Self Storage

How AI and Big Data are Disrupting the Self Storage Industry

August 8, 2023
6 minutes

The self-storage industry has come a long way in the past ten years, with big data being a key driver in taking the industry to the next level. During these unprecedented times, most facilities have seen upticks in occupancy since the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic due to increases in temporary demand. As a result, operators across the industry have already begun to use data science, artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and other data initiatives to drive operations, improve marketing effectiveness and tenant experience, and increase occupancy and revenue.

What is Big Data?

In short, big data entails collecting and analyzing an enormous amount of data – both structured and unstructured – that floods a business on any given day. Typically, companies use this data to reveal buying patterns of customers, understand what daily sales operations generate revenue, and how to manage their marketing campaigns more efficiently. Big data is helping facility owners feel confident in making data-driven decisions to better understand their tenants’ needs and improve overall day-to-day operations.

Self Storage and Big Data

Historically, facility owners in the self-storage industry struggled to determine key information about their rentals — until the introduction of “big data”. Today, the industry might not seem “high-tech”, but the power of their data is helping drive personalized digital experiences and laser-focused marketing initiatives. Facility owners are leaning into recent technological advancements in software and analytics to not only learn how their tenants are finding them, but what steps need to be taken to get them to a point of conversion.

By tapping into this wealth of data, brands can stay competitive by extrapolating tenant information from rentals, income, sign-ups, reservations, occupancy, mobile use, location interest, and more. Now, facility owners can leverage the information available to predict customer behavior and have a direct impact on increasing reservations.

How is Data Science impacting the Self Storage Industry?

Data science is a fairly new discipline, and many organizations do not know how to effectively use their data nor how to build data science teams*. These data teams would be responsible for cleaning and organizing customer data, designing, implementing, and deploying systems so that this data can be optimized within organizations.  

“The average US-based data scientist earns $113,436 annually.” – Atscale

Data science involves digging into the various data sources that inundate a business on a daily basis and taking it apart to predict outcomes and produce insights that provide solutions and business intelligence.

Example Data Sources

This data can be gathered from a number of different sources, for example:

  • Websites: Storage facility websites are often the largest source of customer data. Depending on the size and recognition, brands can receive several thousand clicks on their website every day and collect information from every single click. Things that can be tracked are website visitors across multiple visits and days, location and source of the lead, the time the click was made, pages visited, and whether that web visit resulted in a reservation. The key here is to continually test and optimize each visit to increase the conversion rate.
  • Phone Calls: Call center conversations are another great source of customer data. A critical feature here is the ability to link a caller’s website visit to their call to deepen the understanding of the actions the caller took on the website before and after their call.
  • Customer Surveys: Closing the feedback loop is another great source of data! Businesses should make sure to invest in creating the proper workflows in order to collect quality feedback before, during, and after a reservation.
  • Paid Advertising: Insights from paid acquisition channels can give you visibility into search terms website visitors use to find your business and what type of content you should be investing in order to attract more organic traffic.
  • Storage Inventory Data: It is crucial for any self-storage business to stay on top of inventory data such as unit size, prices, and occupancy rates that essentially power most pricing algorithms.

By leveraging the myriad of data sources, data scientists can develop models to help automate business operations, create efficiencies, and build data-driven applications to enhance the tenant experience.

Top Big Data Business Applications

To illustrate, here are a couple of examples showing data-powered applications within the self-storage industry:

1. AI-Powered Self Service

The evolution of self-storage technology has made the industry more competitive than ever. Nowadays, an operator’s website is typically the first touchpoint a potential tenant will have with a brand. As one of the biggest sources of customer data, websites play a critical role in powering many of your customer-centric intelligence initiatives.

The most recent game-changing software a self-storage operator can use to enhance their tenant’s experience is using an industry-specific conversational AI platform to streamline customer self-service, inventory recommendations, and, even, automate touch-less gate entry access.

“When it comes to finding your own brand’s entry point into voice, ask yourself how voice might help educate your customers […] For us, our first step was to implement an artificial intelligence (AI)-based chatbot on our website […] We learned what information consumers needed to make their decision, and we learned how they were asking for it.” – Sarah Little, VP of Marketing
2. Omni-channel Communication

In order to better serve prospective or current tenants, you have to be in the channels where they are most likely to interact with your brand. Investing in systems and tools that allow you to be proactive (instead of reactive) will take your customer experience strategy to the next level and help out-compete your competitors.

