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The Must-Haves to Seek When Choosing or Upgrading Your Self-Storage Management Software

Your management software is the core of your self-storage business, so choosing the right program is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a facility operator. Here’s what to look for when selecting a program, either for the first time or as an upgrade to an existing system.

Stephen Sandecki

April 8, 2023

6 Min Read
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As the self-storage industry evolves, facility operators are taking a more scientific approach to data collection, storage and reporting. Where customers come from, who they are and the incentives that inspire them to act are crucial pieces of information to have when charting a business strategy that allows for growth while remaining competitive in the market. At the center of all this is a property’s management software.

There are endless benefits to using industry-specific software. Today’s programs are designed to streamline the rental process, provide valuable reports, automate common tasks and so much more. If you’re just opening a new self-storage business, or you’ve realized your operational needs are eclipsing the functionality of your current software, it’s time to evaluate your options. The following guide will help.

Software Types

First, determine the type of self-storage software you’d prefer. There are three main kinds:

Desktop. This lives on your computer. On the positive side, it’s saved locally, so there’s no internet required to use it. On the other hand, it isn’t scalable, you’re responsible for your own data security, and you have to buy a copy for every computer your company uses.

Cloud-based. You connect to this software through a web browser. You don’t need to install anything at all on your computer and other devices, you just need an internet connection. All data is stored in the cloud, so there’s no need to worry about backups, plus these programs tend to be less expensive and scalable; however, they do rely on web availability and require encryption for security.

Hybrid. With a hybrid model, you have an app that runs on your computer and any data is stored remotely with a host. These programs are scalable and offer long-term cost savings, though there are upfront costs. You’re also reliant on the host company for security and updates, and that company has expensive infrastructure.

The Essentials

There are some basics you’ll need as part of any self-storage software you choose. There are many options, but you want a program that offers the best data protection, ease of use, scalability and reporting. Here are the must-haves to seek:

Security. Make sure your choice of program complies with current Payment Card Industry (PCI) data-security standards. It should also use end-to-end encryption to prevent data from being illegally accessed.

Flexibility. The software should be accessible from any device or location with an internet connection. It should also yield advanced, custom reporting that allows you to track revenue, trends, profitability, etc.

Data insights. What information will the program allow you collect from customers, and will it help you understand their behavior? Ideally, you’ll be able to harvest basic details like name, address and phone number as well as with demographics like type of residence and household income, which can inform your marketing strategy.

Revenue management. Your self-storage management program must allow you to measure the revenue you’re generating. You should be able to look in detail at how much profit you derive from a rate adjustment, for example. The data should allow you to compare existing-customer rates to street rates, which helps you understand facility earning potential.

The best management software allows you to see, aggregate and synergize data to track real-time patterns from customer to store to district. How many renters received a rate increase? Of those, how many did the facility retain, and how long did they stay? With this data in hand, you can make informed decisions about when to raise rents—and by how much—to meet revenue goals while maintaining customer loyalty.

Fluid communication. Effective self-storage software should enhance the customer experience. If you’re operating multiple facilities or offices, having the ability to transfer information, such as client records, from one to the other will simplify the process for you and your renters. If a tenant has an issue, status updates between the maintenance team, store and customer can build trust and ensure retention.

Usability. This is arguably the most important feature to look for in a self-storage management software, bearing in mind that staff across an organization will have drastically different needs. The executive team may be most interested in return on investment, while the operations team might focus on streamlining tasks and improving the customer experience. The marketing team wants to know what channels drive the highest conversion rates. For a software solution to be effective, you need to be able to everyone to use it, from store managers to accounting and marketing teams.

The Case for Change

If all that feels like a tall order, it’s because the self-storage industry has been historically slow to adopt new technology. It only began its earnest shift toward a contactless business model when the coronavirus pandemic forced many operators’ hands. The current products on the market offer limited integrations and rely on APIs (application programming interfaces) to import and export data. The industry still lacks a 100% web-based property-management solution.

For too long, self-storage operators have been settling for whatever operational methods and platforms have worked in the past. Even gate and access solutions are often antiquated. Now, with a shaky economy to contend with, it’s time to evolve. At my company, we’ve invested in several new self-storage technologies and even built proprietary systems.

The fact is, there’s no large-scale, profitable business on the planet that hasn’t reinvested in itself to drive growth. Is it time for your company to do the same?

Too often, self-storage owners shopping for management software get hung up on the price tag, failing to recognize the importance of the investment. But this being the hub of the business, it isn’t a place to cut costs or corners. As new PCI-compliance standards are introduced—which require full implementation by 2025—the technological demands on our facilities will only increase. Rather than wait until the last possible moment to string together a solution, look now for a system that can meet the needs of your business and customers today and tomorrow.

The Right Choice

Management software is the core of your self-storage operation. You must have a place to house your transactional, customer, financial and marketing data. Make the wrong choice, and no matter how you position your business, you won’t be able to thrive, adapt and grow.

Self-storage is evolving from a grassroots industry that generated leads with phone-book ads to an intelligent, data-driven business. It’s essential that we operators invest in sophisticated data collection, modeling and testing that allows us to make educated decisions that optimize the product and consumer experience. As our industry’s offerings shift to meet the demands of the market, we must embrace tools that allow us to innovate, analyze and outperform.

Stephen Sandecki is chief marketing and technology officer for Store Space Self Storage, a Winter Garden, Florida-based family of companies that owns, operates and third-party manages more than 100 self-storage properties in 20 states. He has more than 15 years of industry experience and expertise in strategic digital marketing, technology innovation and the development of proprietary software. For more information, email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Stephen Sandecki

Chief Marketing Officer, Store Space Self Storage

Stephen Sandecki has been in the self-storage industry for more than 15 years, focusing on digital marketing, technology and Web development. He’s the chief marketing officer at Store Space Self Storage. To reach him, call 702.753.4780; e-mail [email protected].

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