Digital Integration in the Student Housing Company

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Introduction

The extent of technological integration in today’s children, teenagers, and young adults arouses the need for transformation among pre-digital and modern organizations. Reaching out and interacting with this consumer base is integral to creating a competitive advantage among the organizations. The selection, buying, and consumption of products and services among digital natives are increasingly influenced by the information they access online. Companies should focus on digital technologies, including collaborative, mobile, as well as the internet of things to improve their operations and performance.

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Case Analysis: The Student Housing Company

The Student Housing Company aims at providing high-quality, secure, and convenient accommodation for students across the globe. It opened its first subsidiary in Australia in 2018. Since its first outlet in the country, the company has expanded into four accommodation branches in Australia. Its aim in Australia is to change consumers’ perception of student accommodation services by offering high-quality services embedded in a congenial living environment. Its focus is on establishing effective communication between the customer and the management to create safe and comfortable services for its consumers (The Student Housing Company, n.d.). While the company’s focus captures customer expectations, it faces competition in the Australian market.

In the Perth market, the company rivalry is drawn from other privately-owned student accommodation providers, apartment renting agents, as well as universities’ own student room services. Despite the stiff competition in the Australian market, “the boulevard” tactical operations in the country remains highly marketable. It has established itself as a unique service provider in the nation by investing in new infrastructure, apartment environment, strategic locations, and formulating customer-oriented prices and 24-hour amenities (The Student Housing Company, n.d.).

The student population, especially international students, continues to rise in Australian universities. Since 2018, students’ enrollment rose by 10% in 2019 to reach 738, 107 international students (“International Student in Australia Statistics,” n.d.). A 2019 report by the Australia department of education shows that 32% of all students enrolled in doctoral programs are foreigners. On the other hand, international students pursuing bachelor’s degree programs comprise 14%, while master’s degree enrollment is 45% of all the enrolled students in the respective programs (“International Student in Australia Statistics,” n.d.). The high number of international students in the Australian universities presents a huge market for the Student Housing Company. However, the current COVID-19 pandemic has complicated issues for the company due to travel advisories, restrictions, and other government COVID-19 containment measures. To thrive in the student accommodation industry, the Student Housing Company had to explore digital integration.

Digitization of Services

Digitization of services in traditional industries such as the student accommodation sector has gained momentum in recent years. Formulating and implementing a digital transformation strategy (DTS) has risen into a crucial aspect across these industries. To remain competitive, companies should embrace technological transformation (DT) by integrating digital technologies such as sensors, automation, artificial intelligence, touchscreens, and cameras (Young & Rogers, 2019). The Student Housing Company understands that it has to leverage emerging technologies to reap the additional gains, especially, in the contemporary challenging business environment.

The workforce for the Student Housing Company is lean. According to its website, it has 18 employees at its Perth operation, four of which are in the marketing department. The four marketing department staff are digital natives. The young team comprising of 24-32-year-olds boasts of valuable digital skills since they were born and raised in the digital era, an aspect that allowed them to interact with different technologies. The team’s mastery is important to the company’s digitization process and success in the competitive student accommodation market in Australia. It is the driving force behind the transformation of the Student Housing Company’s digital landscape.

Given the emerging technological platforms, the Student Housing Company has formulated a holistic strategy that combines multiple networks, media, and channels to help it achieve its business goals by creating sustainable relationships with customers. A company has to be nimble to effectively integrate digital technologies within its core operations. Being nimble gives the organization the needed agility to adapt to market changes and new trends (Ronzon et al., 2019). The Student Housing Company’s successful integration could be attributed to its nimbleness. Besides, the company is focused on building trust with its customers.

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The Student Housing Company has turned to social media channels to not only boost its online presence but also enhance customer engagement. According to Muninger et al. (2019), social media platforms allow companies to reach and engage with a large number of clients simultaneously allowing them to establish an effective feedback system. Student Housing Company uses Facebook, Instagram, and Gumtree to engage with its customers regularly and on time.

According to its website, any transformation in the company is customer-oriented. At the center of its digital strategy is data collection and analytics perhaps to ensure tailored communication services to its customers (The Student Housing Company, n.d.). It prioritizes customer service, an aspect that has allowed it to respond appropriately to various communication challenges that could affect its client base negatively. Data from its social media platforms illustrated that a large number of the organization’s customers speak either Mandarin or English. This realization is consistent with information from the Australia department of education. Most of the international students in Australia come from diverse foreign cultures (“International Student in Australia Statistics,” n.d.). The Student Housing Company responded by employing a digital marketing staff able to speak both English and Mandarin to promote apt, accurate, and effective communication with the diverse company customers. Remarkably, it builds a WeChat account for its customers to boost the privacy of their information. Through these steps, the Student Housing Company has been able to anticipate, listen, respect, and respond to customer needs thus creating a social customer relations management. Its benefits have been customer-company trust and long-term relationships.

