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PBSA: How Technology is Changing the UK Student Accommodation Market

September 5, 2023

As education and technology become increasingly intertwined, the landscape of student accommodation is undergoing a profound transformation — particularly Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA). 

PBSA student accommodation refers to modern housing solutions meticulously designed to cater to today's students' unique needs and preferences. More than just a place to rest their heads, PBSA encompasses a holistic living experience that fosters growth, comfort, and community. As students' expectations evolve, so does the accommodation sector, compelled to adapt to provide an environment that complements their educational journey.

The significance of aligning student accommodation with changing needs cannot be overstated. With educational experiences becoming increasingly immersive and digitally driven, living spaces must keep pace. This fusion of academia and technology has spurred a revolution in how PBSA is approached in the UK, with innovation as the cornerstone.

Keep reading as we explore how technology is changing the UK PBSA student accommodation market.

Evolving Student Needs and Expectations

Student needs are continually evolving. In the context of student accommodation, this evolution has prompted a paradigm shift, demanding that providers offer far more than just a place to stay. Today's students seek an all-encompassing living experience that caters to their individual preferences, provides the services they’ve become accustomed to, and prioritises their safety and security. 24/7 support is one of the most prioritised services, particularly among international services. Many PBSAs, including Student Roost, provide 24/7 reception service. Here’s what they say about this service: “Whether it’s to report a leaky tap or you need to talk to someone after a rough day, we’ve got you. Find a friendly face at reception.”

Personalisation has become a central tenet in the world of student accommodation. The modern student wants a living space that aligns with their unique lifestyle and requirements. This has paved the way for innovative solutions such as configurable living areas, adaptable furniture, and customisable amenities. From ergonomic workstations for focused study to cosy relaxation corners, accommodation providers are embracing personalisation to create a home away from home.

However, safety and security remain paramount amidst the pursuit of comfort and community. Students and their families demand physical security measures and robust digital systems that safeguard their personal data and facilitate emergency communication. From secure entry systems to advanced fire safety protocols, accommodation providers invest in technologies that ensure peace of mind.

The seamless experience extends to the booking process. Students expect a frictionless journey, from browsing available options online to making payments and completing administrative formalities. The convenience of a streamlined process cannot be overstated, as it reduces stress for students and reflects the commitment of accommodation providers to delivering a modern, efficient service.

Marketing to Students with Technology

Digital marketing has become the cornerstone of PBSA promotion, and for good reason. The majority of students are digital natives, living out their lives through screens and interfaces. To capture their attention, providers must meet them where they are: online. 

With their vast reach and engagement potential, social media platforms have become indispensable tools. By crafting engaging content and strategic campaigns, PBSA providers can cultivate an authentic online presence that attracts students and forms a community around their brand.

While Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are the most well-used social media platforms for PBSAs marketing their accommodation, another platform deserves their attention: WeChat. Chinese students are a key target market for many UK-based PBSAs due to their increasing numbers and preference for PBSA. But they can't be reached across the usual social media platforms. To connect with Chinese students, you must head to WeChat, their preferred platform.

VIVA CITY provides the gateway for UK-based companies to build a presence on WeChat by helping them create WeChat Mini Programs for their PBSAs. Check out our guide for PBSAs marketing to Chinese students on WeChat.

Along with social media, online advertising is pivotal in reaching the student audience. Through carefully targeted ads, providers can present their accommodations to potential residents who fit their ideal demographic. The possibilities are limitless, from search engine ads that appear when students are seeking accommodation to display ads that follow them as they browse.

However, embracing technology doesn't end with just the tools; it extends to the strategies employed. Data-driven marketing has emerged as a driving force behind higher conversions. Analysing user behaviour, preferences, and engagement patterns allows providers to tailor their marketing efforts, ensuring the right message reaches the right audience at the right time.

Technology has become the linchpin in the dynamic world of PBSA marketing. From social media and online advertising to data-driven strategies, providers have many tools at their disposal to connect with their audience and showcase their offerings. 

So, are you ready to revolutionise your marketing game? Book a VIVA CITY demo today and witness firsthand the potential of technology in reshaping the PBSA marketing landscape.

Transforming the PBSA Booking Process

The days of lengthy paperwork and cumbersome communication are giving way to a seamless and tech-savvy booking experience, tailored to the needs and preferences of today's students.

Online platforms have revolutionised the initial booking process, offering students a convenient and efficient way to explore and secure their ideal living space. Through user-friendly interfaces, students can access detailed information about accommodations, amenities, and pricing, empowering them to make informed decisions from the comfort of their screens.

