On the surface, the storage industry isn’t one that many would consider very technologically adapt. Self-storage and warehousing are somewhat straight-forward, after all. A lot, empty buildings, locks and electricity are all that are needed for success, right?
Owners and operators involved in the storage business may tell you otherwise. A successful self-storage business needs marketing, management, accounting, maintenance, leasing and a whole host of other tasks. To run their businesses more effectively and efficiently, more operators are embracing technology, saving time and money.
Self-storage operators are now offering tech-savvy customers online reservations, self-serve kiosks and biometric security solutions, all the while saving money with management platforms. Some are adding HVAC units where there were none before and seeing profits rise.
Here are a few ways technology is advancing the self-storage industry.
The millennial generation craves technology in nearly every aspect of life, and some self-storage businesses are gaining a competitive edge by offering mobile apps to control access to their units. No longer do self-storage tenants need to keep track of a designated key or access card. Specialized mobile apps let them access and manage the storage unit with their phones.
With a mobile app, self-storage companies can also offer the ability to start and renew leases, make payments, update access codes and communicate with the storage company.
“As Millennials are starting to become a larger percentage of those using self-storage, they want to interact with operators using technology, specifically smartphones and apps or responsive mobile websites,” Terry Bagley, Vice President of Business Development for Janus International Group, told Inside Self Storage. “They expect to be able to accomplish most, if not all, of the rental and ongoing interaction via their smartphones.”
Self-storage kiosks offer customers the ultimate level of convenience. They put the self in self-storage. Tenants can use them to access the facility at all hours, reducing the manager’s workload by taking care of routine customer interactions.
Kiosks use specially-designed software that is integrated with property management systems. Any action a customer takes is immediately loaded into the necessary databases and reports without additional action by the property manager.
Convenience is key in the self-storage market, and companies who advertise the ability to use these 24-hour tools are finding that they are great selling tools. Combined with a mobile app, tenants might need no personal interaction at all.
Security is a primary feature of the self-storage industry. People are paying to securely store their belongings. Biometric technology provides secure access that’s practically impossible to breach.
Biometric security measures a person’s unique characteristics, including patterns in their voice, retinas or fingerprints. For example, a building might be accessed through a fingerprint scanner.
Tech companies like Innuvo are introducing biometric security to self-storage access. It has created a high-level security system using biometric access control. The system uses facial-recognition technology that measures a variety of unique measurements and characteristics for maximum security. These characteristics are scanned and matched with customer records.
Some self-storage owners and operators have already realized there is a profit to be made by installing high-efficiency HVAC units and raising rent. But, HVAC can be tricky, many self-storage owners simply don’t want to, or don’t have time to, deal with HVAC maintenance. After all, it’s just another thing that can break! That’s where remote monitoring comes in handy.
Solutions like Building 36 provide instant/real-time data on unit performance and can often sense an issue and dispatch a tech automatically by integrating with a service provider like Motili. This type of integration can streamline management of potentially time-consuming tasks like finding, scheduling and dispatching contractors.
This storage automation technology is changing the game by improving the bottom line for storage facilities without increasing the workload for owners and operators.
Sure, we haven’t quite entered Isaac Asimov’s world of talking androids in every home and business (and no, Alexa doesn’t count). But robotics has started to enter more industries, including storage. French engineering company Wyca designed a robot named Keylo that allows storage facility operators to remotely interact with customers. The robot has already been adopted by several facilities in Europe.
Keylo acts like a self-service kiosk by assisting customers with the rental process. Unlike the stable machines, however, Keylo moves on wheels, enabling it to offer guided tours.
The robot is more interactive than the standard kiosk. It can connect customers to live advisors who can answer their questions while also allowing them to digitally sign lease agreements and retrieve locks.
Self-Storage Management Software
Facility operators have been relying on management software for years, but the cloud is integrating the technology with the customer experience. Now, cloud-based software provides owners and managers updated data on every aspect of the business, while they allow for the automation of routine tasks, saving time and money.
Some software even dispatches maintenance requests, provides insight on customer and financial trends and makes accounting easy by merging all necessary data from a variety of sources. It’s the management software that acts as a control center, integrating the other technologies for an automated business model.