Strategies for marketing in high competition cities

Tuesday 26 September 2023, Accommodation

Strategies for marketing in high competition cities

Recently, we had the privilege of hosting an insightful webinar, with industry experts – our very own Ollie Wells from UCAS, Shaan Clark from Collegiate UK, Richard from StuRents, and hosted by Sarah & Deenie from The Property Marketing Strategists. The central theme revolved around the changes in student accommodation in the UK. With a myriad of opinions, data, and predictions shared, this comprehensive overview highlights the pivotal trends, pressing challenges, and promising opportunities for the future in the PBSA and wider student accommodation sector. Dive in as we unravel our key findings and insights from this enlightening discussion.

A closer look at supply and demand

While many perceive a crisis in student accommodation, the reality paints a more detailed picture. Cities like Newcastle, Sheffield, and Glasgow show varying trends. The balance between supply and demand remains intricate, with a sharp drop in beds delivered in 2023 versus 2019. Yet, the demand keeps surging. Approximately 30% of students currently opt to stay at home, a number set to grow with rising application volumes from domestic students and the cost-of-living crisis. By 2030, a spike in higher education applicants foretells an intensified accommodation demand.

The data analytics, reveals differences. About 40% of pipeline beds cater to a product traditionally associated with international students, who aren't 40% of the total student population, indicating a potential supply-demand misalignment. Furthermore, with a notable increase in Indian students and a decline in Chinese students in markets like Leicester, demographic shifts come into play.

Expert opinions and insights

The recent webinar and discussion has presented diverse viewpoints:

  • Ollie Wells from UCAS emphasised the role of data in understanding accommodation vacancies across cities.
  • Shaan Clark from Collegiate UK pointed out a trend of earlier bookings, possibly influenced by the fear of escalating utility costs at the end of 2022.
  • Richard from StuRents reiterated that every university town or city is a unique market, calling for tailored strategies.

Challenges and impacts

News headlines suggesting shortages might create unwarranted panic among students. The need of the hour is effective education to ensure students are aware of their chosen university city's accommodation scenario.

Other challenges include:

  • Rising living costs
  • Refurbishing older accommodation, thus hiking up prices
  • Aligning the supply with changing demographics and student priorities

Marketing and adapting to change

"As we see Gen Z taking centre stage, our marketing paradigms are naturally evolving," says Shaan. "Though the good old email campaigns have their place, pivoting to a digital strategy that mirrors Gen Z's online habits is absolutely vital. Our rebranding in Coventry, emphasising 'affordable' accommodation, clearly strikes a chord with today's value-conscious students. And with the integration of platforms like Salesforce, we're steering our marketing efforts with a much sharper, data-driven focus."
Branding, more than just aesthetics, is about encapsulating lifestyle, values, and experiences. As the student demographic grows more complex, early engagement and storytelling become crucial.

Collaborations and future outlook

Collaboration is vital. Universities, already significant drivers of accommodation demand, are increasingly collaborating with the private sector to meet students' diverse needs. A more segmented approach, acknowledging the varied requirements of different student years and courses, will pave the way for sustainable solutions.

Moreover, as the peak of 18-year-olds approaches in 2030, the accommodation industry must be agile. With changing education patterns and external variables like cost of living, it's imperative for providers to stay innovative and relevant.

Concluding thoughts

The student accommodation sector in the UK, while challenged, is rife with opportunities. The blend of data-driven decisions, effective collaboration, and understanding the evolving student psyche is the way forward. As we anticipate another webinar discussing student accommodation challenges, it's evident that the industry's focus remains - ensuring every student finds a suitable, memorable place to stay.

Reach out to our team for a discussion and expert guidance. Drop us an email at, and let's collaboratively navigate the future of student accommodations marketing.