Visualising living spaces has become more immersive than ever, thanks to virtual tours and 360-degree images. These innovative tools enable prospective residents to explore accommodations as if they were physically present. The ability to navigate through rooms, hallways, and common areas fosters a better understanding of the layout and facilitates more confident booking choices.

VIVA CITY WeChat Mini Programs solution allows brands to showcase 360-degree virtual tours within the Mini Program. Students can see everything they need for each accommodation type – starting with a virtual tour! Check out this listing on CRM students for an example of a 360-degree virtual tour of a PBSA.

AI-driven chatbots have also emerged as invaluable assets. These intelligent virtual assistants provide instant responses to queries, guiding students through the booking process and addressing concerns around the clock. With prompt and accurate information readily available, students experience enhanced convenience and customer satisfaction. Saving on pre-sale personnel cost and time as well. 

Roommate matching has also entered the digital age, leveraging technology to foster harmonious living arrangements. By employing sophisticated algorithms, providers can analyse preferences, habits, and lifestyle factors to facilitate automated roommate matching. This enhances residents' compatibility and minimises potential conflicts, ensuring a more positive living experience for all.

Revolutionising Contracting and Payments 

Contracting and payments, once laden with paperwork and administrative hurdles, have been revitalised by technology, offering unparalleled convenience and efficiency to both providers and students alike.

Electronic contract signing and digital signatures have emerged as game-changers in the realm of contracting. Students can review, agree to, and sign contracts online from any location, eliminating the need for in-person visits or postal exchanges. This streamlined approach not only accelerates the booking process but also contributes to a more eco-friendly and sustainable operation.

Online payment portals have likewise transformed the financial aspect of student accommodation. Students can easily and securely submit their rental fees through digital platforms. Flexible payment options, ranging from one-time payments to instalment plans, accommodate various financial situations, ensuring that every student can find a suitable arrangement. 

International students sometimes have currency exchange or bank transfer problems. To solve this there are payment portals that support seamless international bank transfers along with accepting Chinese payment options like Alipay and WeChat pay. For example, Homes for Students uses Transfermate to make it easier and cheaper for international students to pay their fees.

The integration of guarantor verification platforms has further modernised the contracting and payment landscape. Instead of traditional manual verification methods, technology now enables efficient and secure verification processes. This ensures that the financial aspect is handled smoothly, reducing the burden on both students and providers.

A significant benefit of these technological advancements is the reduction of administrative tasks and paperwork. Providers can allocate resources more effectively, focusing on delivering a superior student experience rather than being bogged down by manual paperwork and processes. This translates to faster response times, improved customer service, and a more efficient overall operation.

Improving Living Experience

Technology has become the cornerstone of enhancing the student living experience in PBSA, providing a seamless blend of convenience and value. Tenant apps, smart home features and tech integration within amenities such as gyms, cinema rooms, and game rooms have redefined the way students interact with their living spaces. These technological enhancements not only add value to students' decision-making processes when selecting a PBSA but also contribute to a more enriched and efficient lifestyle.

Imagine booking a gym slot on the way back from campus or reserving the cinema room through a user-friendly app. The ability to arrange laundry pick-up, organise clubs and social activities, and access information on central hubs elevates the overall student experience. 

For example, PBSA provider iQ has an app that allows tenants to report maintenance issues, check laundry machine availability, get parcel updates and even order everything they need for their room.

Property management is also made more effective through software that simplifies maintenance request reporting, updates room availability, and streamlines communication. Repair requests are effortlessly flagged and tracked, maintenance schedules are automatically communicated to tenants, and important updates reach all occupants seamlessly.

Operators can leverage technology to enhance communication with occupants, providing information on fire drills, security updates, and more. Services like remote check-in, app-based rent payments, and online contract signing free up administrative time, allowing operators to focus on delivering exceptional resident experiences.

Technology is Elevating Every Aspect of the Student Living Experience

From streamlined booking processes and interactive amenities to efficient administrative operations, technology has elevated PBSA to new heights. Staying attuned to the latest technological advancements is paramount to thrive in this ever-evolving landscape. 

By embracing innovation, PBSA providers can deliver exceptional experiences catering to modern students' needs. As the industry continues to advance, the adoption of technology stands as a cornerstone for long-term success. 

Curious to explore the potential? Book a demo with VIVA CITY to discover innovative strategies, including reaching out to the vibrant market of Chinese students through WeChat Mini Programs.

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