How the silver lining is evolving for the retirement industry.

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September 16, 2020. As the COVID19 situation in Queensland was escalating in April this year, I was confident in my views that there was a silver lining for the retirement living (RL) sector.  

I felt the situation albeit horrible, presented retirement villages and/or lifestyle communities an opportunity to better articulate their point of difference over non-retirement competitors.  It also provided a pause in the market that allowed customers to reflect on the RL value proposition, which many customers historically found hard to rationalise.

(For a copy of the article I wrote on RL versus residential post-covid, msg me)

Fast forward six months and we’re now well and truly navigating through this COVID recovery in an active market and we’re witnessing interesting consumer sentiment and buyer behaviours.

One thing is for sure, the silver lining is definitely there and the demand from customers for retirement villages and/or lifestyle communities is very strong and, in some communities and regions stronger than before COVID.

Where it gets tricky, is all that we knew before COVID about buyer behaviours and marketing tactics means little now. The landscape has shifted, the customer segments have shifted, their sentiment has shifted and their buying behaviours have shifted.   

So what does this mean for the marketing teams? It means we’re all learning as we go, using our past experience and expertise to decipher the shifts and using our business acumen and emotional intelligence to quickly assess situations, adapt and make a path forward.

It’s exhausting yet wildly addictive to get ahead. But what’s the alternative…

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” Vivian Greene – Author, Motivational Speaker

Here’s a few of my thoughts on how things have changed post COVID.

1.      ‘Move-in ready’ is not the strong selling point it was before COVID…with retirees not wanting to feel pressured to list their property immediately in an uncertain market.

2.      Off-the-plan sales are performing well as it is allowing customers to plan forward and wait for their super/finances to recover.

3.      COVID restrictions impact regions in different ways e.g. Brisbane is very different to Gold Coast at present, you cannot make broad assumptions or deliver state-wide marketing campaigns.

4.      The restrictions and uncertainty are causing a delay in lead conversion…..customers are looking but may not be ready to have a conversation…meaning we’re all working to ensure we have strong CTAs on websites.

5.      Safety, safety, safety….is by far the driving sentiment. “Will I be safe in this community?” This does not just mean safety as in ‘gated’ it means how safe will residents feel whilst living at your community. Physical, mental and emotional safety.

6.      Vertical retirement villages in metro areas need to be cautious of how they’re promoting their ‘inner city’ advantages…being connected to everything, isn’t as appealing as it once was.

7.      The way we talk about product in our limited character headlines needs to be reconsidered e.g. Luxury retirement apartments from $500k or Spacious apartments with treetop views from $500k. We need to be aware what images our customers conjure up unconsciously with these headlines post COVID.

8.      If you have an existing community, they can be your saviours at present, let them tell the story of how they have felt during COVID, why they love the community….and share this in an innovative way.

9.      Trust. Customers need to feel they can trust developers/operators now more than ever. There are so many ways you can build trust and it should not just be left to the sales team.

10.  Go back to your COLD leads. Leads that may have been classified as cold or lost pre-COVID should be reconnected.

11.  Influencers are more important than ever before. In many ways, families are connecting more than ever before, particularly to their loved ones and are likely playing more prominent roles in the future decisions of their older parents retirement destination.

There’s plenty more, I’ll keep adding as I go! I welcome your feedback/contribution.

Either way we’re very lucky to be in Queensland and fortunate we’re not experiencing what other states are going through. I’m sure there is more to come, particularly in the aged care space, however for now the future is ever-changing yet bright for RV and Lifestyle communities.

Author – Susan Duffy, Director Channel Marketing Group

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