Apart from product (service) offering, the Student Housing Company values transparency while communicating with its customers. As indicated on its website, there are no hidden charges on the customers during their stay in its facilities. Through transparency, the company has been able to secure positive online reviews from its customers, a matter that could draw more clients to its services. Agrawal (2016) reports that 68% of consumers trust customer reviews while making a purchase. Therefore, transparency and online reviews have been integral in the company’s ability to build trust among its customers.

While the Student Housing Company strives to adhere to government regulations and business restrictions, ethical concerns affect its transformation strategy. Royakkers et al. (2018) claim that although digitization of services is valuable in undertaking product customization and prompt response to customer issues, ethical issues, particularly on privacy and data breaches threaten its success. However, Student Housing creates private WeChat accounts to ensure customer identifiable information and engagements are not visible to outsiders.

Discussion and Recommendation

Based on the covered review, location-based marketing, social engagement, and the Internet are the major drivers in the company’s digital integration process. Its use of digital technologies such as Facebook has been instrumental in decision-making. It provides the organization with real-time data as well as an appropriate customer engagement platform for trust-building. Moreover, the company is nimble because it has been able to adapt to the changing business environment occasioned by changing customer needs and environmental factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic. However, its website is lackluster because it lacks value-rich content.

One of the suggestions is that the Student Housing Company should optimize its online presence through customer tags embedded in its social media posts to increase its reach to a wider client base. However, it should eliminate storing customer personal information on its platforms to maintain customer safety. It could use end-to-end encryption of the customer messages to protect them from data breaches. Shemla (2018) recommends implementing productive diversity strategies in the workplace.

The Student Housing Company should hire a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) expert. SEO is one of the effective ways through which a company could share engaging, value-rich, and inspiring content on its website to attract traffic (Kaur et al., 2016). The SEO expert would be tasked with data collection and analytics to identify the keywords that most students use during the search. However, the word identification and sharing of inspiring content should cut across all other areas related to student housing to drive traffic to the website.

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Another crucial suggestion is speed optimization of the company website. The company should invest in high-quality and powerful servers, modern technology, and competent personnel. According to Kaur et al. (2016), page load time could be reduced by minimizing redirects to other pages or by leveraging browser caching to ensure return website users do not need to reload the entire page afresh.

Conclusion

Consumers’ need for information and timely response to their concerns calls for companies to invest in digital technologies to enhance communication. The Student Housing Company combines both offline and online strategies to reach out to its customers. Being nimble and having an effective team comprising of competent and informed staff such as digital natives has been valuable in the company’s success in the digital revolution. Indeed, companies should invest in the digitization of their services to leverage the many benefits offered by digital technologies such as wide customer reach, trust-building, and service customization.

References

Agrawal, A. J. (2016). 5 ways to build customer trust. Forbes. Web.

Kaur, S., Kaur, K., & Kaur, P. (2016). An empirical performance evaluation of universities website. International Journal of Computer Applications, 146(15), 10-16.

Muninger, M. I., Hammedi, W., & Mahr, D. (2019). The value of social media for innovation: A capability perspective. Journal of Business Research, 95, 116-127.

Ronzon, T., Buck, J., & Eckstein, J. (2019). Making companies nimble-from software agility to business agility: A Conversation with the authors [Insights]. IEEE Software, 36(1), 79-85.

Royakkers, L., Timmer, J., Kool, L., & van Est, R. (2018). Societal and ethical issues of digitization. Ethics and Information Technology, 20(2), 127-142.

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International student in Australia statistics. (n.d). Study in Australia. Web.

Shemla, M. (2018). Why Workplace Diversity Is So Important, And Why It’s So Hard To Achieve. Forbes. Web.

The Student Housing Company. (n.d). Our story. Web.

Young, A., & Rogers, P. (2019). A review of digital transformation in mining. Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration 36, 683–699. Web.

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BusinessEssay. 2022. "Digital Integration in the Student Housing Company." June 12, 2022. https://business-essay.com/digital-integration-in-the-student-housing-company/.

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