Technology can help you streamline your self-storage business and be a more efficient facility operator. Here’s a sampling apps and programs that can help you reach new prospects in today’s tech-driven environment.

Cheli Rosa

May 14, 2017

6 Min Read
Exploring New Tech Tools for Self-Storage

In his book “Business @ the Speed of Thought: Using a Digital Nervous System,” Bill Gates wrote, “Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can meaningfully talk about one without talking about the other.” This is even truer today in the Digital Age than it was when Gates published the book in 1999.

Technology helps you streamline your self-storage business and makes you a more efficient facility operator. Its use also makes customers feel more confident in your ability to serve them.

Technology will also help you reach one of the biggest demographics in the marketplace today: Millennials, a mobile, tech-driven audience that now makes up most U.S. consumers. In contrast to Baby Boomers, who used resources like the Yellow Pages and were drawn in by your sparkly LED sign, Millennials are looking for you on the Internet and expect you to be techno-savvy. The more knowledgeable you are, the more likely they are to do business with you.

In addition, the industry’s real estate investment trusts (REIT) are embracing technology. Not only are they spending millions of dollars each year on Internet marketing, they’re developing internal programs that use technology to automate operation.

Very few operators have the same kind of budget to invest in technology, but there are many tools available to small and mid-sized operators to help them compete with the bigger players. These tools can be expensive, but many are reasonably priced. Some are even free! Let’s look at a few apps and programs that can help you reach prospects in today’s tech-driven environment.

Free Tools

Messaging and collaboration platforms such as Slack or HipChat allow you to set up your own inter-office forums. If you have employees in various locations, you can set up a Slack channel for your organization and open various discussion threads in which everyone can communicate. For example, you can create a marketing or retail thread, enabling staff to exchange ideas quickly and easily. Here are some other free tools to explore:

  • If you’re looking to enable face-to-face communication, video-chat programs like Facetime, Skype and Google Hangouts allow you to get the personal interaction you need without expending time and resources on travel and in-person meetings.

  • Apache OpenOffice is a free office-productivity suite similar to Microsoft Office. It offers access to word processing, spreadsheets, databases, graphics, presentations and more.

  • PicMonkey is a free photo-editing program that allows you to edit photos you might use on your website, social media channels or marketing materials.

  • Canva is a free graphic-design program that allows you to create presentations, fliers, brochures, social media photos and ads, infographics, and so much more.

  • Dropbox is a file-hosting service that allows you to store forms and documents in a centralized location accessible by multiple users. This might be a good place to keep employee forms and anything else your staff needs.

  • Udemy, an online learning platform, provides free educational resources for the world at large. You can find classes on using Microsoft Office or QuickBooks, improving customer-service or sales skills, and pretty much anything else you might need. Some classes require a fee, but many are free.

Recent user polls have shown that when it comes to self-storage, consumers value security over many other factors, including price. To capitalize on this, consider upgrading your security technology. For example, you can invest in new wall monitors for your office to showcase your property’s security systems at work, or consider individual door alarms. Some operators are replacing key locks with electronic locks.

Self-service kiosks are another rapidly increasing technology. They allow any facility to essentially be open 24 hours a day, which means you can cater to a larger customer base. You can even operate an unmanned site. Kiosks allow users to reserve and rent units, pay their bill, and even look at the facility’s security feed.

Mobile technology is taking over the world, so you must ensure your website is mobile-responsive. This means it will have the same functionality on a smartphone or other mobile device as it would on a desktop computer.

Some self-storage operators are relying on mobile apps for various operational functions. For example, there are apps that allow you to remotely monitor and operate a security system or rent out a unit while away from the office. There are also apps you can use to make tenants’ lives easier. Imagine if a change-of-address card or a vacate form were available at the touch of a button on a customer’s smartphone or tablet.

Many operators are now using revenue-management systems to automate their rental rates. These systems use algorithms to determine at what rates would be most profitable. The algorithms take many factors into consideration such as call volume per location, the time of year, and rental rates and promotions that were successful in the past.

Third-party directories help match your property with people looking for storage in your area. They’re much less expensive than hiring someone to conduct Internet marketing for you, and can be a great tool to help small operators keep up with the money the REITs spend on technology.

Online advertising is a great way to reach people looking for storage. It’s often said that self-storage is terribly hard to market because it’s an event-driven business, but Internet advertising might be the answer. Pay-par-click ads allow you to target people who are specifically interested in our product. If they search for self-storage on Google or Bing, you can make it so your ad pops up the next time they open their Facebook page. Social media advertising is very inexpensive, as little as $5 a day.

This list of technology options is by no means exhaustive. It may not even be possible to catalog all the tools available to self-storage operators today. If you’re looking for a specific solution for any area of your business, pull up your favorite search engine and, within minutes, you’ll have several options, many of which could be free!

To learn more about industry-specific tools, reach out to the many vendors that provide them. You can also attend one of the many state and national tradeshows to meet suppliers in person. Usually, they can give you a live demonstration of their product.

When it comes to technology, you can start slow, but begin today or you’ll fall too far behind to catch up. Technology is now the way of life and business.

Cheli Rosa is director of marketing for StorageStuff.Bid, which provides online storage-auction services. She’s a former high school teacher turned storage professional turned auctioneer. She’s worked in all areas of self-storage. Her constant desire for additional knowledge led her to immerse herself in the lien-foreclosure process. For more information, call 877.758.4243; visit

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