fitness centers and even providing guests with items such as workout clothes and running shoes.
Some things you can do to prepare for the fitness boom include add state of the art equipment, provide conveniences such as workout clothes and add tips for walking or running routes close to the hotel.
8. Some Things Remain the Same
There is no denying that Gen Z is changing the world and the hospitality industry. However, some things will remain the same no matter what generation has the most buying power. Offering stellar customer service and putting your guests’ needs first is the key to running a successful hospitality business.
Holly Welles is a real estate writer with an interest in emerging technologies and commercial design. She also maintains her own residential real estate blog, The Estate Update and works as editor at VisualCV, and keeps up-to-date on Twitter @HollyAWelles