From the onslaught of senior living searchers whose first stop is Google, to preparing for a merger that will create the largest brand ever seen in the industry, providers say they are making some adjustments in the way they are positioning themselves for the future of senior living. This includes the rise of national competitors in a business that has evolved into what executives are calling a “different ball game.”
Much of the change is being driven by technology, executives of some of the largest senior living providers say, whether they are capitalizing on technology to impact branding, communication or care delivery.
For Brookdale Senior Living, which through a merger with Emeritus will become the largest senior living provider in the nation, the company is setting its sights on the creation of the one and only national senior living brand. The shift is moving away from the past, when health care was predominantly a local-only business.
“We set out a year ago to develop a national brand and we are very committed to that,” said Brookdale CEO and President Andy Smith during a executive conference panel at the Assisted Living Federation of America conference this week, noting the “supercharged” capabilities the company will have post-merger closing.
But other companies are taking note of the importance of gaining brand recognition nationally as well.
“Brookdale has begun the conversation about branding,” said Pat Mulloy, CEO of Elmcroft Senior Living. “Sunrise did that early on. If you look at hotel chains, it’s about consistency of service and the customer experience. Our systems and processes today are better than they were 20 years ago, but we’re in the second inning of the ball game.”
Many are already adapting to a national landscape that has risen due to the influx of prospective residents who are shopping online.
Elmcroft has spent about $250,000 on a recent website overhaul yielding a site that now features resources for prospective residents that go well beyond community listings.
The drive toward more national branding among various providers is imminent, Malloy said.
“There will be a bunch [of providers] out there national and regional brands,” he said. “We’re not quite there yet.”
Senior Lifestyle Corp. is among the many to have also recently rolled out a website redesign aiming to capture the eye of the online searcher.
“With the tech we have today, you get brand awareness just from the Internet,” said John DeLuca, Senior Lifestyle CEO and president. “It’s a different ball game from just having physical assets.”
Further, the customer has changed in several ways, said Tim Buchanan, president and CEO of Legend Senior Living.
“The customer is much different,” he said during the panel. “Many of the things we do today are geared toward family members and those who will be living in our communities in 10 years.”
Some are also targeting transparency as a differentiator. Senior Lifestyle has begun listing base rental prices on its site at a time when many providers still keep pricing out of the online conversation.
Most are also including reviews—positive and negative—on their sites for prospective residents to see among other points that might set the company and community apart.
“Because we compete for the same resident, what we’re trying to create is how to wow them,” DeLuca says.
Written by Elizabeth Ecker