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Building an Online Self-Storage Marketplace

There are several ways self-storage operators can turn their websites into a revenue-generating machine beyond simply attracting new tenants. Two of the easiest are to offer online reservations and customer billpay.

Amy Campbell

April 21, 2016

3 Min Read
Building an Online Self-Storage Marketplace

By Amy Campbell 

Amazon may have been a pioneer in online shopping, but nowadays the brand is one of many that allow consumers to buy stuff at their convenience. Today, you can purchase just about anything online, from dog food to furniture. People like to buy stuff. That’s one of the reason self-storage exists! People also like to buy stuff online. As a self-storage operator, you have a golden opportunity to merge these two concepts and offer your own online self-storage marketplace.

There are several ways you can turn your website into a revenue-generating machine beyond simply attracting new tenants. Two of the easiest are to offer online reservations and customer billpay.

Let’s face it, people are busy every day. Most of us pay at least some if not all of our bills online, so why wouldn’t you offer this service to your customers? Snail mail just isn’t the best way to pay a bill, even for a storage unit. You have to buy a stamp, then get the mailing window just right. Not ideal. Sure, dropping off a payment at the storage office can be convenient, but what if your customers have no plans to visit their unit that month? Offering online billpay can be the most convenient method for your customers. It can also alleviate all those excuses you often here: “I came by, but the office was closed.” “I called to make a payment, but you didn’t answer.”

More than likely, your self-storage management software if already set up to take online payments. If you’re not sure how to use it, ask your vendor. Also, be sure your tenants know about the service. Add it to your website and put up a few signs around the facility and in the office with the URL.

Online reservations work similarly. Again, offering this service comes down to customer convenience. Remember those online shoppers? If they’re researching self-storage facilities online, shouldn’t they have the option to reserve a unit if they decide your property is the place they want to store their belongings? What if you only have one 5-by-10 unit available and your online shopper needs one this weekend? If you don’t offer online reservations, he can take a chance the unit will still be available in a few days, or move on to another facility.

If you do offer online reservations, consider adding information about unit sizes. Most people have no idea how much stuff will fit in a 5-by-10 unit. A few sentences about what each unit size typically holds can go a long way to ensuring your online customers reserve the right size before they show with a truck load of their belongings.

Although offering online reservations can be a time-saver and convenience for your customers, not all operators are on board. To read more about the pros and cons to this service, view this Self-Storage Talk thread.

Finally, there’s another cool service you could be offering. While it’s not really for your existing customers, per se, it can still help you generate revenue. Online self-storage auctions are increasing in popularity for many reasons. They allow operators to quickly recoup money owned on lien units, open these sales up to a wider range of bidders, and can alleviate the headaches that come with hosting onsite auctions. There are several industry vendors now offering online-auctions services, some free of charge to storage operators.

We’re living in an Internet-connected world. If your business doesn’t get on board, you could be left behind. While all of these options—and there are plenty more available—may not be right for your business, keep an open mind. Your customers’ preferences and buying habits are changing. If you’re not keeping pace, you could lose out to competitors who are.

What online services and benefits do you offer your customers? Post a comment below or on Self-Storage Talk.

About the Author(s)

Amy Campbell

Editor, Inside Self Storage

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