Today’s self-storage customers view facilities as extensions of their homes. This is especially true when it comes to the security of expensive and valued vehicles like a prized fishing boat or an RV that’s served as the centerpiece for countless family road trips.
But while boat and RV storage customers share many of the same concerns as other tenants, there are special considerations you need to contemplate. To meet the high expectations of boat and RV tenants, specialty self-storage operations are leveraging advanced technologies designed to improve both security and customer convenience. If you’re not taking advantage of these technologies, your operation may soon struggle to compete with operations that are using them.
Baseline Security Expectations
Security has always been a top-of-mind concern for self-storage customers. When individuals store items off site, they need to feel confident that their belongings will be protected from theft and damage, and their concerns escalate in proportion to the value of the possessions they store.
To earn the trust of new tenants and retain the trust of existing ones, many self-storage operations are installing sophisticated security systems that incorporate a mix of physical devices and software. In the current self-storage marketplace, upgraded security systems are no longer points of differentiation—they’re table stakes in the battle to capture market share.
Some of the essential elements that apply to boat and RV storage facilities as well as general-purpose facilities include:
- Perimeter security: As the first line of defense against would-be thieves and vandals, high-quality gates and robust perimeter fencing serve multiple purposes. In addition to preventing unauthorized access and improving the security of stored items, gates and fences offer a visible reminder of your facility’s security measures. Although specific gate and fencing options should match your facility’s unique needs and requirements, security performance and curb appeal both play a role in helping customers select an appropriate facility.
- Access control: Market-leading self-storage operations rely on fully integrated access control systems that limit facility access to authorized visitors. Leveraging a combination of integrated keypads and cloud-based software, these systems provide secure access while equipping your facility’s staff with next-generation monitoring and control capabilities.
- Video surveillance technology: A technology-forward video surveillance system serves as a deterrent and a tool that allows you to respond to incidents in real time. From cloud-enabled IP cameras to pinhole cameras for entry points, devices can be tailored to the requirements of various areas within the facility. Operators looking to take video surveillance to the next level can also leverage Artificial Intelligence with their monitoring service to ensure that their properties are always being watched at an affordable price.
Annual construction spending skyrocketed in the self-storage industry over the past decade, from approximately $1 billion in 2008 to more than $5 billion in 2018. As a result, a saturation of self-storage options is creating competitive pressure in local and regional markets across the nation.
In response, many traditional operations are upgrading their security elements to attract tenants. But for specialty storage facilities, like boat and RV storage facilities, these elements represent customers’ baseline expectations. To compete effectively, you’ll need to tailor security upgrades to your boat and RV customers’ unique storage and security requirements.
Convenience Is A Competitive Advantage
Positive customer experience is a key ingredient of a thriving self-storage business. Specialty storage facilities need to offer premium experiences to justify premium prices. A mind-blowing customer experience can also give your operation a competitive advantage in a tight local market.
The customer experience begins the moment tenants approach your site. As someone who previously worked at a marina on Florida’s East Coast, I can attest to the challenge of navigating large vehicles in tight areas! However, convenient access to the facility and individual units are just as important as wide aisles and space for maneuvering large vehicles.
In general, cutting edge enhancements that increase security can also improve the customer experience. Fortunately, you no longer have to choose between properly securing your facility and providing seamless access to tenants; tenants can now benefit from an array of advanced technologies that make their time on site as convenient as possible.
And convenience matters more than ever. Self-storage operations that target convenience as an operational priority increase customer satisfaction, resulting in improved loyalty and higher lifetime value (LTV) of a customer. At the same time, convenience improvements motivate your existing customers to share their experiences with others, creating organic buzz in the local market and driving new prospects to your facility’s doorstep.
Ultimately, a convenient customer experience is an opportunity for your operation to differentiate itself from other specialty storage facilities in the local area.
In fact, advanced technologies introduce a variety of security-based opportunities to leverage convenience for competitive advantage. For example, keypads featuring full system integration deliver convenience by enabling tenants to securely access facilities on their own terms—a critical advantage for boat and RV storage customers who require on-demand access to the facility without compromising the security of the site.
