Why It Pays (and Saves) to Follow the Path Toward More Self-Storage Technology

You’ve heard that technology is the way of the self-storage industry future. Perhaps you’ve even jumped on the bandwagon. But most facility operators still have concerns about the cost of implementation and maintenance, whether financial or otherwise. Perhaps these reasons why technology both makes and saves money will help.

Bethany Salmon, Marketing-Content Manager

June 27, 2023

5 Min Read

You don’t need to call in a fortune-teller or anything, but yes: It’s important to envision what lies ahead for your self-storage business and explore better ways to accomplish its goals. In fact, contemplating how you’ll compete in the future will likely ensure your company stays around to see it!

Not too long ago, we all thought Blockbuster was the best place to get a movie. As technology evolved, though, the company failed to alter its business model to meet changes in demand. Instead, Netflix and Redbox rose to the challenge. They’re among a nimble group of businesses that evolved their services to meet consumers in the comfort of their own homes.

No business is too big to fail. Sustainable success is predicated on delivering what the customer wants, which changes over time. This means all companies must continually re-evaluate their approach.

The self-storage industry is like many others in which technology will play a central role in success—but only if facility operators are prepared to evolve. Customers are no longer satisfied to conduct business face-to-face and sit through a lengthy rental process. They want to do everything from the palm of their hand, including selecting, renting and moving into a unit without ever having to talk to a site manager.

You’re probably thinking, “Sure, technology is great; but it comes at a cost. I have to find, vet, purchase and implement it, then train my staff and customers to use it, then maintain and upgrade it over time. It could break down and require service. An outage could cost me business. It might also lead to other operational changes. I’m not sure I can afford to make the investment.”

Thankfully, not only does technology help create a better customers experience, it can actually save you time and money and generate additional income. Here’s how it both saves and pays.

Saving and Making Money

Though there’s upfront cost associated with technology, it’s critical to factor in your opportunity for a return on investment in tandem with enhancing the customer experience. Take smart security, for example. It provides customers with peace of mind and convenience, while you benefit by heightening your facility’s defense system. The best part? Many of today’s products come with significant financial benefits.

Premiums. Market research and customer feedback show that tenants are willing to pay for a better overall self-storage experience, which includes increased security and convenience. So, the most obvious way to monetize your technology investment is to charge premiums where possible.

For example, apply a higher rental rate on units that have a Bluetooth-enabled smart lock and mobile-app access. You can charge even more if a tenant wants 24/7 access to the property vs. standard business-hour access. If you want to take it a step further, use the frequency of tenant visitations to customize rental rates. If a user accesses your facility often, consider charging them a higher price for the privilege.

Fees. Some self-storage operators now apply a technology or software fee to each rental. Again, there’s a willingness by customers to pay for quality, and creating an appropriate fee structure adds a revenue stream for your business.

Reduced labor. An added benefit to technology is a better understanding of property use and labor allocation. Mundane and manual processes such as lock checks and overlocking can now be fully automated, which translates to reduced labor. You can use data from your management software and security system to customize when and how you staff your site. For example, if you find that few, if any, tenants visit your facility between 8 and 10 a.m., having employees on site during that time may be unnecessary.

Insurance discounts. Your investment in security technology can trigger these. This is because the threat of something nefarious happening at a self-storage facility is greatly reduced and the products your customers interact with on a daily basis are much safer and more secure.

Cost segregation. By installing new technology, you’ll likely be eligible for significant tax benefits. Cost segregation is a strategic planning tool self-storage owners can use to depreciate certain types of building components and improvements over a short recovery period. This, in turn, improves cash flow.

Happier customers and better reputation. When you up your technology game, your commitment to customer support should go right along with it. Today’s self-storage users expect an exceptionally high level of service. When they don’t get it, it can greatly hurt business reputation. There’s nothing worse than a negative online review that gathers steam!

A commitment to exemplary customer service is a competitive advantage. Once people find a company that’s focused on enhancing their experience, they’re more likely to stay longer, come back later and refer others.

A Glimpse at the Future

A tech-savvy industry never steps backward, whether you’re Domino’s delivering pizzas with robots or Tesla designing cars that can literally drive themselves. Self-storage will also continue to advance its technology prowess, which will benefit those operators that jump on board. Here are eight items we’re likely to see more of in this business over the next 10 years:

  • Data availability and mining via smart technology

  • Robots and drones on facility grounds

  • Automated doors with mobile-app access

  • Chatbots to enhance customer service

  • Fully automated move-out initiated by the tenant

  • Video surveillance with license-plate, facial and pattern recognition using artificial intelligence

  • Temperature and humidity tracking

  • Site manager and tenant tracking

While you don’t necessarily need robots and drones today, it’s important to think about how to improve the efficiency of your business and scale toward the future, particularly in ways that improve revenue and the customer experience. Catering to renters with tools and conveniences for which they’re willing to pay will give you a competitive advantage in a rapidly growing and innovative industry. Technology is always changing. It’s time your self-storage business does, too.

Bethany Salmon is a marketing-content manager for Janus International Group, a global provider of self-storage doors and hallway systems, relocatable storage units, facility-automation solutions, and restoration services. To reach her, call 866.562.2580 or email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Bethany Salmon

Marketing-Content Manager, Janus International

Bethany Salmon is a marketing-content manager for Janus International, a global provider of self-storage doors and hallway systems, relocatable storage units, facility-automation solutions, and restoration services. To reach her, call 866.562.2580 or email [email protected].

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