Let’s paint a picture:

Imagine a lead lands on your website and chats with your AI chatbot to inquire about which facility near them has climate-controlled storage for their valuable family furniture. At that current time, all climate-controlled storage units in a facility near them are at maximum capacity. The bot then collects their Name, Email, and Phone Number so they can receive a notification once a storage unit opens, while also suggesting closeby facilities that have some vacant units. From a business perspective, you not only collected contact information for that lead but you also know their zip code or location of interest, the item needed to be stored, and the storage feature they are most interested in.

Next time a climate-controlled storage unit is available, you can now send this lead an automated text message notifying them that there’s a unit available and include a nice discount code in order to incentivize them to book a unit.

3. In-Person Smart Kiosks

Today, technology is making it easier for customers to access their units on premise. Rather than having someone on-premise at a facility 24 hours per day, you can simply have an intelligent kiosk replicate the same conversation a manager would have with a customer in order to take care of 60% of the questions asked on a repeated basis (FAQ’s).

Using an automated system like a smart kiosk can help streamline common self-storage operation efforts. This type of tool can help with a tenant’s onboarding or move-in process, help a customer select the right storage size, access their unit, accept payment, and answer any questions about their lease. This can result in more behavioral learnings, cost savings, and operational efficiencies for self-storage operators with an added extra convenience for customers.

“People sort of jump to the conclusion that the goal of technology is to convert a facility to ‘unmanned’ operations. Technology is more about efficiency. If technology can increase the productivity per employee and, at the same time, improve the customer experience, then you’re going to have a winning recipe.” – Brad Minsley, co-founder of 10 Federal
4. Dynamic Pricing based on Customer Intent

Most operators are aware of tools that leverage some of their most important data available, storage inventory data, such as unit sizes, prices, and occupancy rates. This information can feed into their pricing tools to generate new rates for all of their properties on a daily basis.

Using big data, operators can now offer dynamic pricing based not only on their inventory data but on customer location, current needs, and behavior. Operators can gather insights on the unique actions a customer is taking as they browse a storage location’s website — like specific storage features, location amenities, and repeated location visits. They can then determine if it’s better to offer lower pricing to make up for slower months at a certain location or offer a different type of incentive to get those extra rentals if a location is almost at capacity. In many cases, it is possible to leverage existing data to penetrate a saturated market. With big data, you can make better decisions on pricing and availability.

Getting Started

Big Data is changing how things are getting done in the Self Storage industry. To stay competitive, you need to make use of your data pipeline’s full potential with real-time insights across all channels to help uncover the most impactful customer experience initiatives.

When considering to build vs. buy a solution to help with your data initiatives, it is critical to ensure there is an integration and alignment between teams to help your business leverage all available data to realize a positive return on investment.

Since many of these data initiatives are not core to an operator’s business, partnering with a tool that already has a trove of industry-specific Self-Storage data workflows can enhance the tenant experience and improve conversion rates.

A Solution for Self Storage is specializing in the Self-Storage space. Here are some of the customizable elements of its platform:

  • Scale CX team: Augment your customer service team using a branded AI-Powered Chatbot (Web and App)
  • Automate and personalize conversations: Help potential tenants get to a conversion point much faster.
  • Collect Data: Connect with your favorite CRM or data warehouse, interact with end-users, and automatically populate info for each user within your tool.
  • Move Inventory: Enable customer self-service and easily find appropriate inventory recommendations using customizable Self-Storage Industry Workflows and Templates.
  • Notifications/Human Takeover: Easily push conversations to a human whenever your digital agent is unable to find an answer.
  • Constant Learning: Once a solution has been found, access a no-code interface, and easily train your digital agent so that next time they will have the right answer. The platform gets smarter over time through human input.
  • Call centers: Customer Support teams, Call Centers, and BPOs are able to evaluate tickets and calls to create agent-assisted support workflows 5x faster.
“Within the first two weeks, we saw our intelligent assistant performing at a 66% positive automation rate and increasing conversions to shopping pages by 7%!” – Self-Storage Product Manager

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