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Mobilizing Mobile Technology to Evolve With Self-Storage Customer Demand

Because people are now accustomed to transacting every bit of personal business on their handheld devices, it’s important that self-storage operators design a customer experience in which connecting to their facility via mobile is quick, easy and intuitive. Here’s advice for integrating mobile technology into your storage operation.

December 5, 2015

5 Min Read
Mobilizing Mobile Technology to Evolve With Self-Storage Customer Demand

By Tron Jordheim and ISS Staff

Mobile technology is prevalent today and being used to enhance everyday tasks. This has a direct impact on many businesses, including self-storage. On one hand, many common functions of mobile devices can be used to help operate a storage business. On the other, online traffic is dominated by smartphones and tablets, which means your customers are clamoring for features that enable them to do business with you from any device.

The smartphone has become extremely powerful and a constant companion in a short period of time. Several years ago, I put up a sign during an industry tradeshow that read, “You have a kiosk in your pocket.” It included a QR (quick-response) code people could scan with a code reader. Once scanned, the code allowed them to view a quick demonstration of the possibilities of mobile technology. Smartphones were still on the rise then, and I saw a lot of wide eyes as attendees took part in my little demo.

As it turns out, I underestimated the power of smartphones. The fact is, you have way more than a kiosk in your pocket … It’s really more like a remote control for your entire life. I used to travel with a laptop to keep up with work; then I switched to a tablet. Now I rarely bring anything but my smartphone when I’m on the road because it’s all I need. I have apps for all my travel. I can see all my e-mail. I have easy access to every social network. I get all my news, music and weather right there in the palm of my hand. I can use the Internet, maps, instant messaging and more.

Start Mobilizing

Now the trick is to integrate the ease and control provided by mobile devices into your self-storage operation. Your customers are totally immersed in this technology and expect you to evolve with it. Just look at the trends: Google says nearly three-quarters of Internet traffic is from mobile phones, and I bet your company’s online stats show the traffic to your website is fairly close to that, too.

The question is, what are you doing about it? Do you have a mobile-friendly website? It’s now essential to have an adaptive and responsive website so any smartphone screen will display your content well. Is your website optimized to please search-engine algorithms? If not, you’re likely to tumble down the search ranking, banished to page five (or worse) on any relevant queries.

Going forward, it’s important to design a customer experience in which connecting with your business via mobile is quick, easy and intuitive. At a minimum, it should be simple for customers to pay their bill, rent a unit and get support. People are now so accustomed to transacting personal business on their handheld devices that you’re missing many opportunities to serve customers well if you haven’t made your website mobile-friendly and capable of processing all the transactions a customer can do with you in person or over the phone.

Unfortunately, as mobile technology has become more prevalent, self-storage marketing has become more complex. Many facility operators are “do it yourself” kind of people, but creating a mobile website yourself isn’t an option.

To correctly design a mobile site and tie together all of your transaction capabilities, you need help from your management-software partner. You’ll also need help from a Web-design firm to ensure the user experience and backend architecture are correctly built and optimized. There are many technical aspects to be considered, and if they’re done sloppily or incomplete, your website will fall out of favor with the search engines and customers will find it awkward to use. Neither is a recipe for success in this new world.

The Mobile Advantage

Some self-storage operators are running very nice businesses without a good mobile website, but please don’t confuse a good market with good marketing. In the United States, we’re living in the absolute best time for self-storage right now. Demand is strong in most areas. Occupancy is good, and revenue looks great. But with all of that comes increased competition.

One way to differentiate yourself is through mobile-friendliness. Aside from being able to access your website and conduct transactions, how else can tenants use their mobile devices to engage with your facility? For example, can they view video feeds from the security cameras on your property? Can they use their smartphone to open your gate? Some access-control suppliers offer mobile apps that allow these functions. Depending on your market, you may be able to charge a small fee for these conveniences or simply provide them as a free perks.

Some security companies have developed mobile apps that will notify the facility operator or tenant if a particular unit is opened. This type of mobile function can strengthen your marketing message, enhance your overall security program and provide tenants with peace of mind. It’s another interesting example that speaks to the power of connectivity and the need people have to receive alerts or access information at a moment’s notice.

Similarly, some management-software programs include a built-in module that enables operators to send customized text alerts to tenants, including reminders on past-due rent. Research suggests customers respond to texts more quickly than e-mail, so this can help you keep delinquencies to a minimum.

Consumers are becoming increasingly conditioned to use a smartphone as their life’s “remote control.” As self-storage competition heats up and supply starts to outpace demand, the winning operators will be those who embrace mobile, deploying a great strategy and website. I urge you to contact your suppliers, including your website-service partner and management-software provider, to review your mobile options. Build a better mobile experience for your customers, and you won’t be sorry.

Tron Jordheim is business development manager for Store Here Self Storage, which operates 29 facilities totaling more than 2 million square feet. He has consulted for many self-storage companies and spoken at industry events in Canada, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. Prior to joining Store Here, he spent 15 years as director of the PhoneSmart call center and chief marketing officer of StorageMart. For more information, visit www.storehere.com.

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