From an operational standpoint, integrated keypads give you the flexibility to allow access to specific areas of the site. If the operation offers a combination of traditional and specialty storage, the system can be configured to limit tenant access to the area that corresponds to their specific unit or vehicle. The same restricted access capabilities apply to boat-specific and RV-specific areas like uncovered parking, covered parking, and premium enclosed units.
Similar convenience-rich features can be found in door systems that provide enhanced, personalized security and solutions that allow tenants to achieve gate or unit access via their personal devices.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to choose between exceptional security and customer convenience. Boat and RV storage customers want both. But to achieve the right balance, you’ll need a clear understanding of the unique security issues and customer expectations found in today’s specialty storage industry.
The best specialty operations understand the nuances associated with storing large, highly portable possessions like boats and RVs. To justify premium pricing, you have to go the extra mile to understand your tenants’ unique needs and requirements.
When it comes to improving the customer experience, put yourself in your tenants’ shoes and look for opportunities to streamline common specialty storage activities, starting with seamless entry and exit at authorized access points. As you align your strategy with your customers’ expectations, there are several security-related features worth considering.
It’s not uncommon for boat and RV storage operations to experience unintended damage at entry and exit points. When tenants move large RVs and trailers in and out of facilities, scrapes and collisions with keypads and other security installations are bound to occur. The potential for contact increases when your tenants are distracted by security routines that force them to enter and exit their vehicles or perform complicated access procedures.
In today’s self-storage industry, a mobile access control app offers the most convenient method for tenants to achieve entry at gates and other access points. Unlike traditional keypads, mobile access apps eliminate the need for your tenants to type pin codes into keypads or pull up to a keypad with a hitched trailer or motorhome. The app simply opens gates or roll-up doors with the click of a button on the tenant’s mobile device.
Mobile apps also improve convenience by reducing the need for tenants to exit their vehicles in inclement or challenging weather conditions. For example, Diana, a specialty storage tenant and mobile app user in Boise, Idaho, says, “I love that I can drive up to the gate in my RV, press the button, and then drive straight into my unit. The less time I spend outside in the freezing cold, the better!”
Key features of leading mobile apps typically include:
- One-click access to gates and other access points
- Single account sign-in for multi-family or multi-facility tenants
- Seamless signup and onboarding routines
- One-click payment options via integration with mobile-friendly payment websites
Advanced mobile access apps also give your tenants the ability to manage and monitor access remotely. These capabilities significantly improve the self-storage experience for families that routinely move boats and RVs in and out of the facility.
Consider the experience of Tom and his son, Nick, from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., who purchased a new boat together for fishing. With no room to store the boat at either of their residences, Tom found a storage facility with covered parking that was equidistant to their homes. “The activity section in our mobile access app makes it easy to know when my son takes the boat out or if the pin code was used at all. It gives me that reassurance that the boat is safe and sound and made it back, hopefully in one piece.”
Unlike other self-storage customers, boat and RV tenants frequently move their possessions off site and then return them to the facility at the end of the day or after a road trip. For these customers, the ability to effortlessly move large trailers and vehicles in and out of the facility, regardless of the time of day, is a critical part of the customer experience and a potential driver of both improved loyalty and new customer acquisition.
As a specialty storage owner or operator, you need to tailor the customer experience to ensure tenants can drop their boat off at the facility after a late-night saltwater fishing excursion or pick up their RV for a pre-dawn start to a cross-country road trip. However, there’s also an acute industry awareness that after-hours convenience cannot compromise site security—another high priority for boat and RV tenants.
Advanced access control solutions enable you to achieve the right balance of convenience and security. The best integrated access control systems allow facility managers to create special, after-hours permissions for boat and RV tenants. For operational efficiency, these permissions are easily configurable in both the access control software and mobile access app.
After-hours visits also present additional safety concerns, regardless of whether or not your site is staffed around the clock. When tenants enter and exit facilities in the dead of night or early morning, they want assurances that your operation has taken steps to ensure their personal safety and security.
Adequate lighting represents an important first step toward improving after-hours safety and helping tenants maneuver large vehicles around the facility. Likewise, video monitoring can give tenants peace of mind and offer an added incentive for new boat and RV customers who require after-hour facility access.
