StoreLocal Corp., a co-op of private self-storage operators in Canada and the United States, has launched the Self Storage Standards Project (SSSP), an initiative to standardize industry terminology. The group also recently partnered with tenant-insurance provider Storsmart Insurance Co. to offer a co-branded tenant-insurance program to co-op members.
StoreLocal envisions SSSP as an industrywide project and plans to partner with self-storage associations, operators and vendors to come to an agreement on term standardization. Co-op officials believe standardization will reduce customer confusion, enable easier technology integration, and produce more reliable results through search engines, according to a press release.
“I have a lot of experience from the airline industry, and I can only imagine how confusing it would be for everyone—consumers and airlines alike—if every organization had a different three-digit code for every airport,” said Erin King, executive director of the California Self Storage Association, which supports the initiative. “Applying that thinking to the self-storage industry, we believe that standards will provide a better customer experience, leading to more customers for the industry overall. When we're all speaking the same language, it's good for everyone.”
“We are in an age where products and services are increasingly being purchased and distributed online; therefore, the consumer has to have a reliable image or description of our product that is easily identifiable,” added Cris Burnam, president of StorageMart, a Columbia, Mo.-based self-storage operator with 165 facilities in Canada and the United States. “When customers book a hotel room, they recognize and understand what a ‘double’ or ‘king’ room is, but nobody knows what a 10-by-10 is really all about. This has to change if we are ever going to reach our full potential as an industry.”
SSSP has received support from other operators including A-1 Self Storage, Security Public Storage and StoragePRO. Participating vendors include OpenTech Alliance Inc., StorageFront.com and Storsmart Insurance.
“OpenTech has dealt with the pain of non-standard and unstructured data for years,” said Robert Chiti, president and CEO of OpenTech, a Phoenix-based provider of self-serve kiosks, call-center services and other technology for self-storage businesses. “All of the consumer touch points we support, including online rentals and kiosks, require some level of data manipulation to ensure an effortless user experience. We are very happy to partner with other industry visionaries to bring some much needed standardization to our space. I am confident that the more owners, vendors and self-storage associations learn about the value this type of standardization will have on our industry, the more will participate in the project.”
“The project will begin in alpha and beta form on the wiki site selfstoragestandards.org,” added Lance Watkins, CEO of StoreLocal. “By crowdsourcing information from participating self-storage industry organizations, StoreLocal envisions a platform that self-storage industry organizations will use in collaboration to reach an agreement on terms and standards.”
In addition to supporting SSSP, Storsmart has also partnered with StoreLocal to offer a co-branded tenant-insurance program to co-op members. The co-op and its partners own a reservation system with insurance integration and mobile functionality, which will also have desktop integration by the end of the year, according to a press release. StoreLocal will develop sales tools, including a video insurance guide, to assist members with selling the program to tenants.
“Our current, strong insurance-industry partners and high rate of growth in the marketplace, combined with StoreLocal’s vision of the future, is a great combination for the future evolution of the tenant-protection model,” said Mike Rhoads, president of Storsmart. “We are pleased to form a strategic partnership with StoreLocal. As our industry continues to mature and change with the times, strategic alliances will be more important than ever to ensure relevance in the marketplace. The power of the cooperative will enable us to continue to improve the consumer experience and member satisfaction.”
Based in York, Pa., Storsmart provides self-storage operators with access to several tenant-insurance coverage limits to meet customer needs and their facility's risk-management goals. The company's easyCARE program offers personalized staff training, total claims management, marketing supplies and the Storsmart exclusive WePayFirst program. All Storsmart policies are underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Co., a Chartis company.
StoreLocal leverages the combined strength of its membership for services such as customer acquisition, financing, marketing and technology. The co-op acquired online self-storage directories StorageFront.com and SelfStorageHounds.com in January.