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The Tech Evolution and Why Self-Storage Operators Need to Grow With It

The self-storage industry is experiencing a tech evolution. More operators are embracing new technology, from online billpay to kiosk rental stations. Here are few ways you can get up to speed.

There are only two gas stations close to my home. One is on an extremely busy intersection, so getting in and out is a challenge. It also has just eight pumps, which are almost always occupied. The other is easier to access and has more stands, but it’s not in a direction I frequent. Until recently, both stations had outdated pumps that were often out of order or had troubling processing transactions using debit or credit cards. This would force customers to go inside the store to pay, negating the whole “pay at the pump” convenience.

In addition, the keypads had faded numbers, and the viewing screens were either scratched or simply impossible to read after years of sun damage. For these reasons, I rarely visited either station and, instead, traveled a few miles further to a larger store that featured newer, faster and easy-to-use pumps.

This changed after one of the stations upgraded all its stands. The new slick machines are touchscreen, quick and attractive. They even feature a small TV screen that airs feed consisting of news, entertainment and, of course, commercials to entice you inside for a cold beverage and a hot dog. And although the gas is a bit higher than at the station I used to go out of my way to frequent, more often than not, I’m willing to pay the difference simply because of the sheer convenience. It’s close to home and the new tech is easy to use.

I may not be a Millennial, but I’m still spoiled when it comes to technology. I’m impatient if a Web page takes too long to load. I expect to be able to use my debit card anywhere I go, so I rarely carry cash. I pay all my bills online and hardly ever step foot in a bank. If I didn’t enjoy grocery shopping, I’d probably opt for online ordering as well. And I’m not alone in this.

Everywhere you look, companies are retooling and renovating to bring technology to the masses. Retailers like Walmart, Fry’s Food & Drug Stores and Target are adding more self-checkout stands and boosting their online ordering options. Amazon opened its first checkout-free grocery store in January. Travelers today enjoy the convenience of kiosk check-in at the airport and even at some hotels. Everywhere you look, you’ll find some form of technology that simply makes life easier.

The self-storage industry is experiencing its own tech evolution. More operators are embracing new technology, from online billpay to kiosk rental stations. The May print edition of Inside Self-Storage, which lands in subscribers’ mailboxes this week, delves into this technology shift and how operators are being affected. It features articles on automation, live chat, the cloud, mobile, the Internet of Things and so much more.

Sadly, there are still many storage operators who have yet to see the value in technology. There are facilities that still don’t have a website and even those operating without some kind of management software. While there are markets and tenants who are OK with “tech-less” storage properties, the majority of today’s—and tomorrow’s—customers won’t be. Here are few ways you can get up to speed.

Maintain an awesome website. You don’t need a ton of flash, but you do need an online presence. Find a pro who can create a simple site that provides the basics but is still rich with features and search engine optimization. Also, make sure it’s mobile-friendly!

Get social. At the very least, you should have a Facebook page. If you can add Twitter to the mix, that’s great, too. Social media is all about building your rep in the community, not pushing out this week’s specials.

Consider automation. There are a ton of options that will help you streamline your operation. They include self-serve kiosks, online reservations and billpay, call centers, and more. All will free up your time to better serve your customers.

Lean on your software. Today’s platforms have so many capabilities. You can access loads of data about your customers, how your facility is performing and even let it drive rental increases.

These are a just few ways technology can help improve your operation. Plus, more innovations are emerging all the time. There will be a learning curve for some technology, but it’s well worth the effort!

What technology are you employing at your self-storage facility? Add a comment below or on Self-Storage Talk, the industry’s biggest online community.

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