Operations that provide boat and RV storage require larger facilities, especially if the site includes areas for both traditional and specialty storage customers. Unfortunately, large physical footprints and the various amenities associated with specialty storage locations mean more opportunities for perimeter breaches or other on-site security issues.
Cameras and related video surveillance elements serve the dual purpose of preventing and resolving security incidents at your facility. The strategic placement of security cameras provides a powerful deterrent to bad actors. By positioning multiple cameras in boat and RV storage areas, you can prevent incidents of theft and vandalism before they occur while reminding tenants that the operation takes their personal safety and the security of their possessions seriously.
Many boat and RV storage providers have found it useful to add a live monitoring element to their video surveillance capabilities because it allows them to respond to incidents as they occur. Live monitoring can notify local police or actively deter unwanted activities via a speaker system and a stern voice. To further improve the customer experience, video monitoring can also facilitate immediate interventions when a tenant experiences difficulty accessing the facility or navigating the site behind the wheel of a large vehicle.
Advanced video surveillance systems take security to the next level through the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) with existing cameras. When used in combination with advanced analytics, AI-enabled cameras detect specific security events and instantly notify authorities, delivering the fastest possible response to confirmed threats. In addition to mitigating property loss or damage, this level of security inspires confidence in boat and RV owners who are trusting your operation to protect vehicles with potential six-figure price tags.
Enhanced Door Security
Across markets, enclosed units have become an increasingly popular offering for boat and RV storage customers. As a premium option, enclosed units typically offer upgraded amenities (e.g., high-end lighting, electrical hook-ups, etc.) and provide top-tier customers an assurance that their vehicles will be protected from the elements as well as unauthorized human contact.
To accommodate the needs of these customers, market-leading boat and RV storage providers are turning to enhanced door security to achieve airtight security and unparalleled tenant satisfaction. Rather than relying on simple padlocks, individual units are equipped with advanced features like electronic smart locks and door alarms.
Electronic smart locks improve security by ensuring tenant-specific access. When tenants use their personal access code or mobile device to enter the facility, an additional security mechanism on their individual unit is unlocked. Similarly, door alarms improve security by allowing tenants and site managers to monitor and respond to door activity at the unit level. Operators are also able to automate time-consuming tasks like overlocking delinquent tenants and performing lock checks.
Enhanced door security features are highly effective in preventing the theft or damage of boats, RVs, and other vehicles. For example, Linda and Matthew from Greeneville, Tenn., own a collection of vintage cars that they store in a specialty self-storage facility. They park each car in an individual unit with a roll-up door (similar to a garage door), and all doors are equipped with both a door alarm and an electronic smart lock.
When one of their units was tampered with in the middle of the night, the system triggered an alert and sent a notification to Linda and Matthew as well as the site owner. Within minutes, the police were on scene and the site owner called Linda and Matthew to update them about the incident. On-site video camera captured footage that later helped identify the two men who attempted to break into the unit.
Given the value of boat and RV owners’ vehicles and the premium price specialty storage units command, it is understandable why tenants expect this level of security. By going the extra mile to provide enhanced door security and other sophisticated security elements, you can meet customers’ expectations and prevent the negative fallout that happens when a criminal incident occurs at your site.
The Bottom Line
As competition intensifies across the boat and RV self-storage market, owners and operators are scrambling for ways to differentiate their facilities and capture the attention of premium tenants. Facility improvements that provide better security and greater tenant convenience offer the most effective strategy for increasing revenue through the acquisition of new boat and RV customers while improving the LTV of existing tenants.
Specifically, it’s important to identify opportunities that simultaneously bolster security while streamlining site access, unit access, and the ease of navigating large vehicles or trailers within the facility. It’s also essential to understand the unique challenges your boat and RV tenants face and tailor your strategy accordingly.
The good news is that technology offers the tools you need to meet the high expectations of today’s specialty storage tenants. From mobile access apps and AI-enabled video surveillance to enhanced door security and other integrated security features, technology gives your business the ability to stay ahead of the competition and satisfy your most valuable customers.