The Internet as the Best Self-Storage Storefront: Online Payments, Rentals and Account Management
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
By: Sam Celaya
Posted on: 03/20/2010



 

Do you remember what life was like before the Internet? When you needed directions to a new restaurant, you turned to a printed road map. Mailing letters to friends and family called for stamps. The Internet has changed the way we live, shop and do business.  

More self-storage customers are turning to the Web because it saves time and provides convenience. The Internet allows them to search for storage locations, reserve units, pay rent online and manage their accounts. Your window of opportunity for converting an online visitor to a paying tenant is extremely small; therefore, your plan for capturing these online customers needs to be informative and quick, and your website must meet their needs.
 
Capturing Customers Online

In our fast-paced society, people are always on the go and demand real-time information at their fingertips. Having a website is a great first step for any business, but the key is to ensure it functions effectively to keep online customers returning. Your website should include basic information, a map to your location, office/access hours, features unique to your facility, coupons displaying your discounts, facility photos and reviews from tenants.

Customer reviews are an important item to include. A survey by Nielsen Online found that reviews are an important research tool for online consumers, with 71 percent saying reviews make them more confident that they are buying the right product. Additionally, 63 percent of online shoppers said it was important to see multiple reviews for each product.

Your website also should include functionality that will allow customers to reserve units online. Once they’re interested in your site, they’ll want to make a commitment quickly and efficiently.
Customers shopping online want to make an immediate decision without having to call your facility. Providing online-reservation capability will guarantee more rentals, thus increasing your occupancy.

But creating a website with online-reservation platform is not enough. You’ll need to make sure unit availability and pricing is up to date. Inaccurate information is going to create a negative reaction from online customers and may turn them away from your facility. Tie your website directly to the inventory within your management software. This will ensure the inventory shown online matches what you actually have available.

First impressions are just that. With the majority of consumers shopping online, your website is the first chance you have to impress potential renters.
 
Accepting Online Payments

Are your customers able to pay rent through your website? Customers expect to be able to pay their self-storage bill online. Not having that ability can be a deal-breaker for some.

In today’s harsh economy, more customers are falling into delinquency with rent payments. In some cases, this is due to financial hardship, but in others, it’s a result of inconvenience. Making customers mail or drop off a check each month is inefficient, and your valuable time is wasted in tracking down those payments. Giving customers the ability to pay online is not only convenient, it can help reduce delinquencies, which adds to your bottom line.

In addition, there are a growing number of storage customers in the military. Service members frequently change location, and storage plays a critical role in their moves and lives. But reassignments to locations abroad make it especially difficult for these customers to submit payments on time. They need a quick and convenient payment method. Providing this online feature will guarantee more timely payments, and peace of mind for you and your customer.

If your management software doesn’t support online payments, it’s time to upgrade to a program that does. Make the change today and start receiving on-time rent payments­ online. 
 
Managing Tenant Accounts Via Web

Maintaining the accuracy of customer accounts can be daunting. You may be out of contact with some tenants for long periods of time, and their account information could become outdated. Why not give them the ability to access and update their own accounts online? Not only will they appreciate this service, it will help you maintain accurate records, which is critical to the successful operation of your facility

Offering an account portal through your website will allow customers to access their accounts and make general changes any time they choose. To ensure seamless updates, this portal needs to be tied directly to your management software. With this functionality, you won’t waste time chasing customers for current addresses, phone numbers or methods of payment. Giving customers this ability will allow you to focus more intently on increasing revenue.

The Internet will continue to play a major role in self-storage operation. As more people turn to their computers, many will rely solely on the Internet to make their buying decisions. Your current and prospective tenants are more technologically savvy than ever before and are demanding more online services to accommodate their immediate needs.

It’s time to stop turning potential customers away because your storefront is bare. Providing real-time reservation capabilities, online payment functions, and the ability for tenants to access their accounts directly from your website will ensure your facility has the best online storefront.
 
Sam Celaya is the director of the eMove Storage Affiliate Network and has worked within the self-storage industry for 16 years. eMove Inc. offers WebSelfStorage Management Software, a  Web-based platform used by thousands of self-storage operators. For more information, call 866.693.6683; visit www.emove.com/storageaffiliate.

Related Articles:

Building and Marketing a Successful Self-Storage Website

Is the Future of Self-Storage Software Online?

Online Payment and Management Solutions for Self-Storage

Self-Storage Talk: Self-Storage Software