By Allie Johnson
If you’re not using mobile technology to help operate your self-storage facility, you could be missing out on savings of time and money—and the chance to secure more business. “Mobile devices aren’t going anywhere; they’re just going to get more and more sophisticated,” says Michael Sawyer, director of marketing for OpenTech Alliance Inc., a Phoenix-based company that offers cloud services and technology products to the self-storage industry. “And there are lots of opportunities to use them in self-storage.”
Here are two main ways you can tap into mobile technology:
- Use your own mobile phone to help you do your jobs more efficiently.
- Optimize your business so consumers can use smartphones or tablets to shop for units, make payments and even ensure their belongings are secure.
Mobile technology also lets you manage their businesses from anywhere, says Scott Hedrick, owner of Super Storage Group, which operates six facilities in Alabama, Kentucky and North Carolina. He uses the mobile features from a Web-based management-software program and has also optimized his website, superstorageonline.com, for mobile phones. “I don’t have to get in the car or on an airplane and go see a site every week or month. I can see from afar what happens,” he says.
Mobile technology can help self-storage operators with almost all aspects of their businesses. Here are seven benefits you will see when using it.
Market to customers you might not otherwise reach. If your website is optimized for mobile phones, you’ll have a better shot at reaching the 55 percent of American adults who own a smartphone and the 42 percent who own a tablet, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, a nonprofit, research organization. The numbers are even higher in the under-50 crowd; 79 percent of those age 18 to 29 and 67 percent of those age 30 to 49 use a smartphone, according to the survey.
Many customers are shopping for self-storage from their smartphones. When surveying new customers, Hedrick says the percentage who find his facility using a mobile device grows each year. In 2013, he estimates the number surpassed 50 percent. As soon as a prospective customer visits his website via a mobile device, it’s easy to contact the nearest facility, he says. “They don’t even have to dial the number. They just push the button that says ‘call.’”
Check up on the competition. In March, StorTrack LLC launched a mobile version of its new subscription pricing-management service that allows self-storage operators to monitor prices on units in their area. The app makes it easier for operators to use their smartphones or tablets to track and analyze pricing data such as average, minimum and maximum prices, according to Cindy Rivera, support and marketing manager at StorTrack. “They’ll get alerts when a price changes for a competitor down the street,” she says. “It will be a way for owners to be quickly in the know.”
Rent units after hours. When storage facilities are set up for self-service, such as with mobile technology or kiosks, about half of customer transactions take place outside normal business hours, Sawyer says. And letting a customer lease a unit—pick the desired location and size, e-sign a lease and pay rent—using a mobile device requires no face-to-face time, he adds. By contrast, it typically takes about 25 minutes to complete the rental process when a customer walks into the office.