In this tough economic climate, automated and high-tech facilities are gaining ground on traditional mom and pop operations. Storage customers expect self-service convenience, climate controlled units, and a fortress protecting their items from the dangers of the outside world. But those amenities don’t come cheap: automated facility owners can charge a premium rate for ultra-modern storage technology and high-security upgrades.
Whether you run a small storage business, or a traditional multi-facility brand, it can be tough to compete with the online convenience and instant gratification of kiosks, lock vending machines, and online rentals. The gotta-have-it-now trend has many traditional storage operators upgrading their facility’s technology or replacing on-site managers with a kiosk. But before you make the leap, how do you know if automated tools are right for your storage business? Read on to learn how to evaluate your company’s potential for automated services and get tips for choosing the best tools for the job.
Evaluate your property’s potential for automation.
Not every neighborhood can support an ultra-modern, automated facility. The most common location for automated storage facilities are prime, highly sought-after neighborhoods in growing suburban or metropolitan areas. But that doesn’t mean automated facilities can’t be profitable in rural areas, too. The trick is to know your market.
Market research is key in evaluating your facility’s potential to successfully implement automated tools. You’ll need to find out the trends for your area, research competitors, and pinpoint the characteristics of your ideal customer. Self-service kiosks thrive in markets where customers trust and enjoy the online shopping experience and are familiar with (or better yet, prefer) modern self-service technology tools, like apps that allow you to check-in for your flight or pay your credit card bill. If your target customers are millennials, college students, or young families, you’ll likely be able to implement automated tools with ease, and potentially steal customers from competing self storage businesses with less convenient self-service tools.
Make a plan and set a budget.
No matter what your budget, it’s easy to find small ways to implement automated technology at your facility. You don’t have to dive in the deep end of the automated technology pool - you can start small by updating your facility website to include online move-ins, setting up text reminders for tenants, or upgrading your gate to allow digital keypad access.
If you’d like to test the waters before buying a kiosk or running an unmanned facility, make a plan for milestones your business needs to reach before implementing more automated tools. Track the success of your latest technology update - is it bringing in more leads, driving higher occupancy rates, or improving your financial occupancy? Ask your customers for their honest feedback on the latest updates, and make sure you’re trending up before making bigger investments, like purchasing an on-site self-service kiosk or a vending machine for locks, packing tape, couch covers, and other moving supplies.
Research the best tools for the job.
Because automation is such a buzzword right now, there are dozens of vendors and options available for self-service technology tools. You want to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to a kiosk or automatic lock. It’s smart to do thorough research and learn the ins and outs of the technology behind the product before pulling the trigger.
One of the best ways to get information about automated tools? Talk to self storage owners who already use the technology at their facility. Check out real customer stories of successful self storage facilities utilizing the latest automated tools. Find a self storage owner who you trust who already uses the product, and give them a call, or swing by their facility to see it for yourself. Another great way to check out these products for yourself? Attend a self storage trade show! Stroll through the aisles of a trade show and you’ll be able to demo online rentals through a kiosk, or try out the latest in digital gate access, all in one weekend.
No matter the size of your budget, there are many ways to start using automation at your storage facility. With the ever-increasing use of smartphones and the popularity of on-demand apps like Netflix, the demand for automation is at an all-time high and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. Give self-service tools a try to see how they can improve your ROI and increase your facility’s revenue.