Online Self-Storage Marketing for the Growing Hispanic Market:Targeted Messages and Trust-Building Entice Tenants

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By CJ Moore

Yvonne Cerrano, manager of a National Self Storage facility in El Paso, Texas, greets every customer who walks through her door in English. But in El Paso, where approximately 80 percent of the population is Hispanic, many of her customers respond in Spanish and often ask if she speaks the language. “As soon as I say yes, they feel comfortable and know I can help them,” Cerrano says.

Census data shows Hispanics make up the fastest-growing population in the United States, particularly in states bordering Mexico. The 2008 census reports 36.5 percent of the Texas population is Hispanic, 36.6 percent in California, 30.1 percent in Arizona and 44.9 percent in New Mexico.

The challenge for many self-storage operators in the southern states is how to appeal to this ever-increasing population. Many have turned to bilingual managers like Cerrano, who help maintain their customer base by developing trust. But retaining customers is usually not the biggest challenge—it’s bringing in new customers. One way to do this is through targeted online marketing.

The Online Language Barrier

The medium most people use these days to find out about goods and services is the Internet, and statistics show that Hispanics turn to the Internet even more so than the general public. According to a study by AOL Advertising and Cheskin in 2009, Hispanics are more enthusiastic about the benefits of the Internet than the general public, so much so that they have more confidence in online product ratings (72 percent) than the opinions of their friends (28 percent). The study also found that 57 percent of Hispanics always go to the Internet to find deals, compared to 41 percent of the general public.

Tracy Taylor, president of Watson & Taylor Self Storage, says many Hispanic customers are finding out about his self-storage facilities online, but are not always comfortable about completing the transaction on the Web. Taylor has facilities in Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. He has at least a 5 percent Hispanic customer base in every city, but he pays more attention to his Hispanic customers in Texas, where the numbers are much greater.

  Hispanic Self-Storage Customers in Texas

  Dallas

  30%

  Houston

  45%

  Austin

  55%

  San Antonio

  55%

  El Paso

  80%

Watson & Taylor Self Storage determined the ethnicities of its customers in each city where it own facilities. The chart shows the percentage of Hispanic customers in Texas.

Taylor is able to track his leads, and sells through a third-party search engine where he advertises his facilities. He’s found that although the online traffic is similar in most cities, Watson & Taylor completes far fewer online deals in cities with a high Hispanic population.

In Austin, for example, Taylor says he gets a high number of online commitments; El Paso sees similar online traffic, but the online commitments are much lower. “Very commonly, on more than two-thirds of the search-engine’s actions, the Hispanic customer will come to the facility and view the unit, talk to the manager, then decide if he trusts him. The communication factor helps tremendously,” says Taylor, who makes it a priority to hire bilingual managers in his southern stores. “That’s a very significant change from the way we do business in other areas.”

Herman Lopez, a manager at Rhino Self Storage in El Paso, says many Hispanics in his area don’t have the ability to complete a transaction online. “There have been many times where I’ve been on the phone talking to a Spanish-speaking person, and we get all the way to the reservation, and when you ask for the deposit, he says, ‘Oh, well, I don’t have a credit card,’” Lopez says. “If they don’t reserve online, it’s because they’re cash-paying customers.”

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