As competition increases across the self-storage industry, it’s imperative to differentiate your facility from others. You need an advantage that helps you stand out, something unique to draw and drive business. There are lots of amenities you can try, and new options come on the market regularly. One of the latest is Amazon lockers.
Kristin and Scott Whiteside, co-owners of Ample Storage in St. Charles, Mo., have leveraged this valuable offering to add convenience for tenants and prospects and increase business visibility. They launched their operation in 2008 and opened a second facility in January 2019. A third location is in the works.
Inside Self-Storage recently spoke with Kristin about the benefits of adding an Amazon locker system to her newest facility. Read how this non-revenue-generating service has benefited the operation’s bottom line.
What made you decide to install Amazon lockers?
A few of our surrounding neighborhoods have residential communities with centralized mailrooms that were built before Amazon and online shopping became such a retail trend. The mailrooms aren’t built to accept package deliveries. Many of our renters live in these communities and shared with us that they struggle with package deliveries. They were hoping we’d accept packages on their behalf. We also rent to many commercial clients who were hoping to get parts or packages delivered for the businesses that they run out of our storage units.
We knew we didn’t want to manage packages but wanted to do our part to help out our neighbors and clients. Adding the Amazon lockers has proven to be beneficial for everyone.
How did you contact Amazon, and what was required?
I found out about the locker system through the company website. I simply filled out a “Contact Us” form for more information and started the process that way. It took more than 10 months before I heard back, and I filled out the form twice.
Amazon allows the lockers to be inside or outside (they are weatherproof), and business visibility wasn’t a determining factor in our being selected. Our location is literally hidden in an industrial park behind several larger buildings. Our kiosk room is available 24/7 with motion-sensor lighting, HVAC and several security cameras. We designed the space with something like this in mind, so it worked out beautifully for all parties.
When was the system installed?
It was installed on Oct. 1, but it took a few days before the service team was able to come activate it. When we designed our office building, we knew we were going to have a large room for our rental kiosk, but we also wanted to allow for a locker system. At the time of design, we weren’t aware that Amazon had a system and were researching lockers we could purchase and rent on our own. We even considered renting P.O. boxes for ancillary income. After opening this location in 2019 and learning that Amazon had lockers available at no cost to us, we inquired and started the process.
The Amazon locker hub at Ample Storage, St. Charles, Mo.
We’ve heard some Amazon locker systems have names. Does yours?
Our locker system name is “Houseboat,” which is clever considering our location is between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Amazon names the system in case they ever have to relocate it. The programming is associated with the locker unit, not the business location.
Are you responsible for any upkeep, deliveries, etc.?
We aren’t responsible for upkeep on the lockers, though Amazon did want to make sure there was plenty of room for Amazon trucks for deliveries and easy in/out access. Since the kiosk portion of our office was built outside of the gate, there isn’t a code or anything required to gain access to the lockers. Amazon requires 24/7 access as well, but many sites are placing them outside of their offices to accommodate that requirement.
We’re a little unique in that we designed the space specific for this use. The locker system requires electricity, but the units have their own Internet and backup generator built in. One of our concerns was making sure the lockers didn’t need to run on WiFi or have a direct hardwire to our Internet. It was nice to learn that wasn’t required of us.
There is a monitor/touch screen for all users to get any help they need. I haven’t had to answer any questions or assist anyone. Amazon encourages facility owners to direct all users to the customer-care number on the lockers for assistance. It’s designed to be completely hands-off for the facility owner.
Do your existing clients use it? What do they say about it?
I have several clients who use the lockers continuously and were thrilled to learn it’s here. Our commercial clients like the ease of returning items to Amazon as well as receiving their orders. For many of our clients who are between homes, they’ve found the lockers to be a great resource and let us know the convenience is appreciated.
How has your business benefited?
We weren’t expecting much use of the lockers outside of a few of our clients, but as soon as it was activated, we started receiving foot traffic from potential renters who didn’t even know our storage facility existed. I believe that since many of the locker users are from our surrounding neighborhoods, they’ll now think of our facility if the need for storage arises. Word-of-mouth about the locker system has already brought new visitors to our storage facility, and they seem to be thankful for the convenience of a close-by location. That makes it worth it for us. Foot traffic has increased to our office, and that will eventually pay off financially.
What advice would you give other operators who are considering Amazon lockers?
If you’re looking for something that may set you apart from your competition, grow foot traffic, increase visibility in a unique way, and provide a welcomed service to your surrounding neighborhoods, I’d definitely inquire with Amazon about adding the locker system. Since installing ours, we’ve learned our space will allow two more hubs. They’re set up with a plug/play extension that makes it super easy for installation. Amazon watches the use and will determine if adding additional hubs here is something they’d like to do. It’s not up to us as the location owner.
Is there anything else about the locker system you’d like to share?
Amazon has a pretty specific agreement you must sign, and it has some conditions we found to be a little surprising. It’s a one-year term, and we are in no way allowed to market our facility in conjunction with the locker hub or Amazon brand. Amazon takes full responsibility for marketing the lockers, so it doesn’t allow cross-marketing at all. I was shocked the day after the system was activated that I had three or four people come in. It was nice to see they were getting the word out.
I’ve asked for some signage to place out front or a sticker for the door, as I believe some people may not understand the locker is inside the office. I haven’t had anyone tell me they got lost, but I’ve seen a few Amazon drivers pass us by and come back because they didn't realize we’re the hub location. I requested some bandit signs or other exterior signage for this reason, but haven't gotten a response.
In relation to communication, you’ll hear from Amazon quickly when they want you to sign the agreement. Conversely, they’ll be very slow to respond, or it might take many attempts to get a response on questions you may have. Be patient. They are extremely busy.