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Monetizing Your Technology: Selling Your Self-Storage Customers a Smart-Lock Unit Upgrade

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Automation technology is really taking off in the self-storage industry, but does it allow you to generate more revenue? There are many benefits to installing tools like smart locks for your unit doors. One is the ability to sell the upgrade at a premium on each new rental.

My company opened its first self-storage property in 2012, incorporating the latest technology and security features available at the time. A few years later, we acquired another property and began to update it with a kiosk, gate controllers, security cameras, etc. Tenants were thrilled, and we achieved high occupancy. With that success motivating us, we decided to introduce the next generation of self-storage to our market.

In 2018, we began construction on Stockwell Road Storage in Bossier City, La. It’s a fully enclosed, climate-controlled facility with more than 86,000 square feet in just over 560 units. While in the planning stage, my eye was drawn to a new piece technology—the smart lock—and was impressed from the start. A few years ago, I became intrigued by the hotel industry’s switch from key cards to app-based software to unlock rooms; so I couldn’t wait to see what smart locks could do for self-storage.

We liked the security and benefits the new locks offered. Not only do they include a motion detector, they notify you when a tenant is on the property and how long he stays. They allow the tenant to share a key code with another person and set a time frame for that code to function. There are also other features. The icing on the cake is we can generate additional revenue by selling technology upgrades!

New Money

When debating whether to invest in smart locks, we considered the loss of ancillary sales from not selling cylinder or disc locks. Then our sales rep told us other self-storage operators have been charging an additional $8 to $12 a month for units with smart locks. You can only sell your customer one physical lock, at the time of rental. But a smart lock can generate regular monthly income, which is a definite bonus. Why leave money on the table?

Still, we didn’t know if our tenants would embrace this technology. We decided to give it a try, choosing to add a $10 monthly fee to smart-locked units. This helps cover the cost of maintenance, the app and software support.

Our tenants have been excited about the new offering! They like the app and ease of access, from the front gate to the unit itself. At our Stockwell Road location, 60 percent of our units have cylinder locks, while the other 40 percent have smart locks. More than 96 percent of our tenants choose a smart-lock unit. Now, we’re looking to install the technology on other units at this facility.

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Author Kevin Seiple demonstrates the use of a smart lock.


Why Make the Change?

Making the transition to smart locks can be a defining but difficult decision for your self-storage operation. After all, you have a system that’s been working fine for years, so why change now?

Tenants are becoming more tech-savvy. Being connected and using apps are now part of everyday life. Smart locks not only bring in additional revenue, they increase the level of trust tenants have for the security we offer. You can market them as a premium offering and charge a fee for their use.

For years, we’ve built our industry with the personal touch in mind. We all have storage units, but it’s customer service that sets each property apart. Using smart locks opens the door to more opportunities. We can still give tenants a human experience but also cater to those who want a contactless solution. Smart locks are a great way to adapt to our present environment while generating data that yields valuable insight to how our tenants are using our properties. Change can be scary, but with the correct tools, it can be a boom for our bottom line.

Kevin Seiple is an operations manager for Shield Storage Centers, which operates four facilities in Louisiana. After working in the casino industry for 20 years, he entered the self-storage business in 2012 to open the company’s flagship facility in Bossier City. For more information, email [email protected].

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