You likely have heard of DINKs (Dual Income, No Kids), but have you heard of WINKs? Well, you had better get familiar with them, because they are coming fast—if they haven't knocked on your door already. Gen-Y Women with Income and No Kids (and typically no spouse or partner, for that matter) will be entering the home buying market in droves. This group is expected to become homeowners in a big wave by 2010, which will peak around 2012. Most of you are still probably not sure what women want in general; well what about Gen-Y women, the most educated cohort of women in U.S history? Are you sure you know how to talk to her and sell to her? You need to learn, as the number of women purchasing homes alone is completely outpacing that of their male counterparts. It is estimated that by 2010, the number of female heads of households will have increased to well above 31 million.
WINKs are a particular group of young women—educated, discerning, motivated, and successful. They are attending and graduating college at higher rates then men. Women now make up 56 percent of college populations, and it is expected that within 10 years, 3 million more women than men could be attending college. Those college degrees turn into jobs, and jobs come with salaries, and salaries often wind up paying a mortgage.
But it's not as easy as you may think. This group is demanding. They have been told since childhood that they can do and have whatever they set their mind on. They are not in the market for mediocre, and they know that a Subway sandwich shop and a dry cleaners downstairs aren't enough to make the condo “cool.” They want the community and home that will allow them to multi-task and fulfill their desire to “have it all.” This means wireless Internet access, a fitness center with programming such as yoga and more than one treadmill, and functional work areas, as this group is never really off-line.
Further, your WINK customer has a full-time career, plus a demanding social life as work/life balance is her main goal. Therefore, you have to go to her. You need a Web presence that finds her where she is—Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. You need events that connect to the places she is going anyway. Having little information on Web sites in the hopes that she will call or come in won't work. This is the generation that creates social change by joining a Facebook group; they are not going to waste their time going to a sales center unless there is a really compelling reason to do so.
And these women are going to shop around until they find the best fit and a community, developer, and builder they can identify with and stand behind. This generation can be very brand loyal, but only if you set your standards high and touch on their value set. That means not only valuing her time but also incorporating social and environmental responsibility. This generation votes with their wallets for companies they feel do good by society. So, you also need to value her intellect. Being talked to in a condescending tone of voice may not be foreign to her, but that doesn't mean it's appreciated.
This generation is more connected to one another than any other in history, which translates to a high degree of word of mouth and peer persuasion. So if one WINK feels talked down to or doesn't exactly identify with the in-house sales staff, you can bet her entire network knows about it—via her BlackBerry or iPhone—before she gets out the door.
Providing well-organized information, comprehensive Web sites, and a prepared, competent, and peer-oriented sales staff will go a long way, but it is still a scary world out there—especially if you have an entire portfolio of marketing and sales messages targeted toward professional single men or their baby boomer parents. Times are certainly changing, and the change is arriving in high heels the wearer bought for herself. So get to know who she is, how to talk to her, and of course, how to sell to her.
Stephanie Siejka is director of consumer research for Bethesda, Md.-based Robert Charles Lesser & Co., a leading independent real estate advisory firm.