With each passing year, more and more self-storage facilities are making the leap and integrating technology into their self-storage business plan to streamline operations and enhance site and unit security. There’s no doubt that technology is the way of the future for self-storage. Like a magnet, customers are attracted to contactless, smart solutions; this is proven in the significant return on investment many innovators and early adopters have seen. Mirrored with other industries, it’s apparent that not adopting technology into your business plan only threatens your survival in the future marketplace. Consumer demographics and user preferences are rapidly changing.
As baby boomers continue to retire, millennials and members of Gen Z are filling jobs, making more money, and contributing to greater consumption. These younger generations were practically hand-molded to crave technology and contactless solutions, which is requiring businesses to digitally transform and restructure their approach to empower innovation and leverage technology. Luckily, when this occurs, tech-savvy businesses have the potential to reach new levels of growth.
While it may have many working parts, technology isn’t scary, and it will help differentiate your storage facility in the rapidly evolving and expanding industry. By digitally transforming your self-storage business you can take advantage of the significant benefits that come with streamlining operations, such as automating once manual and mundane processes, attracting more customers, enhancing security, and generating more revenue. So how do you convert a manually managed self-storage facility to become tech-savvy? We’ve put all the best tips in one place to simplify your homework and help you transition your business as seamlessly as possible.
Characteristics Of Low-Tech Facilities
- Outdated website
- Manual and lengthy onboarding process
- Physical keys and codes
- Poor signage and communication
- Minimal security (may or may not have cameras, gates, or fences)
- Manual lock checks, overlocks, and releasing
- Minimal customer interaction and service
Unfortunately, outdated facilities are located all around us. These are the facilities that aren’t user-friendly, and do very little, if anything, to contribute to the customer’s security or experience. Luckily, with a little help, these no-tech and low-tech facilities can be revitalized. By integrating technology into their day-to-day operations, once outdated facilities can streamline operations while heightening the customer experience and security.
Characteristics Of High-Tech Facilities
- Mobile responsive website
- Tenant-driven onboarding process
- Mobile app access to the gate and unit
- Electronic and informative signage
- Robust security system (smart keypads, smart locks, and cloud-based video surveillance)
- Fully automated lock checks, overlocks, and releasing
- 24/7/365 live customer support
Much like the famous saying, “the early bird gets the worm,” the smartest self-storage facilities are the ones that reap the unquantifiable benefits. Smart facilities are designed to empower innovation and leverage technology. With the use of technology, they’re able to streamline operations, attract more customers, enhance security, and make more revenue than ever before. Luckily, taking the leap from a low-tech storage facility to a tech-savvy storage facility has never been easier.
Eight Tips For Creating A Smart Facility
- Optimize your website. When creating a smart storage facility, one of the first places you should dive into is your website. Because today’s consumer lives on their phone, it’s important that your website is optimized for mobile use. Additionally, websites are often the first place a customer will visit, and they can set the tone for your entire business. Make sure you’re taking advantage of this instrumental marketing platform and using it to stimulate lead generation and track engagement. Tenants and prospective customers should be able to engage with your website, find industry-relevant and up-to-date information that’s optimized for SEO, and complete tasks such as online rentals and payments.
- Allow tenant-driven onboarding. From buying groceries to ordering pizza, today’s consumer expects the ability to conduct business online. Self-storage is no different. In addition to optimizing your website for mobile use, you should use it to automate a tenant-driven onboarding process. By automating the onboarding process, tenants can view availability, rent units, sign electronic leases, make payments, and gain immediate access to the property and their unit door via digital key. This offering allows you to satisfy a growing niche in self-storage while capturing more online and after-hour rentals.
- Offer a mobile app. Mobile app entry allows the tenant to forget the physical keys and complicated codes when visiting your facility. They can now gain access to your facility and their unit door with their smart device. The contactless convenience allows tenants to take advantage of innovative features such as digital key sharing, one-touch entry, and find my unit. Best of all, it gives owners and operators more visibility and control over their sites than ever before.
- Update your signage. When your facility is offering smart solutions, it’s important to have electronic and informative signage. Now, smart keypads with smart graphic screen displays can be installed at the gate or entrance of your building. They’re intended to add another layer of communication to the customer and security for your facility. If you’re not going to have a site manager on the property during scheduled business hours, make sure you have the right signage to walk tenants through the smart entry process.
- Upgrade your video surveillance. While most smart locks have thermal motion sensors to enhance unit security, your site should also be equipped with cloud-based video surveillance. By taking your video surveillance to the cloud, you can take advantage of innovative features and benefits such as instant notifications, two-way audio, and efficient past-event look-up. When integrated with your smart entry system, you can view all cameras in real time from one convenient location on the smart entry app or online web portal.
- Integrate your property management software (PMS). Integrating your PMS with your smart entry system allows unit statuses to be updated in real time. This means no more manual and mundane lock checks. All unit statuses can be viewed on the smart entry app or online web portal. Overlocks and releasing overlocked units are completely automated too. If a tenant is late on a payment, their unit will automatically overlock. Once that payment is made, their unit will automatically release from overlock. All of this is done without having to travel to the facility to manually affix or remove a yellow or red lock from the unit door.
- Increase your ROI. Once you’ve integrated technology into your self-storage business plan, make sure you’re monetizing it. Consider charging premiums for smart units or implementing facility-wide fees packaged as technology or software fees. Market research and customer feedback have shown impressive results when comparing the income of smart facilities and units to traditional facilities and units.
Smart facilities can also take advantage of operational savings while combatting the ongoing labor shortage concerns. This is because sites can be strategically staffed based on peak activity hours, and the type of employee being hired no longer has to be the “jack of all trades.” You don’t have to worry about finding someone who is great with customers who will also go cut a lock, walk around with a bucket of overlocks, set up certain available units for online rentals, and the works. Instead, you can hire a high-quality customer service or salesperson.
It’s also important to note that you’ll likely be eligible for insurance discounts and cost segregation benefits when you upgrade your facility and invest in technology. This is because you’re making site improvements that improve the overall safety and functionality of your business.
- Offer 24/7/365 live support. Support has never been more important than it is with smart facilities. While employees and tenants can do almost everything from the palm of their hand, there will still be times when assistance is needed. That’s why it’s important to find a smart entry system that offers 24/7/365 live support. Luckily, there are smart entry systems that already offer this service to you, ensuring you and your tenants will have the live support needed to answer and problem-solve any question.
Converting your no-tech or low-tech facility to a tech-savvy facility doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, it’s never been easier than it is today with leading smart entry systems. Take transitioning your facility one step at a time and don’t hesitate to bring in the experts. The most important piece of advice is to find a complete, all-inclusive smart entry system that integrates easily with your property management software. Once you find that, you can continue integrating smart tools that help you streamline day-to-day operations and enhance the customer experience. Don’t get left behind and threaten your business’ survival in the future marketplace. Get started with a smarter solution today!