Technology and the internet have nearly made waiting a thing of the past. Instead of using “snail mail” for correspondence, one can simply and instantly send messages to anyone anywhere via email or text. Rather than interact with a bank teller, cashier, or other customer service associate, people can opt to bypass long lines and reduce wait times by utilizing a kiosk, ATM, website, app, or self-checkout register. And, thanks to e-commerce, consumers can skip the shopping trips and purchase basically anything at any time from their mobile device.
In fact, there aren’t many tasks that can’t be completed online. From paying bills and buying groceries to scheduling appointments through client portals, the digital age has made completing day-to-day errands as effortless as breathing.
However, despite the time savings enjoyed from utilizing these modern conveniences, consumers are becoming more impatient with each passing day. Indeed, the need for instant gratification has sharply increased since the acceptance of digital dealings. It’s one of the downsides of the ever-increasingly technology-driven world in which we live, and it has continued to intensify thanks to the e-commerce goliath Amazon.
The Amazon Effect
Essentially, Amazon has altered consumers’ expectations. First, its customers were able to compare product prices and save some money on purchases such as college textbooks. As the company grew, it began offering free shipping on orders over $25 to eliminate some customers’ reluctance to pay shipping costs. The next step up was free two-day shipping with a paid monthly membership. Now Amazon Prime members can even enjoy free next-day shipping, which is merely another step closer to the instant gratification that so many shoppers are seeking. What’s more, it’s a move that will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications on the retail environment—both online and off.
According to Steven Ciemcioch, president of Warehouse Anywhere, a forward stocking warehousing solution created by Life Storage, the “Amazon Effect” has been changing consumers’ expectations as well as the way retail companies conduct business.
“Amazon is pushing the pedal,” says Ciemcioch, who adds that Amazon’s expedited shipping options has forced other commercial businesses to pick up their own shipping pace in order to secure sales. The result is a society of online shoppers who “want it now” and won’t settle for less. “It’s a necessity for them to compete better,” he says.
Unfortunately, Ciemcioch goes on to say that unlike Amazon, which spent millions of dollars to build its own infrastructure to allow for expedited delivery options, most retail companies can’t afford to create such efficiencies. As a matter of fact, the Amazon Effect is the reason some businesses have closed their doors; they simply cannot compete. With more than 50 fulfillment centers and 145 sortation centers across North America, Amazon has the wherewithal to offer fast shipping. It’s a competitive advantage that isn’t always logistically possible for small and mid-sized commercial businesses.
But there are other emerging options intended to level the playing field for medical, pharmaceutical, service and repair, and retail companies.
One of those options is Warehouse Anywhere, which was created by Life Storage, Inc., a Buffalo, N.Y.-based, publicly traded real estate investment trust (REIT) operating over 800 self-storage facilities under its Life Storage brand.
According to the company’s website, “Warehouse Anywhere is the outcome of a merger between Life Storage’s Corporate Alliance division and Intelligent Logistic Solutions (ILS) … Life Storage’s Corporate Alliance program services national accounts with a need for multiple storage units in multiple cities. ILS has propriety inventory tracking systems and software that simplify inventory tracking and monitoring for its customer base. In 2016, Life Storage purchased the assets of ILS, and merged it with its Corporate Alliance division. Today, Warehouse Anywhere serves its customers with storage management and inventory management at scale. This unique combination allows businesses to change the way they think about warehousing and distribution; they are now able to forward deploy products in the markets they do business, while improving inventory tracking accuracy and reducing logistics costs.”
While Life Storage operates over 775 storage facilities that encompass more than 55 million square feet of storage space, “Warehouse Anywhere maintains a network of nearly 11,000 storage facilities at which it manages space rental for large commercial clients,” the website says. “Warehouse Anywhere combines a network of thousands of storage facilities with ground-breaking technology to manage your inventory electronically. You can now truly localize an inventory of your products in hundreds of U.S. cities.”
Ciemcioch states that Warehouse Anywhere enables its commercial clients to utilize multiple warehouses in various cities, which can accelerate the delivery times of shipments. “Our pick, pack, and ship services also help companies reduce their shipping costs,” he says, noting that is possible when utilizing local warehouses. “It’s making them more nimble.”
Cater To Customers
Although small and mid-sized self-storage operators may not have the ability to provide commercial tenants with an all-inclusive solution similar to Warehouse Anywhere, there are numerous services that can be offered to enhance their operations. Moreover, adding services like the ones listed below will enable self-storage facilities to attract more tenants and increase profits.
- Package Acceptance – While there are some liability concerns to consider, many self-storage facilities that accept deliveries on behalf of their tenants have found the service to be an inexpensive perk. Delivery drivers can be allowed to take packages directly to the tenant’s unit or they can be left with the property manager who’d then place the packages in a secure area for the tenants to retrieve at their convenience. Whichever option is used, be sure to have protocols in place that would prevent the facility from being responsible for theft, damage, misplacement, or the like.
- Inventory Solutions – Similar to record storage businesses, self-storage facilities can provide inventory systems that enable customers to keep track of their stored goods. For example, some wine storage facilities utilize inventory apps that allow tenants to monitor their collections. A service fee can be charged if tenants would like the facility’s staff to enter and maintain the inventory data on their behalf.
- Business Center – A business center could be as simple as an area to set up a laptop or as comprehensive as a conference room equipped with WiFi, telephones, printers, scanners, fax machines, shredders, promethean boards, projectors, and more. Before investing in a business center, ask your tenants about the items they would most likely use.
- Shipping Center – While some facilities have an on-site post office, a shipping center could merely be a dedicated area where tenants can pack up shipments. It can be outfitted with supplies that your facility sells in its retail area. Tenants could be invoiced for the items they use or charged a monthly flat-rate fee for supplies.
- Staging Area – Since your tenants may be renting units to store belongings that they intend to sell online, they may appreciate having a staging area to photograph those items. A vacant unit with lighting as well as a table and/or backdrops could make for an inexpensive staging space.
- Unit Customization – Commercial tenants, from pharmaceutical representatives to snack food vendors and everyone in between, may appreciate having the option to customize their units with shelving and/or racks to organize their merchandise, supplies, or tools. You could charge them a one-time customization fee or rent shelves to them for a monthly fee.
- Delivery Services – Within urban locations, customers are accustomed to paying delivery fees. This is one reason valet/on-demand storage companies have found success in densely populated markets. They typically have à la carte fee structures for the deliveries of stored items to renters. Of course, delivery services would require liability safeguards to protect your facility from potential mishaps.
- Online Options – Last but not least, self-storage facilities should consider adding online services that enable tenants to make reservations and payments from their mobile devices at their convenience. This is one of the best ways to convert online inquiries into rentals as many customers value the ability to conduct business on their own time.
Convenience Is Key!
“Things are expediting,” says Ciemcioch, adding that the business of self-storage will continue to evolve to match customers’ changing expectations. And there’s no better way to compete with new competition than by offering what customers crave most: convenience and speed.
From searching for a unit to moving out, every self-storage operator’s goal should be to provide customers with the most convenient rental process possible. Those that manage to do so will certainly see the highest occupancies and the greatest profits as a result of the most satisfied tenants.