Finland is a small country of approximately 5.5 million people. The population density is 18 per square kilometer, which makes it one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe. There are only nine cities in Finland with a population exceeding 100,000. The biggest region is Helsinki metropolitan area, which consists of three cities—Espoo, Helsinki and Vantaa—and has a population of 1 million. The next largest is Tampere, with approximately 230,000 inhabitants.
Due to the country’s size, it’s not surprising the Finland self-storage market is relatively new. However, product awareness has increased significantly in the last few years. According to a study by the Finnish Self Storage Association (FSSA), almost 90 percent of the population knows what self-storage is and recognizes the operators who offer the service. The market is also growing as people are moving to the cities where apartments are small and there’s a need for additional space. More than half of Finns age 35 to 54 feel that there’s now too little space in their home for their goods, the study revealed.
Cityvarasto Corp. is looking to meet this demand. Founded in 1999, the company has grown steadily and is now the largest self-storage chain in Finland, with 34 sites. It’s the only storage company with locations countrywide.
As in other countries, a self-storage facility’s location is important for Finnish customers, as they’ll often choose a property near them. Cityvarasto wants to be close to its customer base, so we actively seek suitable premises in cities with adequate populations. One of our newest sites at Rovaniemi—the official home of Santa Claus—will open this fall. It’ll be one of the northernmost storage properties in the world.
A Technological Business Model
Our business model is advanced and cost-effective. Most of our facilities are unmanned and automated. However, as not all customers want to rent a unit via the Web, we also have personnel who can meet a customer by appointment at the site.
As part of the model, we’ve developed a cutting-edge access-control system. Our customers don’t need codes, cards or tags. They don’t even have to get out of their car to access the facility. All they need is a mobile phone. All our sites have security cameras, allowing us to easily monitor them from the head office or a mobile device.
Digitalization is a huge objective for most Finnish companies, including Cityvarasto. In 2011, we were recognized for our technology advances by the Federation of European Self Storage Associations when we won the “Innovation of the Year” award for our online rental platform and access-control system. In fact, we were the first company in the world to have an interactive website that rented storage units. Today, the number of customers who access the online platform grows steadily. We continue to develop the program to make the storage-rental experience as easy as possible. Our platform offers a chat function, giving customers direct contact to our customer-service personnel.
Cityvarasto is a well-known brand in Finland. According to an FSSA study, 30 percent of the population recognizes the brand by name. From a marketing point of view, we find it important to continuously increase awareness and be top-of-mind for customers when they have the need for storage.
Most of our customers come to us via Google, which plays an important role in our marketing. We’re investing in search engine optimization and AdWords, and social media is becoming more important. With the analytics of digital marketing, we can easily make campaign decisions and see how they work.
Although Finland is a small country, there are differences in how traditional marketing works in various areas. We gather information from our local personnel, measure different ways of accomplishing our goals, and use the data when making marketing campaign decisions. Radio, print, outdoor marketing and direct mail are typical examples of traditional marketing for Finnish operators.
Customers are the heart of our business. As such, our goal is to provide the best possible customer-service experience. Besides unit rentals, we offer packing materials and, through our partners, our customers can rent a van or arrange a whole move. Our aim is to have satisfied customers who are willing to recommend our services to others.
Ville Stenroos is CEO and the main owner of Cityvarasto Corp. He has more than 20 years of experience in leading successful companies. He founded his first company, Citystaff Oy, in 1995, which was sold to employment agency Barona in 2011. For more information, visit www.cityvarasto.fi.